There is very little in daily life that is not within the scope of what journalists do and the stories they want to tell. Traditionally, Journalism is associated with print media like newspapers and magazines, and television and radio, but the digital revolution has expanded the venues in which journalists work and their capacity for disseminating information through compelling visualizations like maps.
Maps are an excellent complement to writing and give context to many current events to help the public understand what is happening in the local community and the world at large. Sometimes maps can show more succinctly and compellingly what it might take paragraphs of text to convey.
Just as Journalism has taken advantage of new technologies to transform how information is communicated, maps can be extended beyond the concept of a static representation of space to include Interactive election maps (270towin.com) that allow the public to make their own predictions about how many electoral votes a candidate will win or test their own election outcome scenarios. Similarly COVID maps (bbc.com) combine the traditional map with statistical data and enable the public to see the magnitude of the pandemic. Maps of Crime and other social phenomena (baltimoresun.com) can help the public understand spatial patterns and the social infrastructure of their neighborhoods.
All of these represent new ways that journalists are connecting the public with information and stories that impact their lives. This guide connects members of the Morgan Community with resources that can help journalists make and understand maps using GIS.
Hours for Spring 2022
What is GIS?
GIS, or geographic information systems, are computer-based tools used to store, visualize, analyze, and interpret geographic data. Geographic data (also called spatial, or geospatial data) identifies the geographic location of features.
These data include anything that can be associated with a location on the globe, or more simply anything that can be mapped. For example, roads, country boundaries, and address are all types of spatial data. At the CDC, we use GIS to help answer questions about how location impacts disease and disability.
People: People use GIS to answer specific data-related questions. People collect data, develop procedures, identify research questions and define analysis tasks to run in GIS. In public health, people use GIS to explore a variety of topics. For example, researchers at CDC have used GIS to identify how to target polio immunization campaigns in geographically isolated locations.
Data: There are two main GIS types: vector data and raster data.
- Vector data includes spatial features (points, lines, and polygons) and attributes about that data (descriptive information).
- Raster data are stored electronic images (e.g., pictures taken as an aerial photograph or satellite images).
Analysis is the process of using spatial data to answer questions. There are many different analysis techniques.
Hardware: GIS software is run on computers. Memory and computing power are important because spatial data includes many attributes making it very large.
Software: Geographic Information Systems require specialized software. The most common GIS software include ArcGIS and QGIS. These types of programs can be used in conjunction with other types of software such as databases, statistical packages, or programming languages to increase functionality.