The work of three students at the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism was featured recently by the SEJournal, a publication of the professional Society of Environmental Journalists.
Their work was part of a story on digital tools written by Sara Shipley Hiles, an assistant professor at the University of Missouri School of Journalism.
As part of a Knight Center class, the students used a photo slider tool that allows you to quickly compare two images of the same scene taken many years apart. It’s a technique that the students found particularly handy for documenting changes in large landscapes.
The students first found old aerial images in Michigan State University’s aerial archive. Then they found the same image on Google Earth. The images were sized and cropped the same way. Then one was laid on top of the other so that the landscape features lined up.
The tool allows you to slide quickly between the two so that you can see the changes.
Nyla Hughes used it to show the growth of kiln dust piles around a cement plant in northern Michigan.
“With the help of the staff in the geography building on campus, I came across a photo of Charlevoix, Michigan, during the 1960s and noticed a huge difference between the past and present,” she said.
Kevin Duffy looked at forest regrowth years after a 21,000 acre fire burned through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
“The change was immediately visible once the photos were overlaid and the slider implemented,” Duffy said.
And Juliana Moxley used the slider to show urban sprawl around Utica near Detroit.
“Your words can only explain so much,” Moxley said. “With the slider tool, journalists are able to give viewers an exact image of what they are trying to explain and it can make a larger impact on readers compared to only using text.”