The real reason to be a reporter is the chance it offers to see, ask about, and prowl around the world. For more on the high concept of the reportorial satisfaction in seeing, you can check this post from the summer.

This has been a special satisfaction of our American Futures travels over the past year. The joy and the terror of the process is showing up in a place with a few questions in mind and a few contacts lined up, and then following leads, backing out of dead ends, and spending whole days in pursuits you hadn't foreseen. Inevitably you discover that the preparation was essential, but that inevitably the most intriguing questions are the ones you hadn't even thought to ask before you made the trip.

In practice, visiting a town is a combination of visits to factories, businesses, libraries, schools, and so on; interviews with people who have lived or worked in the vicinity, or played an important role for better and worse; and in between walking and driving around.

John Tierney and Deb Fallows, using the "Story Map" tool from our partners at the mapping company Esri, have put together a very nice little, light guide to what it is like to prowl around one of our recent stops, Allentown, Pennsylvania.

You can click here to see the full interactive map. It matches photos of local sites—the famous Iron Pigs stadium, the jail, the parts of the town that are being refurbished, the parts that aren't—with brief descriptions, and markers to those sites on the map. You can zoom, pan, click to see larger photos or read their captions, and do all the other things you'd expect from an interactive site. In this post I show a few sample screen shots. Again the link is here.

What you see at the top of this post is the Allentown Police Department's gun buy-back program which we visited in the morning. The picture a few lines up is of an abandoned brewery. Here's the scene about two blocks away from the heart of the brand-new downtown center:

...  And here is a wonderful site I plan to write about in a separate post. It's an old furniture building that has been refurbished as the downtown headquarters of the Trifecta software company. The reason for the move, according to the company's founder, is that—just as in San Francisco or Seattle or Brooklyn or now D.C.— the young urban-minded engineers Trifecta had hired wanted a chance to live and work in a downtown setting, not in some suburban office sprawl.

There's a lot more at the story map itself. Thanks to John and Deb, to our friends at Esri, and to locals in the Lehigh Valley.