Taking control of Google Maps
Sep 8th, 2010 by Tom Johnson

Patrick Cain, who correctly describes himself as “a journalist who makes maps for the Web,” has posted a couple neat sets of tips to his blog. Basically, they suggest ways to tweak some of Google's code to improve presentation. Check out his blog tips at


Simplifying map display

I’ve never been a fan of the way Google Maps handles local labels (neighbourhoods, for example) – they are often redundant, inconsistent and wrong, as well as cluttering the map visually.

These examples didn’t take long to collect:

Leslieville is so nice they labeled it twice:

Same with the Bridle Path, more or less:

Google has solved the unresolvable Beach vs. Beaches debate by using both labels:

Forest Hill South is not an ambition of well-off Annexites, but is actually north of Forest Hill:

Three Tuesdays workshop on data and the political campaigns at the Santa Fe Complex
Sep 27th, 2008 by Tom Johnson

Handicapping the Horserace

Published by Don Begley at 10:09 pm under Complex News, event

Handicapping the Horserace
    •September 30, 2008 – 6:30-8 pm  •October 7, 2008 – 6:30-8 pm  •October 14, 2008 – 6:30-8 pm

It’s human nature: Elections and disinformation go hand-in-hand. We idealize the competition of ideas and the process of debate while we listen to the whisper campaigns telling us of the skeletons in the other candidate’s closet. Or, we can learn from serious journalism to tap into the growing number of digital tools at hand and see what is really going on in this fall’s campaigns. Join journalist Tom Johnson for a three-part workshop at Santa Fe Complex to learn how you can be your own investigative reporter and get ready for that special Tuesday in November.

Over the course of three Tuesdays, beginning September 30, Johnson will show workshop participants how to do the online research needed to understand what’s happening in the fall political campaign. There will be homework assignments and participants will contribute to the Three Tuesdays wiki so their discoveries will be available to the general public.

Everyone is welcome but space will be limited. A suggested donation of $45 covers all three events or $20 will help produce each session. Click here to sign up.

  • The Daily Tip Sheet (September 30, 6:30 pm)

    Newspapers are a ‘morning line’ tip sheet. There isn’t enough room for what you need to know.

    Newspapers can be a good jumping-off point for political knowledge, but they rarely have enough staff, staff time and space to really drill down into a topic. Ergo, it is increasingly up to citizens to do the research to preserve democracy and help inform voters. Tonight we will be introduced to some of the city, state and national web sites to help in our reporting and to a few digital tools to help you save and retrieve what you find.
  • Swimming Against the Flow (October 7, 6:30 pm):

    How to track data to their upstream sources.

    A web page and its data are not static events. (Well, usually they are not.) Web pages and digital data all carry “signs” of where they came from, who owns the site(s) and sometimes who links to the sites. We will discuss how investigators can use these attributes to our advantage, and also take a step back to consider the “architecture of sophisticated web searching.”
  • The Payoff (October 14, 6:30 pm)

    Yup, it IS about following the money. But then what?

    Every election season, new web sites come along that make it easier to follow the money — election money. This final workshop looks at some of those sites and focuses on how to get their data into a spreadsheet. Then what? A short intro to slicing-and-dicing the numbers. (Even if you are a spreadsheet maven, please come and act as a coach.)

This workshop is NOT a sit-and-take-it-in event. We’re looking for folks who want to do some beginning hands-on (”On-line hands-on”, that is) investigation of New Mexico politics. And that means homework assignments and contributing to our Three Tuesdays wiki. Participants are also encouraged to bring a laptop if you can. Click here to sign up.

Tom Johnson’s 30-year career path in journalism is one that regularly moved from the classroom to the newsroom and back. He worked for TIME magazine in El Salvador in the mid-80s, was the founding editor of MacWEEK, and a deputy editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. His areas of interest are analytic journalism, dynamic simulation models of publishing systems, complexity theory, the application of Geographic Information Systems in journalism and the impact of the digital revolution on journalism and journalism education. He is the founder and co-director of the Institute for Analytic Journalism and a member of the Advisory Board of Santa Fe Complex.


IAJ does ESRI podcast
Jan 5th, 2007 by JTJ

A couple days before Christmas, Jesse Theodore — a writer at ESRI — interviewed Tom Johnson about the use of GIS in journalism.  That interview is now available as a podcast at

Welcome to the IAJ
Mar 14th, 2005 by JTJ


thinking and analysis using a variety of intellectual
tools and methods to understand multiple phenomena and to communicate the
results of those insights to multiple
audiences in a variety of ways.

These tools and methods are far
more sophisticated than the traditional 5 Ws and H of classic journalism, but
they are rarely novel and often well known outside of journalism.  Indeed, analytic journalists consciously and constantly survey all other professional 
disciplines searching for methods that can be used by
journalists to do more insightful, meaningful stories.  The disciplines range from accounting
(forensic accounting and performance measurement) to medicine and public health
(epidemiology) to zoology (measuring relationships between species and

There are some similarities
between computer-assisted reporting (CAR) and analytic journalism.  Both typically retrieve and analyze
quantitative data, or translate qualitative data into quantitative data for
more precise analysis, especially over time. 
Analytic journalists, though, seek methods beyond crunching numbers on a
spreadsheet or running filtering algorithms on a database.

Our working premise: Democracy only exists by the will and action of an informed
citizenry.  Ergo, citizens need to know:

The state of their society if they are to make informed
decisions about what their government and society should be doing

What is the condition of their government and society

What the government and society are doing

What the government and society plans to do

How well the government and society are performing
relative to their own standards, the expectations of citizens and similar
institutions around the nation or world.

The fundamental questions
underlying all of this are:

What do we journalists know and how do we know it?  (Just having someone telling us isn’t
sufficient, especially if they are telling us anecdotes.)

How do we measure change and over time and place?

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