Great photos, next-to-nothing maps

Call me elitist, but it’s not often that South Dakota makes for interesting reading. The San Francisco Chronicle, however, achieves this and more with a Feb. 25 story posted to its SFGate website. Written by correspondent John Flinn, “South Dakota: Black Hills rich in history, mystery” weaves together text, photos and video (via Truveo) about Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills, Crazy Horse, George George Armstrong Custer and more. What about maps, you say? Technically, yes, there are two static maps stuck on top of each other, but they’re in the photo section and point out only a few sites, including Badlands National Park. And they’re not interactive. Create a Google map with all the tourist attractions listed in the story and you’ve got an element that readers can click on and explore in street, terrain or Earth view.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota

Perhaps the most recognizable image in America: The faces of Mount Rushmore.

Why can’t the Chronicle do the same? I’m thinking that its software must not allow reporters and editors to embed maps into stories. In this case, it’s a shame. Is a story about South Dakota really worth the effort? Absolutely. Ever been on an American-style safari and seen scores of bison? You will in Custer State Park (and, no, this isn’t the site of Little Big Horn or Custer’s Last Stand, as many people seem to think. It’s where his troops discovered gold in 1976 on Sioux tribal land.) Ever see the bones of giant woolly mammoths that unknowingly climbed into a sinkhole in the Ice Age and couldn’t get out? You will at the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs. It also contains the ancient remnants of prehistoric camels, llamas, lions and giant short-faced bear. So, maps would help, right? I searched for other sites that might provide interactive maps of South Dakota, and most struck out. lets you explore South Dakota’s highways and scenic points of interest in a variety of maps that zoom in or out but show little else.

Aside from the lack of maps, the story itself is good, though not well-edited. Flinn, for example, states that the Sioux “owned” the land where Custer discovered gold, but Native Americans never believed in this concept. They just want to live on the land that was taken away from them.

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