March 26, 2011

where were the NSW election maps?

Posted by josediacono @ 9:40 pm under Uncategorized

I can only sadly conclude at the end of election night that this was another missed opportunity for the mapping and spatial fraternity and I am kicking myself for not doing something about it.

A quick google search of “nsw election results map” found this

which linked through to this…

NSW election results

Heaven help the average punter who just wants to find out where all these electorates they are talking about on the TV and radio are.  A bit further down the search results,  the Sydney Morning Herald came to the rescue with its interactive map. A good start but it could have been so much more.

It colour coded the electorates as results came in and gave a thumbnail description of the demographics of each electorate. Rather than a textual description it would oh-so- feasible to include census graphics from the ABS from Brad Spencers Demographic Drapes or the new online Atlas of NSW – wouldn’t that have been so powerful in the hands of the  TV election commentators?

They could have walked us through the key characteristics of the electorate they are talking about as Stephen Lead did for Bondi in this short video of the online Atlas of NSW.   Instead the only map to be seen on the ABC was a black NSW state outline with a dot for the electorate in question which doesn’t exactly help you understand where Marrickville is in relation to Mulgoa?

So why didn’t the media use maps? (I have to admit I didn’t look at every channel so if the others did a better job, please tell me).My guess they havn’t got their heads around how to do it yet. So whose job is it to educate them or, in the case of the ABC who are getting into it, lend them a hand? It has to be the spatial people, because we know where to get the data they need.

But we have to think about it well ahead of time – its no use railing on election night! Who exactly do I mean by ‘spatial people’. I think it falls to our associations – SSSI, SIBA, GITA and other bodies such as the CRC-SI. Do they have staff whose job this is – or should they create the positions? Or just co-fund one person to do it on behalf of the industry as a whole?  I suspect a lot of people have it as a small part of their role but it really isn’t anyone’s priority. It takes time to build a relationship with a journalist and this process would have needed to start months before the election so that websites were up and running, commentators trained in how to use them and Google ranking them in searches.

Getting the media to use maps and getting them to write stories about them are two sides of the same coin.We criticise the media for pouncing on bad news stories like the poor public servant who releases data that turns out to be wrong (myschools in Tasmania). We can hardly expect government departments to fall over themselves to publish the data we are clamouring for if they risk a media furore. Can ‘someone’ start feeding journalists good news stories like this one in the Sunday Observer?  The ABCs Futuretense has run several excellent mapping stories so they are clearly interested. But again which ‘someone’?

p.s. I just found this map of sausage sizzles and other election day activities



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