Maps and mashups and movement, oh my!
Marrying data to geography is a quick addition to give a news story depth and often can stand alone with little additional text. Check out the tutorials at Google maps. Then make a map and invite readers to contribute suggestions for map points.
One of our most trafficked stories is about Great Lakes-inspired music and bands. An accompanying map pinpoints the Great Lakes connection. The points link to information about the band or song. Readers quickly (and easily) made their own contributions.
Each week we feature a map relevant to our community that we’ve either created or found. These include maps that show where factories spew particular pollutants, help gardeners find garden space, track the location of freighters or show where to census frogs by listening to them sing.
Our hope was that readers would also contribute maps, easing the reporting burden. They haven’t, which we find puzzling. Maybe we just haven’t found the map nerd crowd yet. We’re still pursuing it.
Your physical community likely has a planning agency with mapmakers whose work may not get much attention. Rather then burying these efforts on their hard drives, they may be glad for a public platform. Invite them to contribute. Chances are if it’s an issue important enough for bureaucrats to map, you should be reporting it in some manner.
We still have hopes of engaging this community and being proactive should help. We also know that sometimes with these tools, you just have to keep at it.
Unusual ways of reporting news engage new readers. When we animated a month’s worth of still satellite images for a story about spring runoff on Lake Erie, our daily hits more than doubled.
We tapped into a community of satellite nerds. To them, our use of images taken from space was at least as interesting as what they showed.
One sharp-eyed reader even noticed that we had deleted images from certain days. We had a great opportunity to explain those were days with heavy cloud cover so you couldn’t photograph the silt seeping into the lake. It was a chance to demonstrate our responsiveness to engagement.