Geographic literacy and news apps

ABC News has launched a new app for the iPad that, according to some, as a “third dimension” to the display and navigation of news stories. The new app uses a globe covered with headlines and photographs of the stories offered up by ABC News. TechCrunch has posted a somewhat interesting article and video interviews  with anchor George Stephanopolis , Executive Producer of Integration and Innovation Andrew Morris and VP Product development for ABC News Digital Isaac Josephson.  At about the 2:47 mark in the Stephanopolis interview TechCrunch’s Lora Kolodny asks if “geographically challenged Americans will respond” to the app. Having not seen the app, and being a geographer, I rushed to the app store to download it. Could it be that a news organization is promoting geographic literacy? I imagined a Google Earth-like interface where news items were placed in the location of where they were or are happening. To my dismay, the app is nothing more than a stylized globe segmented into a variety of captioned images.

So, Ms. Kolodny’s question was totally irrelevant. Even the most geographically illiterate can “respond” or use the app. The app in its present form requires no knowledge of geography to interact with it. As Mr.  Stephanopolis points out, all you do is flick the globe. It is a pretty piece of eye candy for accessing news, but sadly, does nothing to promote geographic literacy. It is a very nice application for getting your news. It provides access to not only current news, but allows you to reach back into the ABC News archives too

The power of devices like the iPad could provide the personal mobile platform that does link geography to current events. If it hasn’t happened yet, I’d love to see a developer try.

About Michael Ritter PhD
Professor of Geography at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, science textbook author, educational technology blogger, podcaster, and freelance media consultant.

2 Responses to Geographic literacy and news apps

  1. andrewshears says:

    Sounds like an excellent idea, especially from the standpoint of geographic literacy.

    I think it will be difficult to convince a company like ABC News, for which geographic literacy is far from their original mission, to go that extra mile when not even textbook companies are interested. I’ve lost track how many publishing company roundtables and focus groups I’ve sat in on during the past year where I’ve preached the usefulness of iOS + HTML5 to create amazing enriched content. Thus far it’s fallen on nothing but deaf ears.


  2. I agree that a company like ABC News would be unlikely to “go the extra mile” to create such an app. However, there may be some innovative person out there with the skills to create one, possibly tapping into RSS feeds to grab news items to display/link on the globe

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