Google Maps and Earth: Enrich Your Storytelling

Google Maps and Earth workshop had been conducted at International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy on the 17th of April. Matt Cooke, the representative of Google News Lab, presented various possibilities to enrich journalism stories using Google maps and Earth tools.

The easiest Google Maps tool, as to Google News Lab expert, is My Maps. It does not require any programming skills, is quick and shareable tool to add visualization to the story. My Maps become extremely useful for breaking news stories, when efficiency is the key, but no other imagery is available at the moment. Moreover, My Maps allow several reporters in the newsroom to edit the map simultaneously.

Matt Cooke presented several cases of how media such as BBC, CBC news, Huffington Post and others actively use My Maps in order to enrich their stories. Canadian TV station CVT used My Maps for the story on MH17 crash in eastern Ukraine creating step by step photo illustration on the map of what happened there.

Fusion Tables is more advanced Google Maps tool, which allows to combine statistical data in the form of spreadsheets and geography. This tool is extremely helpful for data driven journalism, stated Google expert. The Datablog on the Guardian used Fusion Tables to demonstrate how WikiLeaks stories were spread geographically, so they added each location mentioned in WikiLeaks to the map to show the scope of that issue.

Google Maps API requires programming skills and, as to Matt Cooke, is more project and request based. Journalists can use this tool to make more general overview of some prolonged issue. For example, Canadian news service Global news used API to demonstrate oil spills in Alberta for the last 37 years.

Google Earth provides satellite imagery and is extremely popular for breaking news coverage. BBC, the Wall Street Journal, CNN use this tool on the regular basis. What is more, Google Earth Pro app allows to download high-resolution images.

Google expert mentioned also that the usage of all these data is free, but requires attributions to Google and data providers (e. g. DigitalGlobe). Using Google Maps and Earth data for TV broadcast requires applying for free broadcast license.

Google Maps and Earth is the third workshop of Google News Lab at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy. It was preceded by classes on Google Search and Youtube.

Olena Puzina