Buffalo Newspaper Uses Digital Map to Bring Readers Together

The East Aurora Advertiser staff recently published an interactive map depicting the global adventures of their subscribers. In this article, Editor Adam Zaremski explains how using new media, like Orbitist, can help the local community become closer by providing a board where people can share their explorations online.

It all started with a photo.

A photo of someone holding a newspaper on vacation.

“There was never a promotion by the paper to entice people to send in photos, or even a promise that they would get in the paper. But once it started, I think people saw it as a way to, first, get into the newspaper, and also to connect with the community. We must have a community that enjoys traveling and seeing the world,” states Adam Zaremski, Editor of the East Aurora Advertiser.

There’s a reason people bring cameras when they travel. Setting eyes on a new part of the world for the first time is an experience that can’t quite be explained.

Still, the feeling is so great that we capture it in any form we can. Pictures, videos, and even souvenirs are tools that help the people close to us experience the essence of this new land. To help them feel the sense of adventure we felt while looking out at a foreign scene.

People love to tell stories, and we love to read them. Often, this craving is fulfilled by the news. Whether it’s local or global, the media prides itself on bringing people together through storytelling.

“We are considered a community newspaper, and that’s been key in a lot of our decisions over the years. Including these photos of people on vacation holding the Advertiser lets our readers know that we are very much a part of this community and that we want to share our lives with our neighbors,” Adam states. “We are still a newspaper and we have certain obligations as far as reporting and fairness, but something like this is really great to offer our readers.”

The interactive map, made using the Orbitist mapping application, is a collection of photos sent in by the community. Below each picture is a short description of the adventure associated with each image. When you see the map for yourself, you’ll notice that the Advertiser has already captured experiences from every continent in the world.

And let me tell you this, the Advertiser community has done some amazing things. From visiting ancient ruins in the United Kingdom to walking near the mountains of Nepal, readers are helping one another experience parts of the world they might never have thought about before – perhaps even inspiring brand new journeys.

For years, travel blogging was done using words on a screen. As mapping technology evolves, so does the way that people tell stories. Whether it’s a worldwide map like this one or a smaller, local map, location-based storytelling offers something traditional media doesn’t: proximity.

Since the advent of the Internet, the world has grown more interconnected, but geography continues to be a struggle for people everywhere. Applications like Orbitist allow people to see exactly where stories take place and what’s happening in the world around them. From an educational standpoint, using maps to tell stories will help individuals get an even better grasp of what’s going on and where.

In 2006, National Geographic conducted a study and found that 63% of young Americans couldn’t find Iraq on a map. Some speculate that this is due to a lack of educational resources that effectively teach geographic literacy. In other words, exploring the world is about more than just looking at a static map. It’s about learning to explore the map itself.

By helping students in the classroom and helping local adventurers come together, mapping technology offers a new way to explore media. Still, there’s something natural about the sensation of a newspaper in your hands. Something that makes people want to hold on to it.

“It is a privilege to see people think of the Advertiser as one of their necessary travel possessions,” Adam states before poking a bit of fun at his readers. “I also noticed how well people seemed to maintain each paper in their photos. I didn’t see many crumpled pages or torn images. I do hope they still read it. I might even like to see some smudge marks or grape jelly stains.”