StoryMapJS: How interactive maps give readers new perspectives through modern storytelling

This narrative map is a free tool for anyone with a Google account. It was created by the Knight Lab at Northwestern University to help journalists with limited experience create interactive maps to help readers immerse and better understand the story.  

The software is easy to learn. It’s similar to a PowerPoint workspace. To create a map, simply go to “make a story map now” and give the project a title. A world map will show on the screen.

To change the type of map, go to the “options” dropdown menu on the upper left corner. Under “map type” there are different options of maps. There is also the option to add a customized design.

Each location of the story is represented on a slide of the powerpoint. To set the location, search the name of the city or type a specific address. A marker will be placed on top of the location selected. For each slide, there is an option to add a title, a description, and different multimedia elements, including videos, photos, art, etc. To add media, upload a file or use an URL from Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, Vine, Dailymotion, Google Maps, Wikipedia, SoundCloud, Document Cloud, and other sources.

There is also the option to change the background color or add background images to each slide under the “slide options” on the bottom right in the panel. The “preview” tab will show how the entire project will look once it’s saved.

Once all the slides are done, save the project. The “Share” button will generate a URL link to share on social media. There is also the option to get an HTML embed code to add the narrative map on websites.

The New York Times and the Washington Post have used StoryMapJS to create interactive stories using maps to show the specific locations mentioned in their stories. This is a free and helpful tool for journalists who are trying to create immersive stories but may lack experience with coding.