Maps are rhetorical devices. Propositions. Arguments. Stories.
They present the world according to how the mapmaker sees it. As cartographer J.B. Harley notes, “The steps in making a map – selection, omission, simplification, classification, the creation of hierarchies, and ‘symbolization’ – are all inherently rhetorical.” (Harley, 1989) By favoring certain data points over others and placing them in a particular context, color scheme, and larger narrative, a mapmaker makes a set of critical decisions. The following is meant to help journalists navigate the new mapping “hype” and use maps in a way that really serves their story.