It’s been a strange five weeks. It began with a relaxing Montana getaway and culminated Friday night with toasting two dozen laid-off colleagues at the billiards hall down the street from the newsroom.
Rewind. On Oct. 1, eviscerating cuts were announced at my newspaper, The Spokesman-Review. It’s old news by now for some: Twenty-one mostly younger staffers were named in an involuntary layoff roll call. Steve Smith resigned as editor. The next day, Assistant Managing Editor for Local News Carla Savalli stepped down. Managing Editor Gary Graham has been tapped to take the editor’s reins. Last Wednesday, three managers were laid off, and another was moved to a nonmanagerial position.
Amazingly, I still have a job. The layoff list stopped just below my name. But I haven’t felt much like celebrating. Or, evidenced by my five-week blog hiatus, reflecting on my trade.
My departing co-workers are an insanely talented bunch. A few have gone public with their fates (here, here). My co-producer, Thuy Dzuong Nguyen, was on the list and wrote emphatically about the impact of these cuts (Colin Mulvany republished it on his blog). Her last day was Wednesday, and I’m already feeling the increased workload.
These were not just co-workers: Nearly all were friends. Many of us bonded on the Gang of Eight newsroom reorganization squad. I played music with one. I hung out with others. One of the managers gave me my first journalism job.
This has made for a depressing few weeks. But last week, I decided I couldn’t stay in this rut of gloom any longer. If I’m going to stay sane in this job, then I’ve got to dive back in head-first. I’m not alone. This isn’t to diminish the loss of my former co-workers. I’ll notice their absent every day. But I can’t dwell on it.
We have a huge election coming up. Our new website should launch in the not-too-distant future. And there remains plenty of multimedia to produce and package on our current site. I shouldn’t have trouble staying busy at work.
The remaining question is how I’m going to breathe life back into my blogging and the professional development resources it showcased. I’m going to do some reflecting on this site and my long-dormant Burger, Revised. I want to follow Mindy McAdam’s advice and make fuller use of social bookmarks and Twitter.
Five points to anybody who guesses the significance of the above image.
Ever wonder what goes on below the hood when you generate a Google Map?
White Rock Solutions wants to give you a clue and teach you to do it within your text editor.
I first noted White Rock’s tutorials last month. The early tutorials I reviewed were ideal for people just starting out. In the meantime, White Rock has uploaded several advanced Google API how-tos that will teach you to:
- Sign up for a Google Maps API
- Create a custom template
- Add map controls
- Add placemarks to a map
- Add standard info windows
- Add tabbed info windows
By the fourth volume, you’ll have started from scratch and written code to create this:
If you’re interested simply in creating a custom map on the fly with a WYSIWYG interface, go to Google Maps and dive in or follow the basic tutorials at White Rock or any of the resources Mark Luckie notes at this useful 10,000 Words post.
I like what I see here. Most of this covers areas I’m already comfortable with, such as creating a custom map, adding placemarks or lines and sharing maps.
But I appreciate White Rock’s step-by-step thoroughness, the effective use of screen grabs and the easy, tabbed interface.
Here’s another great contribution from Erica Smith, the talent behind the indispensable Paper Cuts map of newspaper layoffs.
When I posted about that site, Erica chimed in and steered me toward a tutorial she wrote about creating Google maps from a database without having to know code. I finally took the time to run through it, exporting the data from my earlier effort on Community Walk.
This is a must-visit for anybody getting their feet wet in the world of mashups. Thanks, Erica.
The project is the biggest undertaking I’ve been part of at this newspaper. To complement the stories, I developed an interactive map using Google My Maps. There are historical photos, aerial photos by S-R photog Jesse Tinsley, markers with information about key landmarks and illustrations by Rick Hosmer, a participant on the expedition.
The map was time-consuming but easy to put together. I didn’t dabble with KML or other more sophisticated Google tools, instead relying on the basic My Maps interface. You can check out a quick tutorial here.
The map has been getting decent traffic and love from my friends at Down to Earth.
Of course, I’m not the only one merging waterways and interactive maps in these parts. Cheney, Wash., resident Ron Hall introduced himself in my comments section and shared this link to his Google Earth aquifer tour. Also check out this profile S-R reporter Parker Howell wrote about Hall and his 3D modeling of Spokane landmarks. Great stuff, and miles beyond what I’m doing. For now.
This via cyberjournalist: An interactive map of newspaper layoffs and buyouts this year at graphicdesignr.net. The listed total is more than 4,880. You can also find one for 2007, which includes the cuts at my newspaper, The Spokesman-Review.
Two points: First, this map is more affecting than the daily reports on Romanesko or a simple number. Which is another example of why multimedia just makes information crackle.
My news design background is scantier, limited to the B section and wire pages at the S-R and a few A1 design shifts at the Missourian. But I would love to develop skills and a portfolio like Smith’s. It’s one big way I can help avoid becoming part of her next map.
At right, one of my better page one efforts.
On Monday we ran a story about the Old City Drive in Spokane, an excursion mapped out by the visitors center folks to highlight points of interest and charm in the Lilac City.
The city editor sent me a page of typed directions and asked me to post them with the story. I said OK but thought I’d go one up and replicate the drive in Google Maps. It was quick and the result, below, is embarrassingly plain. But I thought it might add something useful for a few readers.
On Monday morning, I was linking up content and read in the story that there was an online map of the new, longer city drive. When I found it at the Spokane Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau website, I had to laugh: the folks there had also used Google Maps, and it looks like this.