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Archives: March 2010

15 Awesome interactive maps from the New York Times

There’s a reason why many online news sites have created and featured interactive maps: a map is like a blank canvas on which the artist, or journalist in this case, can lay out a story. The New York Times is one such newsroom using online and interactive maps to tell stories. Even though each of the maps below feature some sort of location, each of the stories they tell is wildly different.

While it’s true that The Times has a wealth of resources and staff that many other newsrooms to do not have, these maps transcend technology and this form of interactive storytelling can be replicated by any newsroom.

1. A Peek Into Netflix Queues

The Times examines the most popular Netflix rentals in major cities across the U.S.

2. New York City Homicide Map

A visual database of the 3,700 homicides that occurred in New York City between 2003 and 2009.

3. A 200-Year-Old Tour of Gastronomic Paris

Photos and an interactive map are combined to create an interactive slideshow of various food-related hot spots in the French city.

4. Immigration and Jobs: Where U.S. Workers Come From

A combination bubble chart/map that shows both the location where foreign-born workers come from and the industries they occupy.

5. Food Stamp Usage Across the Country

What U.S. counties are using the most food stamps? This detailed interactive map breaks down the numbers county by county.

6. The Destruction in Port-au-Prince

A dynamic map of the post-earthquake devastation of Haiti that combines satellite imagery and interactivity to tell the story of the nation.

7. Walking in Holden’s Footsteps

The travels of “Catcher in the Rye” protagonist Holden Caulfield are linked to real New York City locations.

8. Tracking Swine Flu Cases Worldwide

Reported swine flu cases from around the world are mapped with an accompanying map for North America.

9. Geography of a Recession

Another map of U.S. counties, this time used to show which areas are most affected by the current economic recession.

10. Southern California Wildfires

The extent of the damage caused by recent wildfires in California is communicated visually.

11. What’s Cooking on Thanksgiving

What do Americans eat on Thanksgiving? According to this interactive heat map, cranberry sauce is popular in western states and sweet potato pie is popular in the South.

12. Tell Us the Best Places to Go in 2010

The Times invites readers to share their travel plans by adding the name of the location and a written recommendation to other readers.

13. Born in the U.S.A.

Cars manufactured in the U.S. are featured on this map. The project also includes photos and locations of where individual models are produced.

14. Vancouver’s Olympic Venues

A beautiful animated and interactive map of the locations where the 2010 Winter Olympic Games took place.

15. Where the Pies Are

New York City has some of the best pizza in the world. The best pizza places in the city are mapped along with prices, hours of operation, photos and directions.

Also on 10,000 Words

10 Inspirational New York Times multimedia and interactive features
Where to find the best online interactive maps
5 Ways to create a Google Map in minutes

How I successfully turned my blog into a book: Publishing and production

Read Part 1 of this post here

10,000 Words, the blog I started in July 2007 on which The Digital Journalist’s Handbook is based, has hundreds of thousands of readers that hold various positions in journalism, writing and technology and if I waited long enough I probably would have attracted a book deal. But I decided to self-publish The Handbook to prove to myself and to others that it was no longer necessary to go through traditional channels to successfully publish and distribute a book.

I wrote a post almost a year and a half ago about ways writers and journalists could publish their own content. In that post, I mentioned CreateSpace, the publishing arm of CreateSpace allows users to create and sell books, CDs and more on and handles the entire sales and distribution process. I kept the site in mind and when it came time to publish my own work I decided to take advantage of the company’s services.

With CreateSpace, all I had to do was lay out and submit the written work in a PDF file and the company would handle the printing, shipping, and distribution. In return, CreateSpace would receive a substantial percentage of the list price of every book sold.

Laying out the book

From the very beginning, I knew I wanted to design and lay out the book myself because I wanted total control over how it looked. I wanted to include my own original illustrations and for the presentation of the book to be authoritative, yet welcoming.

I created all the illustrations and line drawings featured in the book, first sketching them by hand then designing them with Photoshop using several photos and other images as reference. There are more than 70 original illustrations in the book and while some only took a few minutes to create, most, like the digital cameras, USB and FireWire cords, and audio recorder, took five to six hours each to create.

My only experience with print layout was working with Quark during my years as managing editor of my college newspaper and a few side projects here and there. But I pushed forward anyway and downloaded a 30-day free trial of Adobe InDesign CS4 which I used to layout the book.

I got a crash course in book design by rummaging through and taking notes on nearly every book on my bookshelf, noting the placement of things like page numbers, margins, and other design elements, often using a ruler to make detailed measurements. I initially wanted to use the sans-serif font FF Meta based on its use in another book I liked, but because I needed a serif font, as is used in most other books, I spent several hours searching and found the right one: PMN Caecilia, which had the approachability I was going for. The cover was inspired by the 10,000 Words logo, a recent cover of V Magazine and the resulting image of a TV screen if you hold a magnifying glass up to it.

For the most part, things went smoothly with a few hiccups here and there. The most major one was not setting a proper inside margin for the book, which required me to make time-consuming adjustments before CreateSpace would accept it. All in all, I finished the illustrations in about a month and a layout in about three weeks.

