Toledo mayor calls Blade ‘irresponsible’ for reporting information he won’t release

The Blade | The Journal News

Toledo’s mayor blasted The (Toledo, Ohio) Blade for publishing its own map of gang territories in the city, but he still refused to make public a police map of gang activity. The Blade made its map “after exhaustive interviews and research,” Ignazio Messina writes.

Mayor Mike Bell said the map, which is part of a series, threatened outside investment in the city. The series started Sunday.

“I would say it is probably one of the most irresponsible forms of journalism that I have read in the paper since I have been in this city, from the standpoint of the recoil it possibly will have on the economy in terms of being able to recruit people and bring people in,” Mr. Bell said. “To me it is almost like kicking someone when they are down. … Tell me what is the positive side of this?”

The Blade in July sued the city for allegedly violating the Ohio Public Records Act by restricting access to the police department’s map, which is used to monitor gang activities and shootings. Read more

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7 ways to get your audience to participate in mobile mapping projects

News organizations are increasingly involving the community in their reporting and trying to figure out which approaches work well.

One way to get your audience involved is to combine the ease of mobile texting with the visual appeal of a map. Throughout the past few years, I’ve launched several successful mobile mapping crowdsourcing projects for public radio stations and have found that they engaged audiences and helped advance news stories.

Drawing on my experience with these projects, I’ve come up with some tips on how to involve your audience in a successful mobile mapping project in any medium.

Start with a simple question.

Last December, a huge snow storm hit the New York City area. It happened during the holidays when many of the city’s political leaders were away. After two feet accumulated in Central Park, the story quickly became about the cleanup effort — or lack thereof. At first, the mayor said the city was making good progress clearing snow. Read more

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Explainer maps locate, contextualize and localize news from Libya, Japan

In recent weeks, the media have reported on how events in Libya and Japan are affecting Misurata, Az Zintan, Tripoli and Rikuzentakata.

Is your geography good enough to know that Misurata and Az Zintan are in northwest Libya, that Tripoli is northeast of Kabaw, and that Rikuzentakata is a coastal town in northeast Japan?

If not, then look at some of the maps that journalists at The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and CNN have published recently in print and online.

A chart showing the spike in searches for maps of Libya.

Stats from Google trends indicate that people want to know where the countries and cities in the news are located. Searches for maps of Libya and Japan, for instance, have spiked significantly this month.

Google’s Sean Carlson says he’s seen a steady flow of news organizations using Google Maps and Google Earth to help illustrate recent international stories. Read more


Boston transit opens up data for mobile apps

Andrea Bernstein reports from Boston that the city’s transit agency last year was struggling with the challenge of how to share real-time data with passengers about where city buses are. So the agency invited 200 developers to a meeting to talk about opening up the information for public use.

Bernstein spoke with Chris Dempsey, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority director of innovation, and his colleague Joshua Robin. Robin told her what happened after that meeting:

When we came back from lunch, someone had already built an application, a Google Earth application. And by the end of the weekend, before Chris and I got back to work on Monday, someone had already put it on a simple website.”

A month later, the result of this effort was available for purchase in the iTunes Store: an iPhone app called Catch the Bus that enables them to look up the actual arrival times for specific stops on a route. Read more


Brady: New D.C. Site to Rely on 3 Things for Delivering News on Every Block

People who visit Allbritton Communications’ still-unnamed metro D.C. news site when it launches in June will see elements that have been employed elsewhere — aggregation, geocoding, community engagement — but not quite in this formula.

“People think we’re biting off a pretty big chunk here, covering the whole region, hiring this many people,” said Jim Brady, president of digital strategy for Allbritton, which also owns Politico and two Washington TV stations.

“If you look at the past, there are some sites that just tried to do the community angle, there are sites that just tried to do the data angle, there are sites that just tried to do the original reporting. The truth is, I think that for a local site to be effective, it’s got to be a mix of all those things.”

