Interactive Maps and Data Journalism

Losing Ground is a data journalism project from Pro Publica that thoroughly documents the landscape changes of Louisiana in the last 80 years. After a storm surge from category 5 hurricane Katrina completely destroyed New Orleans, Louisiana’s lack of elevation gained national concern. The states coasts are literally losing ground as almost 2,000 square miles of land has gone under.

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Above are screenshots from the website that show where the land has turned to water. In this project the interactive elements add so much value. On the main page there are buttons to see how canals, levees and oil/gas lines contribute to the loss of wetlands. Wetlands used to be the area that separated the Gulf and communities. Now the wetlands are being flooded. The issue is more than losing farmland and personal property. The loss of land affects the ecosystem, economy in Louisiana. New Orleans is an important city for trade and it is in danger.

Clicking into the specific boxes causes the graphic to zoom in. Then a timeline is given so that you can see the water levels rise over time. This strategy works for the story because it makes the issue real. According to the article, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists say by 2100 most of Southeast Louisiana will be underneath the Gulf of Mexico.

In the body of text, city names and areas are linked to the map. If I’m reading about the area called, “Buras,” I can click the link and the graphic will automatically zoom into the Buras area. I really like how the stationary sidebar includes text, audio and photos. It’s a lot of content and it was produced by many people but they are organized really well. It’s a story about people and how their community is drastically changing.


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