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New Tools for Mapping News

Feb 17th, 2010


Amanda Hickman

Cross posted from PBS Idealab.

Want to illustrate a story by displaying data on a map? Don’t have a team of whiz kids at your fingertips? One good option has long been IBM’s Many Eyes. Their maps, however, stop at the state level. Not especially helpful if you cover local politics!

I haven’t struggled too much with maps lately, but a tweet from Sunlight Labs’ Clay Johnson caught my eye this morning, nonetheless. I think that what got my attention was that Clay directed his nudge to Nathan Yau, a bottomless well of great data visualization insights and tutorials if ever there was one. He recently offered up a thorough tutorial on making thematic maps of US counties using free tools.

So what was Clay on about?

ClearMaps, which Sunlight released this week, is “an ActionScript framework for interactive cartographic visualization” and it is open source software. You’ll probably still need a reporter with some programming chops to get the most out of it–it isn’t nearly as plug and play (or upload and display) as Many Eyes, but it still should make it much easier for news organizations to tell stories better. What do you think? Is this what you were looking for?

Discuss New Tools for Mapping News on PBS’s IdeaLab.