Monday 11 June 2012

Geo-journalism silly season

I'm on a brief trip back to the UK and with the current weather being, shall we say, inclement the British press is full speed ahead reporting the latest weather related news.  Syria? Spanish bailout? Prime Minister leaving his 8yr old kid at the pub?  No...there's simply nothing more newsworthy in the UK than the weather.  Or is there?  Well it's certainly silly season when it comes to the hysteria surrounding Google and Apple's invasive, morally abhorrent attempts to make maps.

While The Times has been using satellite imagery and weather charts to illustrate their reporting of the weather in Friday's edition (below), The Daily Mail and The Telegraph have been sticking the boot into Apple and their new mapping products.

Now wait just a minute...

How many of these so-called journalists actually know anything about mapping? Do they understand how maps are made and that the basis of any form of map is data acquisition? The maps they use every day to tell their stories are based on the same sort of survey techniques we've been using for decades. Aerial photography and satellite derived data are not new but like every technology driven industry, techniques improve, companies innovate and we all end up with new stuff.

And what about those nice shiny consumer devices they use every day to get from A to B, to set up business lunches, to meet their latest whistle-blower, to eavesdrop on the innocent? Those devices use geo in many of their applications. Journalists use geo in much of what they do and I'd hazard a guess that geo is critical to their jobs. The irony in their scaremongering reports of mapping companies gathering data from which they can make maps and other useful information products is astonishing.  The trouble is, cartography has always been something the general public seems blissfully unaware of...maps just exist right? So when these lazy journalists, fresh out of a graduate trainee programme (like Mr Collins, the Telegraph Science correspondent who I suspect couldn't tell his latitude from his longitude), start spouting their ill-informed b*llshit about geo it's worrying.  Worrying because the even more ill-informed public lap this sort of drivel up.  Apparently, Mr Collin's job is to "keep track of the latest developments and research across all areas of science and present them to the reader in a clear and interesting way". It says nothing in there about jibbering nonsense. I don't mean to pick on this guy in particular...but really, either report things properly and based on facts or stick to reporting the weather. Seriously.

Glad I got that off my chest, now then...has it stopped raining?

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