Local newsrooms have been stretched thin covering the many impacts of the novel coronavirus pandemic, from school closings to shelter in place orders to local government responses. Journalists also have been trying to update their readers on the number of confirmed cases and deaths from COVID-19. That’s a lot for any newsroom, much less smaller, resourced-strapped local news organizations.
So Stanford University’s Big Local News and Pitch Interactive — with support from the Google News Initiative — created the COVID-19 Case Mapper to make it possible for local journalists and others to easily embed up-to-date coronavirus map visualizations on their websites. The map offers state and county views, with a simple interface for embedding on a site.
The numbers behind the map automatically update, pulling in data collected daily and made public by The New York Times.
“We’ve been getting a lot of feedback from readers who are checking the tracking pages every day. And we were also receiving constant requests from researchers and government officials for the data. All this made it clear to us that we needed to do more to get the data out to the public,” said Archie Tse, the Times’ graphics director. “We’re really glad if local news organizations can use the data to inform their readers.”
The map launched on April 14 and dozens of news organizations have embedded it on their news sites, from the Sacramento Observer in California to Wyoming Public Media and the Cobb County Courier in Georgia.
The goal is for journalists to use the map to get out this vital information to their readers and also not have to spend time creating their own maps, but instead focus on other important local journalism.
The Google News Initiative supported the development of the map and its dissemination by Big Local News.
“It is so important that local journalists have an easy way to embed these maps, so they can clearly explain what is happening for readers in their areas,” said Simon Rogers, data editor at Google.
Big Local News is a program of Stanford University’s Journalism and Democracy Initiative and collects local data to discover the regional or national patterns that will yield stories with impact. Big Local News journalists go after data sets that are hard to obtain because they’re kept in disparate, scattered locations by multiple jurisdictions. They also work with newsrooms to process, analyze and archive the data collected.
The Big Local News platform allows journalists to share data and work together as they report stories. This work is designed to help find solutions for local newsrooms’ ability to produce accountability journalism. Big Local News has also created Open Projects related to the coronavirus on the platform, making data easier to access and providing guidance on how specific data-sets can be analyzed for local stories. Data includes information on vulnerable communities, data on hospitals and nursing homes and tweets by public officials and health departments among others.
Big Local welcomes feedback and is happy to collaborate on new data-driven projects.