Maps created for visual journalism, known as news maps, media maps, or even journalistic cartography, provide a geographic element to the information presented in a news story.
Maps give us the visual "where" of journalism. News maps provide geographic context for newsworthy stories and demonstrate spatial relationships between data and events.
The two basic types of news maps are the "locator map," whose purpose is to show the geographic location of the news subject, and the "thematic map" which presents spatial information relating to a single topic or theme. Locator maps are used to show information such as the location of a car accident or the opening of a new restaurant and would need to present nothing more than a simple street map and a big red 'X.'
Thematic maps are generally more complex and can depict a variety of statistics, networks and relationships using a variety of symbology. Thematic maps can be used to display geographic concepts such as density, distribution, gradients and movement. Examples of thematic maps include those showing international shipping routes, per capita HIV infection, population growth, land ownership or migration patterns.
The most common media for news maps are the traditional newspaper or magazine, and, increasingly, their online editions. Locator maps often accompany stories dealing with single news events to show readers where it happened. The design, graphic, or cartography departments of news organizations also produce thematic maps that generally accompany written articles to give geograhpic context to the story. These maps act either as visual and spatial accompaniments to the body copy or as stand-alone infographics.
Monmonier, Mark. 1989. Maps with the News: The Development of American Journalistic Cartography. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Vujakovic, Peter. 1999. Mapping the War Zone: cartography, geopolitics and security discourse in the UK press. Journalism Studies 3(2): 187-202.
You Are Here: Maps 101, by Lee McCormack, Boxes and Arrows, produced by the University of Texas