Users will find a site that highlights major, area-wide news and micro, neighborhood-level information — and doesn’t clutter the page with content that doesn’t fit into either category. Read more


Google & YouTube 3-D Features Have Potential to Advance Multimedia Storytelling

Chris Crum at Web Pro News recently pointed out an interesting YouTube experiment: creating stereoscopic video, or what’s traditionally known as “3-D video,” using the popular video provider.
Crum wrote:
“Today the CitizenTube Blog points to what it says may be the first news report shot in 3-D. … The idea of 3D videos of course opens up the possibility of a very interesting future for the world’s most popular video site. In fact, it hasn’t taken long for that future to begin to materialize. While YouTube is likely still very far from meeting the potential it could reach within the 3D realm, the company is already highlighting one interesting utilization of it.”
Crum made note of a tutorial from CTVSWO that explains how the 3-D news report was created. It basically entailed mounting two of the same video cameras right next to each other, editing the footage from both pieces exactly the same, then letting YouTube work its magic.
Read more

EveryBlock Launches Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Detroit ‘Beta’ Editions

EveryBlock, the innovative microlocal news and information site, expanded its network of locations to 15 this week, by offering four new “beta” cities: Atlanta, Houston, Dallas and Detroit.

In the EveryBlock blog announcement, founder Adrian Holovaty explains, “Why the ‘beta’ designation? We got so much demand for these cities in our city expansion poll that we wanted to get something out there for people to start using – but we know we have more work to do in finding new data sets, news sources and neighborhood boundaries. Each city has a smaller amount of news available than in our other cities, but we plan to expand over time.
Some of the new cities have less information than the early EveryBlock launch locations, like Chicago. For instance, Detroit, which just beat out Baltimore for the highest homicide rate per capita, has no crime data currently.
Gathering this public data — especially in a dynamically updated format — can take significant resources to overcome government bureaucracy and make it happen.
Read more


Citizen Intelligence Analysts Unveil North Korea Via Google Earth

North Korea’s nuclear and missile activities are making headlines again — and making people curious about what that closed nation is like. An independent collaborative project called North Korea Uncovered uses Google Earth to compile the efforts of many volunteer analysts from around the world, presenting a rich view of North Korea.

This project is a great example of how interactive online mapping tools can not only enrich the context of news, but also focus the efforts of a community to dig into an issue.

North Korea Uncovered began in April 2007. The “package” is a KMZ data file that can be opened in the popular Google Earth program. Since 2007 it has gone through several iterations and was most recently released on May 14. The project is headed by Curtis Melvin, an economics doctoral student at George Mason University who blogs at North Korean Economy Watch. So far, the file has been downloaded about 47,000 times. Read more


Everyblock’s New Geocoding Fixes

Last week I wrote about how a Los Angeles Police Dept. geocoding data glitch yielded inaccurate crime maps at and the database-powered network of hyperlocal sites, Everyblock.

On Apr. 8, Everyblock founder Adrian Holovaty blogged about the two ways his company is addressing the problem of inaccurate geodata.

  1. Latitude/longitude crosschecking. “From now on, rather than relying blindly on our data sources’ longitude/latitude points, we cross-check those points with our own geocoding of the address provided. If the LAPD’s geocoding for a particular crime is significantly off from our own geocoder’s results, then we won’t geocode that crime at all, and we publish a note on the crime page that explains why a map isn’t available. (If you’re curious, we’re using 375 meters as our threshold. That is, if our own geocoder comes up with a point more than 375 meters away from the point that LAPD provides, then we won’t place the crime on a map, or on block/neighborhood pages.”
  2. Surfacing ungeocoded data.
Read more

Los Angeles Times Spots Police Geocoding Error

Crime maps are one of the most popular and (in urban areas) ubiquitous types of geo-enabled local news. The data from these maps comes from local police departments, but how reliable is it?

On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times reported a problem with the Los Angeles Police Department’s online crime map, launched three years ago: is offered to the public as a way to track crimes near specific addresses in the city of Los Angeles. Most of the time that process worked fine. But when it failed, crimes were often shown miles from where they actually occurred.

“Unable to parse the intersection of Paloma Street and Adams Boulevard, for instance, the computer used a default point for Los Angeles, roughly 1st and Spring streets.

“Mistakes could have the effect of masking real crime spikes as well as creating false ones.”

According to the story, the LAPD was not aware of the error until alerted by the Times. Read more


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