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Mapping the primaries, public media style

This is the latest in a series of media maps I'm examining between now and our June 17 Beyond Broadcast conference.

With the last of the intra-Democratic debates now over, all eyes are on the April 22 primary in Pennsylvania. Public broadcasting outlets have banded together to share news and information about the primaries through this nifty interactive map:

The map provides primary-related news feeds from both national and local public broadcasting sources. It ticks off the number of delegates at stake, and includes a tracker to keep tabs on those pesky superdelegates. County-by-county results are available (the data is from AP), as are relevant political facts for each state. The map also doubles as a state-by-state guide to public media outlets--click on Tennessee, for example, and you'll be directed to the site of WPLN, Nashville Public Radio.

This map is a great example of interactive public media: it's timely, attractive, multilayered, customizable and clear. It provides information that members of the public need to understand a complicated and contested election. It also serves to demonstrate the convergence of audio and video reporting into an online map interface. But it is participatory?

Contrast it to the Superdelegate Transparency Project, a joint venture of LiteraryOutpost.com, OpenLeft, DemConWatch, Huffington Post's OfftheBus project and the Congresspedia. While a number of these projects are explicitly left-leaning, their emphasis isn't on partisanship, but open government and open information-sharing protocols. This wiki-based project invites citizen journalists, bloggers and activists to contribute to the portal, by cleaning up charts, improving on the page that explains the superdelegates process, tallying superdelegates, updating endorsement information, and profiling each superdelegate. The about us page explains:

Rather than hypotheticals at the end of this nomination process, we seek to make hard data available to all interested parties, including citizens, activists, journalists, bloggers, campaign staffers and people around the world who are following this U.S. election. This is the only project currently tracking this data at the district level.

Which map is better? Well, that depends on what you're looking for. The first one offers reliable, vetted information from a closed and familiar media universe. The second is an experiment in crowdsourcing--an exciting but still experimental proposition--and offers opportunities for hands-on political engagement. At base, they share a lot of the same information, as do commercial primary mapping projects like this interactive L.A Times Primary Tracker map, and projects by individuals, like this GoogleMap based superdelegate tracker compiled by Rick Klau, "Strategic Partner Development Manager and Elections Hipster." As dynamic and data-driven ("3D") journalism tools continue to proliferate, questions of sourcing will become increasingly important. Governments, nonprofits, and universities are all key guardians of public databases and information-gathering methods, and should be considered part of the larger network of institutions that feed and inform public media projects.