Open Source Map Journalism - Drake Sprague Photography

With a bit of investigative work it is possible to create incident maps of even the most remote places by harvesting geographic data from open, mostly local news sources. On Nov. 22, 2014, Al-Shabaab terrorists attacked a busload of unarmed Kenyans traveling from Mandera near the Somali border to Nairobi. When news hit of this horrific event in northern Kenya, I could not find a single source indicating with a map the exact location of where it occurred. Omar Jillow (numerous spellings) was mentioned as the location of the crime scene. A very remote village, Omar Jillow's exact location was difficult to ascertain using traditional mapping services such as Google Maps or Bing Maps. I was however, able to gather critical geographic details by reading news reports about the incident, which I could later analyze and piece together. Using descriptions of terrain conditions, proximity to the Somali border, potential bus routes from Mandera to Nairobi, time and travel distance estimates, along with other geographic data from a range of sources, I managed to determine an approximate location. To produce the final map I used administrative boundary layers from Natural Earth, roads from OpenStreetMap, and a satellite view inset from Bing Maps. At the time when I uploaded this map to my on Nov. 26, 2014, no major online news sources had produced such a map at this level of detail until BBC released this article on Dec. 02 seen here: www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-30295519.


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