Maps can take stories to places text can’t go

Some stories can take on a whole new meaning with the help of interactive maps. Take, for example, homicides. If you live in San Francisco or Oakland and follow the local news, you probably know that every few days there’s another tragic killing in these cities. But the steady trickle of reports may not be enough to tell the real story, and, in my opinion, it can have a numbing effect on readers.

On the other hand, by using maps to show the locations of killings over a long period of time, you can give people a better sense of the overall magnitude of the homicide problem in the Bay Area.

When I worked for The Chronicle, my colleagues and I launched homicide maps for San Francisco and Oakland. (Pity the newspaper gave up on these, but I digress.)

Click the checkboxes on the maps linked to above to see all the homicides from the beginning of 2007 through the fall of 2009. Suddenly, it’s clear how that trickle of reports can’t fully convey the seriousness of this story.

Today in class, students will learn how to build their own Google Maps and embed them in their blogs. One student, Andrew Codd, has already gone ahead and taught himself how to do it, and produced this very nice map of the AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park:

Nice map. That’s the sort of initiative I love to see.


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