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Using Google Maps to Enhance Your Story

By Vanessa C. Deggins, Reporter/Videographer, The American Press,

Reporter/Anchor, KYKZ-FM Lake Charles, La.

I love Google Maps because you can do as little or as much as you want with it. You just need a Gmail account and once it’s embedded, any updates are automatically added on.
As a cops reporter, a thumbtack with a single location and short blurb, lets me give the reader an idea of where an incident happened.
But my first foray into Google Mapping was to supplement another reporter’s work. And it began as something simple and thanks to flexible bosses, they let me experiment and steadily add more.
In Southwest Louisiana, there have been eight women murdered in the same parish (county) over a five -year period. All are believed to be connected to one person.  I decided that a Google Map would provide some context.  The reporter had written about the multiple connections between the women. They are all from the same area and most knew each other or ran in the same circle of friends.
When I arrived at The American Press, seven bodies had been found and this reporter had been covering the situation the entire time.
I got with her to make sure my markers were in the correct place  and added just the name of the victim, date and location she was found.  When the eighth body turned up, I started experimenting with all of the other things Google Maps lets you do. I also went into our archives and added the womens’ pictures.
On a slow news day, I started linking all of the articles under their name. And once the FBI, got involved, I added another marker to include links about the overall investigation.
As a Knight Digital Media fellow, I am always pushing this program. Here is  their tutorial on Google Map basics. Feel free to browse through the other tutorials.


Home of the National Association of Black Journalists's (NABJ's) Digital Journalism Task Force

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