News & Criticism

Breaking News In MY Backyard! Again!

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breaking news map

This is old–the data set ends in 1998–but the basic idea is forever true: News tends to miraculously happen in places where there are lots of people, and perhaps more importantly, lots of reporters. Go figure.

This map originally ran with a Science News article about cool new techniques for making maps that convey ideas[$].

Researchers extracted the dateline from about 72,000 wire-service news stories from 1994 to 1998 and modified a standard map of the Lower 48 US states (above) to show the size of the states in proportion to the frequency of their appearance in those datelines (below). Some notable results:

* Washington DC accounts for a huge proportion of the news stories—not surprising, since it is the nation's capital, and the home of Congress, the Presidency and other political news generating institutions. But still: DC (pop. 600,000; metro area 5.8 million) generates more news than the most populous state, California (pop. 36.5 million)….

* News stories from Texas (pop. 20.8 million) seem overly scarce, especially when compared to, say, Georgia (pop. 8.2 million), which seems to get a bigger share. Could this be due to the fact that major news organization CNN is headquartered in Atlanta?

* The Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, with a combined population of under 9 million, are all but invisible. No people, no news? Colorado alone, with a population of under 4.5 million, is responsible for a much larger chunk of news than those states combined. Could this be because the other states lack large cities, while Colorado has Denver (pop. 600,000; metro area 2.5 million)? No cities, no news?

Via Strange Maps

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  1. Colorado alone, with a population of under 4.5 million, is responsible for a much larger chunk of news than those states combined.

  2. It could be cuz there’re so many happening, with it, hep folks here. Yeah, that’s it.

  3. If anyone has a Wii – you can see news articles of the day by location similar to this map concept (currently not historically). It also looks really cool when your spinning the globe around and can see the volume of news from specific cities in the world.

  4. The Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, with a combined population of under 9 million, are all but invisible.

    They must have neglected to include all of the farm report and weather news wires.

  5. Oh, there’s plenty of news in Kansas, as I can personally attest, same as anywhere else…the state monopolizing gaming by building their own casinos, arbitrary environmental restrictions harming economic development, poor taxation policy. But they certainly don’t get the same airtime as the mayor of New York going to a Yankees game.

    I think revenue’s a big part of the coverage question…advertising dollars are the lifeblood of any network and advertisers tend to want venues that cater to the most customers. Therefore there’s an incentive for the networks to spend more time on stories that viewers from bigger markets would care about as opposed to the rural areas, so they get more potential customers for their advertisers to tune in. Fortunately, we’re in an age where we need to depend on traditional news sources less and less to get compelling stories from the “flyover” states publicized (although there’s always going to be a bias towards big markets, which is fine).

  6. This song is about Denver:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmSE6Pd5xws

    LA? Oh yeah, maybe…

  7. The Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, with a combined population of under 9 million, are all but invisible.

    Hey, there’s TONS of news going on in Montana, where I live.
    Why, Rita Mae just took in her cousin’s two little boys after Jed went off to rehab. And folks down at the grange had one heckuva swell time at the annual pigfuck.
    Dang liberal media wouldn’t know a good story if it came up and bit ’em square on the britches.

  8. I remember when I was in high school the major news media picked up on a story about Forsyth County Georgia. This was a county in rural Georgia that had no black people. For a long time I never understood why they chose that county to get so upset about. There were lots of counties in rural Kansas and Nebraska and all over the country that were entirely white. Why Forsyth? The answer I think in at least some part is that Forsyth is an hour’s drive from metro Atlanta. An intrepid reporter can cover that story and still have time to get back to a good hotel and hit Buckhead for the night. If you are stuck covering one of those all white counties in the far reaches of Kansas you are going to be stuck at some place called the Comanche Motel and eating a burger and fries at the local supper club.

    I saw the same phenomena when I was in Iraq. You never saw a reporter out in the sticks where 4ID was where it was hot and dirty and dangerous. Reporters were found in the Green zone where there was a good hotel, ac and decent food.

    If you want to know what will be covered and what won’t be; look for the story that is closets to the good hotels

  9. Yeah, obviously more stories of national importance happen where there are more people.

    The part that irritates is that a two-alarm fire in DC can get national coverage while Minot ND could burn to the ground and not get mentioned beyond the neighboring states

    Drivers passing through North Dakota are warned of dense local smoke. Also, there are no local services, so fill your tank before you leave Montana.

  10. The part that irritates is that a two-alarm fire in DC can get national coverage while Minot ND could burn to the ground and not get mentioned beyond the neighboring states

    Well, then again, a two-alarm fire in DC probably destroys more property value and displaces more people than would all of Minot burning to the ground.

  11. look for the story that is closets* to the good hotels.

    *Well, that does explain the amount of coverage gay rights gets.

  12. Offtopic:

    What’s the name for this kind of map, where the area of states/countries are distorted based on the statistic that they represent?

    There’s a whole website dedicated to this kind of map that I recall as excellent, but I’ve been unable to find it since I don’t remember the magical keyword to enter into teh Googlez.

  13. It’s been a while since I’ve had a good pig fuck.

  14. In other news, the feebs raid a kosher meat packing plant in northeast Iowa and haul away hundreds of illegal immigrants. Not that anyone outside Iowa would give a shit.

  15. Yeah, obviously more stories of national importance happen where there are more people.

    That doesn’t really explain:

    News stories from Texas (pop. 20.8 million) seem overly scarce, especially when compared to, say, Georgia (pop. 8.2 million), which seems to get a bigger share.

    or

    The Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, with a combined population of under 9 million, are all but invisible. No people, no news? Colorado alone, with a population of under 4.5 million, is responsible for a much larger chunk of news than those states combined.

    I like the no good hotels, no news explanation, myself.

  16. In other news, the feebs raid a kosher meat packing plant in northeast Iowa

    See, I would think the fact that there is a kosher meat packing plant in NE Iowa would be news, right there.

  17. Hey, there’s TONS of news going on in Montana, where I live.
    Why, Rita Mae just took in her cousin’s two little boys after Jed went off to rehab. And folks down at the grange had one heckuva swell time at the annual pigfuck.
    Dang liberal media wouldn’t know a good story if it came up and bit ’em square on the britches.

    Movin’ to Montana soon.
    Gonna be a dental floss tycoon.

  18. Hawaii doesn’t even make the map. Most mainland newspapers and publications are nice enough to show us in either a box, just off the coast of California, or in the Caribbean. It’s still generally “mo’ bettah” to live in Hawaii even though we are a news vacuum.

  19. Brandon

    Here they are called cartograms. They are also known as anamorphic maps.

  20. Most mainland newspapers and publications are nice enough to show us in either a box, just off the coast of California, or in the Caribbean.

    Every time I fly to Hawaii, I keep looking for that 100 mile wide blank strip on the earth. Haven’t seen it yet.

  21. News stories from Texas (pop. 20.8 million) seem overly scarce, especially when compared to, say, Georgia (pop. 8.2 million), which seems to get a bigger share. Could this be due to the fact that major news organization CNN is headquartered in Atlanta?

    It could also have something to do with the fact that the Dallas Morning News is teh suck, as is the Houston Chronicle. The Austin American-Statesman is at least amusing in its schizophrenia at being surrounded by Austin hippies and having to cover hyperconservative Texas state government.

    I assume there could be some form of news outlet in San Antonio and the rest of flyover Texas.

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