Friday, April 3, 2009

CNN and the Overexposure of Google Earth

Last night while viewing a segment on CNN, they displayed the location of an event. In this case is was the lockdown at Radford University in Viriginia due to an off-campus fatal shooting whereby the suspect fled onto the campus grounds. During the report, in order to orient the viewer with a geographic perspective, CNN used Google Earth, as they do on so many occasions.

First, of course I appreciate the supporting element of geography to report the story. What is unnecessary is to use a satellite image to identify the location of the incident. Showing the terrain and vegetation is overkill and confusing. A simple map is all that is called for. With today's tools, the map can even be more cartographically pleasing than ever before. However, the use of a satellite image is of no more use to the viewer than it would be if you show an icon of a gun to depict that the event involved a shooting. It's overkill.

Moreover, I suspect that CNN seems to think that by showing a satellite image that it conveys some sense of "real-time." It doesn't. As we know, most of the imagery is two years old or older. Sure, the general public doesn't know this but let's just say the "geographically literate" understand better than most, and that population of viewers is growing every day.

And finally, the image used by CNN encompassed the entire state of Virginia. If you want to place the viewer at the scene, use an aerial image with better proximity to the event.

So, CNN, take my advice...use a more simplified map; augment with better, more accurate street network information; add an aerial image if you like and if you want to place the viewer at the scene, use Google StreetView if you can better locate the event details.

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