Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Remedial web journalism

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Dead tree editions need art departments and photographers to put their stories into easy context. The challenge of TV made this true fifty years ago. Before that, if you read in the paper that a developer had given up on a development on Megunko Hill (might be in the neighborhood shown above since the story puts it near the Ashland commuter rail station), you'd better damn well know where Megunko Hill is on your own. Fifty years ago, we started to get spare little map insets - not enough of them since they cost money but quite a few.

Long-time residents may not need the geographic details that the story of Shepard Fairey's arrest calls for. They may all know where the ICA is. On the other hand, the Institute has moved within the time I've lived in greater Boston. And there's no way I could be sure of the location of the alleged tagging, although I could get to the intersection of Mass Ave. and Newbury St.

In fact, although I've lived in the same small suburban town west of Boston for twenty-four years now, I can always use a map for a real estate story like the Ashland story. After all, there's not yet a building to use as a landmark!

Here's a rule that professionals evidently can't seem to get their heads around: Every story that has any geographical significance should include a link to a mapping site, Google Maps or Yahoo or even one of the on-line phone number sites. In fact, newspapers should either spread the wealth or sell exclusive linking to the highest bidder if anyone would pay for it.

The fact that reporters and editors miss this obvious way to make their stories better suggests that even now they are living in a past journalist world that is not coming back.

Update (2/11): I can't claim credit, but someone at the MWDN is trying to get with the 21st century with a Google Map insert in another story.

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