Google Maps: One Way to Tell Your Data Story

This week, my students will be taking a look at how journalists have used maps to tell data stories.  They will be watching a quick video I did (without audio unfortunately), as well as checking out a variety of Google maps others have created. One sad, powerful example they’ll look at specifically is the map the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, New York did on the homicides in 2005. (They just updated a map last week on more current homicides, too.)

The discussion I hope to prompt is one that centers on telling data stories in other ways aside from text.  Though they will examine data later in the semester to, in fact, tell a data-driven story, I want them to see how accessible and comprehensible data becomes when is expressed in a visual form. Sometimes, that visual form is a map.

So, they’ll begin small.  First, they are going to do a simple map that tells their biography–things like where they went to high school, their favorite  neighbor spot to eat, the park where they walk their dog.  Then, they’ll create a map that fits into their blog theme, something that they believe will hold value to their readers.

The maps won’t necessarily be sophisticated as, say, this one on toxic hotspots.  But, doing these two maps will start my students on a journey that will lead to a lot of other data visualization.  And I’m sure to be learning more skills right alongside them.

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About Nancy Kaplan-Biegel

I am the journalism program coordinator at Skyline College in San Bruno, CA, as well as the adviser to The Skyline View.

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