Blog #2: Google Maps

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For journalists, maps are a useful tool to help create a visual diagram to accompany a story or multimedia piece. While Google Maps is a good way of generate custom maps, it has a lot of limitations.

While working on my final project, I was creating two custom maps to accompany my piece on the relationship between students who live off-campus with the residents of the neighborhoods they live in. The first map was a plot of all the off-campus housing locations, according to the UA Off-Campus Housing office, while the second one was a map of neighborhoods with homeowners associations in Tucson, according to the Tucson Government.

The positives of Google Maps was that they allowed you to draw custom shapes and plot custom points based off the locations of the apartment complexes and neighborhoods. For the neighborhoods, it made it a lot easier to outline the limits of the homeowners associations in a way of displaying their exact locations. For the apartment complexes, you could drop a point on the complex itself, not the road right next to it, making the location more accurate.

The limitations to Google Maps occurred while I was working on the second map. With Tucson being a relatively large city, there are more than 80 neighborhood associations. After getting through half of them, Google Maps automatically created a second page and started plotting the rest of the shapes on a separate map. After eventually plotting all the objects on the map, it created two separate maps and did not have an option to put them together. After searching through the internet for ways to combine two maps, plenty of people had encountered the same problem. People posted codes that had worked on their maps, but for the majority of people who commented and on my maps, those codes did not work. Eventually I had to post both maps separately.

As a result of these limitations, I likely will use a different custom maps tool when I need a map with this many points. However, I will still use Google Maps for the smaller projects.

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