Mapping programmes like arc online are useful tools that can help investigative journalists produce accurate and better sentences for their stories.

By Khuselwa Anda Tembani

Mapping with Arc Online can take your story to a whole new level. Andrew Lehren senior editor at the National Broadcasting Company based in New York alongside Jennifer LaFleur senior editor of data journalism at the Reveal media project led a session on the use of Arc Online for mapping in investigative journalism at the Global Investigative Journalism Conference 2017.

The nature of Investigative journalism is that it requires in-depth research which provides information for a story that can be corroborated by evidence. Tools that are effective and accurate are needed to achieve this. Andrew Lehren identified the Arc Online programme as “a tool that can assist journalist to filter through and identify overarching patterns in information”.

Arc Online is a mapping programme that also allows access and sharing of maps that people have produced on a variety of subjects and are tied to specific known locations around the world. Jennifer LaFleur notes that the difference between the platforms desktop and online version, where the online version is limited but has more interactive maps whilst the desktop version boasts more advanced tools.

Every mapping programme is based on a spreadsheet or a database. This means that the maps you find on the programme are based on data collected and attached to them. This data is information that the programme allows users to browse and make sense of, using of embedded tools.

The benefit with this tool comes from one’s ability to view maps relevant to their subject of interest, and the added information contained in the spreadsheet. One further has the ability to choose their focus area on specific attributes of the map and analyse the data provided by the map.

It is essential to remember that journalists can also produce and upload their own maps, along with spreadsheets and data of those maps, allowing other users to access and use their work in turn.

The benefits of mapping lie in its ability to allow for extensive research using less resources, time and effort, which could save one a great deal of time that investigative work requires.

PHOTO: Andrew Lehren educates delegates about the benefits of using Arc Online for mapping.
Photo: Lauren Mitchell