I’ve been keeping an eye on #ona11 tweets from the Online News Association’s 2011 conference in Boston. Not all the time, unfortunately, but enough to remind me that I really want to explore data visualization.

There are some differences between working for a community news site as opposed to a metropolitan newspaper. For example, a new school playground wouldn’t make The Dallas Morning News or The New York Times front page. But it does where I work (and actually, that was a pretty fun story to write).

But data visualization can work for both small and large news outlets. There’s just a difference in the scope of data used. The Texas Tribune highlights public salaries across the state in its popular database.

How do I incorporate visualizations into my stories (when I can find an angle)?

Well, how about a story about a sex offender moving to an apartment building across the street from a local elementary school?

Or these stories looking into Revolutionary War history in the Tarrytowns area (I live in an area where they fought in the Revolutionary War now. Yes, I did get slightly weirded out when I realized that).

This past week, I created a map for the annual village-wide tag sale in Tarrytown.

Data visualizations can be used in a variety of stories. I only wish MSC’s CMS was able to embed the maps I made (I’ve asked and it doesn’t look good that it’ll happen in the future… don’t ask me why).

Matt Stiles introduced me to Google Fusion when he stopped by my Technology Reporting class last year. I used Google Fusion in the examples above. Seeing those little red dots on a map… it’s addictive.

You can too, because it’s super easy to get Google to plot your data. All you need is a spreadsheet with one column for “Location.” Put in a street address and you’re ready to go!

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like you can put photos into a Google Fusion map. I tried with that sex offender story, but no luck. All I ended up with was a downloads photo full of creepy mugshots.