Population Explorer™ for Media

Posted by India Young on July 12, 2018

Journalists are constantly seeking new content backed by statistics. They rely on varied information sources and especially population data to craft content, fact check, and assess the people affected. Because reporters almost always include elements of the human impacts in their stories, population data are a mandatory reference to define the scope and scale of current events. This need makes population data an essential part of the media toolkit.

From science, humanities, and international development reporting, Population Explorer data help journalists understand issues related to population and demographics, science, human geography, health, business, and much more. Trend analyses show increasing growth and need for data-based reporting and an increasing emphasis on sophisticated statistical analysis. Our tool combines data at the km2 resolution from the U.S. Department of Defense-funded LandscanTM global population database, the U.S. Census Bureau, National Bureaus of Statistics, and the private sector. These data sets along with our proprietary methodology and intuitive mapping interface result in an efficient and effective tool that is well suited for journalists across the globe.

Below we dive into how our data are used across the media spectrum.

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Media staff working on a deadline have minimal time and resources to analyze data and maps in support of their stories. With this challenge in mind, we have designed an innovative tool that enables journalists to tell their stories with the maps they create inside the Population Explorer site. Our tool enables users to select a boundary area, define buffers, upload shapefiles and tables, and layer these elements into an interactive map. The resulting population and demographic data are immediately available for interpretation and can be exported in multiple file types. 


Science Communications

From comparing land use practices to investigating environmental and climate trends, population data provide an essential piece of the science and human story. For example, journalists covering extreme temperature events can upload shapefile data on areas of historical maximum temperatures and compare these to boundaries created using Population Explorer. The resulting maps help journalists make conclusions about weather impacts and climate trends on a certain population.

The overlap of climate science and human geography creates a need for research-based science journalism. Below we look at the impacts of sea level rise on the western US coast. This map was created by uploading a shapefile from a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office for Coastal Management dataset published on ESRI Open Data and adding it into the Population Explorer interface. Our results show that nearly 34 million people living in western US coastal areas would be impacted by a scenario of an 1 foot inundation event. This example is just one of many that can be analyzed using our tool and free online open source GIS data. 

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This image shows the western coast region of the United States that would be affected by a potential sea level rise inundation of 1 ft above the current Mean Higher High Water (MHHW) for the area. In this scenario, nearly 34 million people would be at risk.

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This image shows the extent to which the US west coast would be affected by an inundation of 1 ft. Note the major cities that would be flooded.  

Data Journalism

Statistical storytelling requires a narrative built around accurate and current information,  content that is best when it is built on reliable data. “Data journalism” often focuses on analyzing and synthesizing multiple datasets and comparing these with current events using numerical data. This type of coverage enables journalists to share complex stories using statistics and engaging infographics. Basically, where content producers from design, computer science, statistics and politics intersect, we find data journalists. Yet, many of those who write cover these sectors struggle with resource-poor data environments. With Population Explorer, we fill this resource gap.

From analyzing population statistics in voting districts to monitoring an unfolding breaking news situation in a neighborhood, data journalists rely on Population Explorer to easily answer questions about demographics in their coverage areas. Population Explorer also allows data journalists to upload marker files as csv or xlsx files which gives them pinpoint accuracy when determining their area of interest. 

Extreme Event Coverage

Reporters working with NGOs, international agencies, and governments use Population Explorer’s tool to determine the population and demographics of people affected by extreme events within a certain geographic extent. Looking for how many people are susceptible to an Ebola Virus outbreak? Our tool can accurately define these statistics. In crisis situations, media outlets turn to our tool to find accurate population data characteristics at different scales.

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This image shows the locations of the April 2018 Ebola Virus outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. With the Population Explorer buffer tool we determined that over 665 thousand people live within 40 km of the outbreaks. 

Population Explorer allows users to combine shapefiles defining event areas with overlaying imagery from Google Earth to help investigators assess infrastructure characteristics around disaster event locations. Journalists also work in the field covering extreme weather and climate events like floods, earthquakes, and hurricanes. During these events, they need immediate estimates on the total number of people impacted as well as their age and gender data.

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This image shows concentric polygons of earthquake intensity data from an event in Japan on June 18, 2018. The shapefiles were added into the Population Explorer application after being uploaded from the USGS open source data portal. The selected polygon displays an intensity of 6.5 on the Richter scale which affected over 2.3 million people in the region around Osaka, Japan.   

The challenge in accurate data-based reporting is exacerbated by the huge volumes of information available for journalists to synthesize, analyze, and summarize. Population Explorer helps journalists efficiently extract the statistics and spatial patterns they need from validated, reliable data, so they can effectively develop their research and keep their audiences properly informed. Whether the research focus is a population affected by a natural disaster or changes in coastal sea levels, reporters rely on the accurate population and demographic data that we provide to tell their stories. 


We are currently offering a free TWO-WEEK trial so you can try the Population Explorer tool for your next project. For memberships, we offer a variety of license types depending on your organization.

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Tags: Population Mapping, Media, GIS, Communications, News, Science, Data Journalism

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