I have previously expressed appreciation for news organizations that use well-designed, content-rich maps to illustrate spatial patterns in the stories they cover, and another example recently caught my eye.
The New York Times recently published “Even Critics of Safety Net Increasingly Depend on It”, a lengthy article on the growth of government benefits for senior citizens, veterans, the disabled, children, and others—a hotly debated topic in this election year. Accompanying the article is The Geography of Government Benefits, a map showing county-level data illustrating per capita income from government programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, income support, veterans’ benefits, and unemployment insurance. The interactive maps allows you see not only geographic patterns but also change over time. The maps present data from the years 1969, 1979, 1989, 1999, and 2009.
Check out your own county. You won’t be able to resist comparing it to neighboring areas and viewing the amount of change over the years. Trying to explain these patterns is at the heart of geography.
Whether it’s an ambitious project involving five decades of government data or a story about a local highway project, we should urge news reporters and editors to include maps, which will help tell stories more effectively.