September 29, 2003
GIS Technology Applied to the News
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
Each GIS Weekly Review delivers to its readers news concerning the latest developments in the GIS industry, GIS product and company news, featured downloads, customer wins, and coming events, along with a selection of other articles that we feel you might find interesting. Brought to you by If we miss a story or subject that you feel deserves to be included, or you just want to suggest a future topic, please contact us! Questions? Feedback? Click here. Thank you!

Message from the Editor -

Welcome to GISWeekly! This week's Industry News features a Book Review of Mapping the News, a new book written in a fast-paced journalistic style that pulls you through a series of case studies with some pretty exciting details of how to use GIS data to reveal rich story matter.

GISWeekly examines select top news each week, picks out worthwhile reading from around the web, and special interest items you might not find elsewhere. This issue will feature Industry News, Alliances/Acquisitions, Announcements, New Products, Going on Around the Web, and Calendar.

GISWeekly welcomes letters and feedback from readers, so let us know what you think. Send your comments to me at

Best wishes,

Susan Smith, Managing Editor

Industry News

Book Review

GIS Technology Applied to the News

Mapping the News - Case Studies in GIS and Journalism

Edited by David Herzog

ISBN 1-58948-072-4

150 pp.


Some of the case studies outlined in Mapping the News have been heavily publicized in the GIS press, however, the book embodies a substantial number of impressive applications of GIS in the newsroom, ranging from tracking Hurricane Andrew to finding homes in landslide areas to identifying toxic sites. Mapping the News is written in a fast-paced journalistic style that pulls you through a series of case studies with some pretty exciting details of how to use GIS data to reveal rich story matter.

By now most GIS professionals are aware that the technology is being used in numerous “non-traditional” applications, but it is always interesting to see how the technology is applied. As early as the 1990s journalists used GIS to decipher data from the 1990 Census. Maps have always been used by newspapers, however, only recently have they been GIS-generated. Also, they are being created by journalists using government, Census or crime data that they have gathered and processed themselves.

One case study outlines Philadelphia Inquirer reporters who wanted to do an in-depth report on drunken driving. They found that GIS and spatial statistics had been used to look for connections between bars and drunken driving accidents. One journalist, a computer assisted reporting specialist, decided to map the liquor license locations and drunken driving accidents in the five main Pennsylvania counties covered by the Inquirer.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) had detailed accident data, however, they would not share it with the public. Information about driver age, injuries and whether alcohol was involved were stripped out of the databases. Ultimately sources inside PennDOT began to provide spreadsheets containing alcohol-related crash data for all state-maintained roads in a five county Philadelphia metropolitan area. Then PennDOT officials parted with their data from 1996 through 2000. To begin with, the reporters focused on 619 road segments that had at least five alcohol related crashes, and rather than just being content with a story on the segments of road that had the highest DUI
fatalities, they overlaid data showing the highest concentrations of bars and looked for patterns.

At this point the specialist took a course in Spatial Analyst so that she could analyze points and create map layers that revealed densities. From the state Liquor Control Board she got free licensee data. With ArcView and TeleAtlas, she geocoded the records using a street map file from the Census Bureau. Researchers who perform spatial analyses of drunken driving checked out the ArcView map document to make sure that the GIS work was correct. The ensuing story, entitled “Loaded for Trouble,” detailed DUI “hot spots” and also provided more information at the newspaper's website on interactive maps, using ArcIMS.

The U.S. Presidential election was a high profile case where GIS was used by the Washington Post, to help understand what happened in Florida where the deciding votes in the election were cast. The newspaper began to examine claims that the ballots cast by African American voters had been rejected at higher rates than those of whites because of voting errors. Did their votes count as much as those cast by white voters? The Post set out to find out.

As was profiled in the news, Florida's largest counties used punch cards, and those ballots with more than one hold punched for presidential candidates were considered “overvotes” which the vote-reading machines rejected. Ballots with an improperly punched hole were also were rejected as “undervotes.” A reporter used GIS on precinct level data to determine the rate at which the punch card ballots had been disqualified. Using a statewide precinct map in ArcView shapefile format from the Florida Legislature's Web site, and a precinct shapefile map for Duval County, the reporter could examine patterns between voter registration by race and over- and undervote data. To
make a long story short,
Duval County and Miami-Dade County both showed in the analysis that vote rejection rates were not random. The newspaper published a story in early December showing how African American and predominantly Democrat neighborhoods in the two Florida counties had more votes rejected than in other areas of those counties. Contributing factors supplied by election experts revealed that new voters were very possibly confused by the punch card ballots. Also, the newspaper discovered that where African American voters lived, the poll workers were less likely to check ballots and allow voters to correct them.

The Washington Post went on to perform a similar analysis for Chicago and Cook County, finding similar results in that the neighborhoods with the highest minority populations suffered the greatest spoilage rates in ballots.

The newspaper's work was tracked by the television media and ultimately, spearheaded election reforms across the country.

At the back of the book is a chapter on the use of MapShop, a web based application developed by ESRI in collaboration with the Associated Press. Maps can be created inside a browser, using many map layers available for the world. In addition, the book provides an Appendix on free data sources for journalists.

This book will be very helpful to those journalists who are considering taking a GIS for Journalists or Computer Assisted Reporting course, or just need some creative ideas on what is possible in the world of reporting - with GIS technology.


Miner & Miner, Consulting Engineers, Inc. (Miner & Miner) and CGI CYME (CYME) recently announced an official business alliance. The alliance formalizes the agreement between the two companies to continue to provide electric utilities with the ability to access CYME's network analysis software, CYMDIST, from within Miner & Miner's GIS-based ArcFM Solution.


Strategic Research Institute presents the
U.S. Commercial Remote Sensing Industry Conference, December 1 & 2, 2003, in Washington, D.C. This forum will analyze current and future opportunities and explore key issues within the U.S. commercial remote sensing industry, including its relationship to system and technology partners and value-added product and service providers.

Like the new U.S. commercial remote sensing policy, this conference intends to provide a discussion about the new framework for remote sensing decisions, and a forum in which to create additional relationships between government and industry decision-makers who are looking to understand the new opportunities and challenges of commercial remote sensing.

The deadline to submit abstracts for the 2004 Integrating GIS & CAMA Conference is October 3, 2003. The three-day educational program (with a full day of pre-conference workshops and a comprehensive exhibit hall) will take place March 28-31, 2004 in Austin, Texas. The conference, in its eighth year, is presented by the International Association of Assessing Officers (IAAO) and URISA.

GE Power Systems has announced that its Network Reliability Services business will host a Users Conference specifically targeted for its network management and substation automation end users. The conference, which is tracked according to each discipline, will be held in New Orleans, La., at the Fairmont Hotel and will run from October 26 through October 29. Register at or for substation automation end users at

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-- Susan Smith, Managing Editor.

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