Google MyMaps is the perfect tool for mapping small datasets for dayturn stories and projects. Have a dataset of pothole repairs in your city? Map it. Tracking crime in certain neighborhoods? Load a spreadsheet from your police department into MyMaps.
There are thousands of stories to be found in datasets on your city, county, state and federal data portals.
MyMaps will handle a spreadsheet of 1,000 rows or less comfortably, a limit I wouldn’t push too hard. It also allows you to layer in shapefiles — .KML or .KMZ files of neighborhoods, city council districts, Congressional districts, counties, ZIP codes, etc. The layering gives the map greater depth as you can track how many homicides each neighborhood has, or how many COVID vaccination centers are located in each ZIP code, etc.
MyMaps is easy to learn. Just watch this video on how to build a layered map, then download your own dataset and get to work.
Here are some excellent examples of what you can build with MyMaps from newsrooms that I’ve trained on Google tools:
- Santa Barbara mudslides evacuation zones: Santa Barbara Independent built this layered map showing how 17 of the 23 victims may have been living under no evacuation notice of any sort. MyMaps is an important tool to help readers visualize a dangerous situation.
- St Louis Post-Dispatch homicides map: This is an older map but serves as a smart visual archive of the city’s homicides. Note the link at the bottom of each pin’s summary goes to a Post-Dispatch news story about that homicide.
- Nashville Pothole Repairs: A great multimedia package anchored by a MyMap using data from the city’s data portal.
- Pensacola News Journal: Santa Rosa County road repairs
- Tallahassee Democrat 2020 Florida State recruiting offer list
Quick tip: Ever run into a website with a lousy search engine? Try this search operator in Google: site: followed by the web address and the keywords you want to search. Example: site:cdc.gov SARS
Make sure there’s no space between the colon and the web address and you don’t need the http:// in the web address. You’ll find the search results are much more robust that using a site’s search engine.
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