So our lecture this week was about Interactive Storytelling. That can mean a lot of things, but our lecturer, Charles Minshew, gave some interesting examples. 

I think my favorite example was using maps (a specific example was Google Maps) to help tell a story. It makes sense that I liked this, because I have always enjoyed looking at maps. I was in my state’s geography bee in middle school. I think a map is one of the best ways to convey information. It allows your audience to visualize the place of a story and can provide crucial context to a story. Readers and viewers have to know where something is, or else a story is useless (or not quite as useful) to them. 

I also think using maps more often could help combat geographic illiteracy. Over the years, quite a few studies show that Americans suffer from the inability to locate basic places on a map. These studies weren’t asking people to locate Equatorial Guinea (though I think the ability to locate Equatorial Guinea is important too, but that’s for another day). They asked people to locate Louisiana, Mississippi and Afghanistan. Not a seemingly difficult task, but for some it was.  

So the more people are exposed to maps, the more I think it could help people understand their world. It is embarrassing to me how little we know about the world around us. It is our responsibility as journalists to impart knowledge. So why don’t we use maps more to help us do that? 

Of course, using maps does not always inform people. Take this map from Fox News:


Who knew Egypt bordered Iran? Clearly, a producer at Fox thought it did. I suppose that is supporting evidence of our geographic illiteracy problem, but it was from someone who should certainly know better! 

Anyway, back to the lecture. I think Google Maps is a good tool for journalists because it allows your audience to explore locations on their own and gives them many options for doing so. They can use a street map, a topographic map, they can use Street View, it is up to them. 

Minshew also discussed the importance of learning basic coding (like HTML) and I must admit a lot of it is was very foreign to me. I may look like a total nerd, but I am not at all proficient in coding or really anything technologically “deep.” I have had nowhere near the patience to learn it, as anything really complicated looking tends to frustrate and befuddle me. To work in today’s new media environment, I will have to change that.

A well built website can help tell a story and can make the delivery of the news more visually appealing, even if said news is a simple text story. 

For now, I’ll stick with the somewhat (with emphasis on the “somewhat”) user-friendly WordPress.