Rising to the Google maps challenge

1 11 2012

Today’s journalists need to understand how to use online tools to enhance news stories.

Tweeting and posting to Facebook is just part of the story that starts with a good web-friendly headline to entice reader involvement.

Students at Brighton Journalist Works had a vast amount of information to process during their interactivity and online journalism class with The Argus web editor Sarah Booker Lewis.

They started out learning about search engine friendly headlines and encouraging reader involvement.

Then the fun began with a masterclass on Twitter use and an introduction to building bespoke Google maps.

Maps can enhance a story to give readers a geographical concept.

Examples included a basic map showing the trail of destruction along major roads after a lorry leaked fuel along five A roads in Sussex and maps showing flashpoints during the London riots of August 2011.

MediaUK.com managing director James Cridland created his riots map after verifying incidents, rather than relying on rumour.

James Cridland London riots map

Students learned how to set up a map, add pins, draw shapes and lines and add notes, pictures or video to information post.

Once armed with this knowledge students had a week to create maps on a theme of their choice.

Rebecca Creed writes a Formula One blog and chose the same theme for her map.

She marked the location of every race in this year’s season with a bespoke marker.

Google maps offer users a wide selection of markers from Google pins to themed icons. However, Rebecca’s efforts proved she went the extra mile to resize and upload an image before adding it to Google.

Readers taking a look at her map see race highlight videos as well as details of who was in poll position and the eventual winner.

In choosing a map to support her blog Rebecca has the opportunity to enhance her readers’ experience.

Three students used their travel expertise when building maps.

Sarah Jessica Morgan’s (Jess) used knowledge gathered during her life growing up  in Africa, when creating a guide showing places to stay and visit.

Puja Tirwari also shared her experiences of international travel.

With encouragement it is hoped Puja and Jess can expand their maps into a useful resource for travellers.

Puja grew up in Dubai and has lived in Bahrain for 12 years giving her insider knowledge to advise visitors in an informal way. The same applies to Jess with her South African and Kenyan background.

Travel and music journalism are popular future career choices for young journalists, so providing and applying an extra layer of information can only enhance their stories.

Samantha Graham added a personal flavour to her Brighton gigs map by including her own pictures in the pop up windows.

A music venues map linking to blog posts about future concerts and reviews is relatively simple to set up.

Sarah was particularly pleased with the group, saying their maps were the best she has received since she started teaching the class three years ago.

The ability to build a Google map is an extra string to the student journalists’ bow. Employers are looking for individuals with a multitude of skills and the ability to think beyond the story.

Brighton Journalist Works students are certainly heading in the right direction.

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