Google Earth journalism arrives

A year or two ago, you knew Google had entered the zeitgeist of journalists when they began writing articles about new topic X with sentences like “Googling the word X brings up Y thousand entries.” It was duly noted as Google journalism.

It now looks like we can start talking about Google Earth journalism. An excellent piece of investigative journalism by the New York Times about the world’s largest gold mine, Freeport’s Grasberg mine in Indonesian Irian Jaya, begins thus:

JAKARTA, Indonesia – The closest most people will ever get to remote Papua, or the operations of Freeport-McMoRan, is a computer tour using Google Earth to swoop down over the rain forests and glacier-capped mountains where the American company mines the world’s largest gold reserve.

The contaminated river of tailings is visible in Google Earth, here, but the mine itself is obscured by cloud cover. However, a Google Earth Community contributor has found an amazing overlay. The size of this mine is incredible — it looks like a giant manmade pockmark on the earth. It is well worth staring at for a while.


(Not the same as the overlay image.)

The NYT article (and in some ways the Dowd column covered just yesterday) are evidence of Google Earth entering mainstream journalism. I just wish NYT’s editors had thought of outfitting the online version of the story with this Google Earth overlay, or a link to the resource, in addition to its own multimedia graphic effort, which pales in comparison (though it was handy for locating the mine on Google Earth.)

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