Submitting to CreateSpace

Once I had PDFs for both the book and its cover, I submitted them to CreateSpace for review. After the files were successfully accepted, I set the list price for the book and paid an optional small fee for a Pro account to offset some of the printing costs and subsequently receive a larger share of the list price for myself. I also opted for the extended distribution channels or EDC which means the book is and will be distributed outside of the US via and through other online retailers.

After the book was reviewed and accepted, I received a proof copy in the mail (which I was ecstatic about). I reviewed the book for errors and once I was satisfied with the finished product, I authorized CreateSpace to begin selling the book. I don’t have to handle any of the sales or shipping and I receive a payment for every book sold. I also have the option of purchasing my own copies at a severely discounted rate.

A lot of hard work went into making The Handbook happen and even though the project required many late nights, many tears, and many nights away from friends and loved ones, it was well worth the effort to be able to say “I am a published author.”

The Digital Journalist’s Handbook is on sale now at

Part 1: How I successfully turned my blog into a book: The Writing

Also on 10,000 Words:

How Twitter saved my career… and my life
Screw the system. Publish your own content!
Why being an unemployed journalist is the best thing to ever happen to me

How I successfully turned my blog into a book: The Writing

10,000 Words has joined the ranks of blogs like PostSecret, The Julie/Julia Project, and I Can Has Cheezburger? that have been successfully transformed into a book. The Digital Journalist’s Handbook, like this blog, is a guide to the technology journalists must know to thrive in today’s modern newsrooms.

I always wanted to write a book, but because technology is always changing, I thought that writing for such a permanent medium was a fool’s errand. I had mostly given up on the idea until @RandomtoReason asked via Twitter why I had not written a book. Instead of dismissing the notion, I brainstormed how I could write a book about technology that wouldn’t be outdated months down the line.

I came up with what I knew was the perfect formula: write about established technologies journalists were currently using that wouldn’t be obsolete in a few months time, avoid writing about anything new or untested and use a companion website to direct readers to online examples and more detailed tutorials.

I started writing the book in July 2009, several months after I was laid off from my journalism job. I was hungry and flat broke, but the book gave me something else to focus on and channel my energy into. During this time I wrote most of the book at the New York Public Library on 42nd and 5th in the Rose Reading Room, a beautiful, inspiring, and — best of all — free workspace.

Once I identified the structure for the book, I went through every blog post I had ever written (about 350 at the time) and selected the topics and information that I wanted to include in the book. I also noted subjects that I had never written about extensively like podcasting and social networks. Once I had a tentative structure and table of contents, I said to myself “Now write.” This was a huge and mostly misguided approach.

I quickly realized that there many, many, many holes that needed to be filled and the bulk of the writing time was actually spent researching, filling in the gaps of information that my blog had not covered. I read tons of other blog posts and books, identifying the information that I wanted to include in The Handbook and verifying that what I had written was correct. I went through several Sharpies and stacks of paper and I wasn’t even really writing, just adding, deleting, and rearranging the structure of the book.

In late August, I was hired by the Center for Investigative Reporting as a multimedia producer which meant I had significantly less time to write. However, I was determined to complete the book because I felt it was the guide that many journalists wanted and needed. Many days I would go to work from 9 to 5, leave, head straight home and start writing until I went to bed or until my brain shut down completely. Most weekends were spent tapping away at a computer, writing and shaping the book. I was fueled by the passion I had for the project…that and lots of Red Bull and coffee.

I wrote the book in intentionally simple language, which required me to consult several times a day to rein in my extensive and often times unnecessarily elaborate vocabulary. I also knew that, like the blog, I was writing the book for international audiences for whom English may not be the first language so I ran several words and phrases through Google Translate to make sure I wasn’t using idioms only Americans would understand.

I initially wanted to hire an editor to oversee the project and my writing, but I knew exactly what I wanted the book to look like and include and if it was my ship I was going down with it. I wrote the entire book in Google Docs, which allowed me to share what I was working on with friends and trusted colleagues who could provide feedback on my work.

After seven months of writing, I sent the more than 75,000 word-book over to a copy editor to have it edited. While the book was being edited, I began work on the *production side of the book*, including laying it out and creating illustrations.

When I began writing the book, I thought it would be easy to just take my blog and magically transform it into a book, but I can tell you that there is so much work that goes into creating a project of this magnitude. Blogging gives a writer freedom to write in whatever style they want, with little connection from one post to the other. A book, however, must have a flow and each paragraph, section, and chapter must connect to the next.

Writing and researching took much longer than I anticipated and there were moments where I wanted to give up because I told myself “nobody’s going to read the damn thing anyway.” But people do read the damn thing and being able to look at my book on a bookshelf was worth all the effort of writing it.

Like 10,000 Words, The Handbook fills a need that wasn’t really being filled with any other product on the market, which in this case was a comprehensive guide to the fundamentals of digital journalism that both beginners and seasoned pros could follow.

