Journalistic cartography: Good or bad? A debatable point

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A cursory glance through any number of newspapers and popular periodicals will usually reveal the use of some sort of a map as part of an article. This type of cartography is known as 'journalistic cartography'. Many of these maps are not the work of cartographers training. Despite this the maps produced are often very innovative, unique, and aesthetically attractive. However, journalistic cartography has come under increasing scrutiny from professional cartographers, many of whom are openly very critical of the quality and design of the maps appearing each day in 'the press'. But, whilst it can be argued that some journalistic cartography has a similar role to that played by traditional maps and atlases, the aim and purpose of many of these maps as a communication medium is clearly very different. Furthermore, the role and success of this cartography is dictated not only by the nature of the material, but also by the medium and the context in which the map is to be displayed and used. It is argued that by attempting to make these maps more cartographically correct may serve to remove, or at worst destroy, the freedom of expression typically associated with the development and evolution of this type of cartography over the years, and indeed its success as a medium of spatial communication. The aim of this paper is to briefly examine some of the characteristics and constraints associated with journalistic cartography, and to question the need to impose cartographic tradition on these examples.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-153
Number of pages13
JournalCartographic Journal
Publication statusPublished - 1999


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