Thursday, July 24, 2008

Maps and Matters of Finance - The Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal used a simple thematic map today in their front page story to display the declining tax revenues by state. Not exciting; just a simple thematic map. I really didn't think much of it and I knew readers would find it fairly banal as well. That was page A1. Page A3 shows a map of the path of Hurricane Dolly and the potential economic impact. Page A9 shows a USGS map of natural gas potential in the Arctic Circle region. Page B2 shows a map of ExxonMobile's drilling areas off the coast of Vietnam. Page B10, tucked away amidst the larger weather map, is a map of the soy bean moisture forecast for China. In the online WSJ there's yet another article about how artificial lights are obscuring the night sky (no surprise there either) and is accompanied by a satellite image of the intensity of such light over the U.S.

By now I'm observing that the WSJ is awash in maps, and I haven't even mentioned that maps are used in two large print ads (one for the WSJ itself and one for the NYSE Euronext).

The Journal is obviously focused on finance (though now in Rupert Murdoch's hands he is positioning the paper to compete with the New York Times) and yet in order to convey significant global news, maps are an essential part of the conversation; an essential means to show exactly if not regionally the impact of economic phenomenon.

It thought the map of the Arctic Circle natural gas reserves was particularly useful. It crystallized, in my mind, the geographic extents of the reserves in control by the U.S. and that by Russia. That was a fundamental element in conveying the salient news within that story. No map, no understanding of the urgency and impact of the situation.

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