The California First Amendment Coalition has won a crucial lower-court ruling that Santa Clara County must provide — at cost — its geographic “base map” of real estate boundaries in the county. The county had been saying it would charge tens of thousands of dollars for information collected on behalf of residents, using taxpayer money.
Maps are turning into an essential element of citizen media, via a variety of techniques including mashups. Traditional geographic information systems (GIS) like the Santa Clara County data are being combined with other data to produce new kinds of information.
If you've spent time with Fresno's real-time crime map or other innovative mapping-as-journalism projects, you'll quickly recognize why this matters. Access to the basic data that concerns your audience is an essential, fundamental component of the new media platform.