If you’re on the fence about whether or not to write a book, I absolutely encourage you to identify your project and your passion and share it with the world.

<i?The Digital Journalist’s Handbook is on sale now at

Part 2: How I successfully turned my blog into a book: Publishing and production

Also on 10,000 Words:

How Twitter saved my career… and my life

Screw the system. Publish your own content!

Why being an unemployed journalist is the best thing to ever happen to me

Why news media should not wait to develop iPad apps

The iPad, a touchscreen tablet device developed by Apple, has some observers predicting it will revolutionize journalism. While the revolution is yet to be seen, the iPad could present the viable distribution model that news media are looking for.

The iPad can present text, video, audio, and more in an interactive and mobile environment that makes the device tailor-made for traditional news media. The Associated Press, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Condé Nast, whose publications include Wired Magazine, The New Yorker, and Vanity Fair, have all expressed an interest in iPad apps and have been working to create content for the medium to debut within a few months of its release. You can view an example of how Wired Magazine plans to develop content for the iPad in the video below.

While it would seem like the iPad, which will be released in early April, is an untested medium, it is actually not. The iPhone and similar smartphones have proved that audiences are willing to pay for content that they can access on their mobile devices. Many news media have focused their iPhone apps on unique interactive content or news headlines, but the iPad provides a space and a better viewing experience for feature-length stories and long-form video, content that many newsrooms are already creating.

Unlike traditional print publications, there are no printing costs associated with the iPad, only the cost of producing quality content and a team of developers and designers to develop the content for the tablet.

The paperless platform means the iPad is also a great medium for startups and independent newsrooms who want to provide content to a measurable audience. The iPad can potentially liberate these organizations from the short-form blogging model that many have followed (usually based on their resources) and create long form stories, video content, and interactive content, the cost of which is supported by readers. And because the audience is paying for the content, they are much more likely to be invested in the stories produced by the organization, whether it is a traditional or non-traditional news outlet.

In addition to the revenue from paid subscriptions, news media can also include advertising in their iPad publications. The experience is, however, much more interactive and immersive than anything currently being done on the web or in print. Advertisements can be interactive, as shown in the video, allowing the user to experience the ad in a less intrusive way. The user can also select the ad and be directed to a web page where they can purchase the product immediately.

Designing and creating a publication for the iPad requires specialized programming skills that are usually beyond the talents of the average journalist, but the potential revenue is worth the investment of hiring a knowledgeable team of programmers familiar with the Apple SDK (Software Development Kit). You can start developing your iPad app by downloading the SDK.

News media waited to develop content for the web and missed the boat. News media waited to develop iPhone apps and are now struggling to push their content through an already crowded marketplace. Traditional media are not known for their desire to experiment, but publications should seize the distribution and revenue opportunities now instead of scrambling to catch up later…again.

Thanks to Priya Ganapati of Wired, on whose presentation this post is based

Also on 10,000 Words:

21 iPhone-friendly news sites and how to format your own
10 Essential iPhone apps for bloggers and reporters
5 iPhone applications that can revolutionize mobile journalism

The 5 most controversial photos posted to Twitter

It doesn’t take to be embroiled in a celebrity scandal these days. A surprise paparazzi photo, an incriminating voice mail or a leaked sex tape can all put a star in hot water. However, some celebrities and even regular people are getting themselves and others in trouble with the photos they post on Twitter. Here are a few of those gaffes:

Scott Baio v. Michelle Obama

Republican and “Happy Days” star Scott Baio posted the photo below of US First Lady Michelle Obama and added “WOW He wakes up to this every morning.” Many Twitter users were enraged and accused Baio of being a racist among other things. Baio shot back, arguing that his wife’s best friend was Black and that the photo and comment were only meant to be a joke.

Meghan McCain

Republican pundit and Daily Beast columnist Meghan McCain posted what she thought was an innocent photo of herself holding up a copy of a biography of Andy Warhol and preparing for a “spontaneous night in.” Her very present cleavage was too much for some to ignore and many Twitter users blasted her for posting the pic. McCain considered deleting her Twitter account altogether but ultimately just apologized and moved on.

Lindsay Lohan

A low-cut shirt may be tame compared to Lindsay Lohan’s topless photo of herself that she snapped and posted to Twitter. While this may not be the most controversial thing Lohan has ever done, it did prompt a shocked reaction from many Twitter users.

NBC’s Black History Month menu

Is a menu of fried chicken, collard greens, and cornbread in celebration of Black History Month racist? A large number of Twitter users thought so. After musician and drummer ?uestlove posted a photo of the NBC cafeteria menu to Twitter, many called the offerings insensitive. The menu was later taken down and NBC officials apologized.

Napping transit worker

To be fair, when the transit worker in Toronto took a quick catnap, he probably didn’t know that his photo was being taken or that the photo would outrage many of the city’s residents. The photo came on the heels of a recent fare and hike and for many the photo symbolized the poor customer service of Toronto Transit employees.

Also on 10,000 Words:

10 News photos that took retouching too far
The top 7 mistakes new Twitter users make
Landmark moments in citizen journalism