Phil Hahn is the ‘go-to’ guy at CTVNews.ca for creating maps and using visuals to support the news team’s work on their website. Find out how he learned to use ArcGIS technology to create compelling story maps including his Vimy Ridge story map, which earned him the prestigious Canadian Online Publishing Award.
Phil has worked as a journalist in broadcasting for many years on various assignment desks but was first exposed to big data when he went to a data journalism bootcamp at King’s College in Halifax. He knew that big data analysis is fast becoming the basis for many news stories and understanding it would also help him stay valuable in a shrinking job market.
Since then, Phil has embraced data analysis and as a web producer for CTV News, he makes it part of the work he does alongside the national news, CTVNews.ca and Digital Media teams.
He’s also become adept at using Esri Story Maps, an application in ArcGIS Online. His story map VIMY RIDGE: 1917-2017 The battle that helped define Canada as a nation recently won gold at the Canadian Online Publishing Awards in the infographic/interactive category.
It’s a beautiful commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the battle and highlights the Canadian Corps' movements and accomplishments on the battlefield. The story map also gives a 3D tour of the Vimy Memorial.
Phil compiled the text, images and videos for the story map and we helped him arrange some of the elements he wanted to include, as well as built the 3D elements.
“I like ArcGIS,” he says. “It’s sophisticated but user friendly.”
It took him about three days to become fluent with the tool, though he acknowledges that he is pretty comfortable with computers and does have some coding background. However, he thinks anyone who is a little computer savvy could use Esri Story Maps.
“It’s not rocket science,” he notes, and describes it as similar to dropping images and text into computer pages. In fact, he has already trained another person in the newsroom to use the application.
More and more broadcast news programs are promoting their work on their sites in order to stretch their budgets, get a better return on the investment that long stories require, lengthen the life of their stories beyond the night’s broadcast, and of course, make money from advertising. It’s well documented that people are watching more video online and visitors want to see more than a print version of the story on a news site. Story maps and maps in general also strongly reflect the visual nature of TV news.
News outlets are often covering difficult subjects, so not all the photos can be beautiful, but many are compelling. When these are matched with the maps reflecting the subject’s journey or the locations of where the stories take place, it deepens the story and the viewer’s understanding of it, as CTVNews.ca did with this map that follows the path taken by the Adiba family from captivity in Iraq to Canada.
Now, Phil’s colleagues are coming to him with longer-term visual projects. When the program W5 sent a team to the Arctic, they returned with lots of material that as Phil says, “they didn’t want to waste.” They wanted to see if a story they’d invested time and energy into could reach a wider audience.
The resulting Canadian C3 expedition story map is compelling and as with the Vimy Ridge story map, it’s a lasting resource that could easily be used in an education setting.