Alaska Wants to Move North - on the Map, That Is

ALASKA wants to be drawn where it belongs - in the upper left-hand corner of United States maps, and not in a box swimming in the Pacific between Hawaii and Mexico. ``Alaska deserves some map respect!'' says Dan Bloom, an Alaskan who started the campaign five years ago. He has already persuaded several art directors at major newspapers and magazines to redraw their maps. The Alaska state legislature passed a joint resolution last year calling for US mapmakers to put Alaska in a more correct geographical position.

According to Mr. Bloom, several newspapers and magazines have agreed to relocate Alaska when feasible, among them USA Today, Time magazine, the Associated Press, the Wall Street Journal, and this newspaper.

But Newsweek is balking, and the New York Times is, in the words of Bloom, ``a hard nut to crack. When I get them to come aboard, I'll quit the campaign.''

The issue is space. Alaska fits perfectly in the empty area below California.

``Space is at such a premium around here,'' says Meredith Hamilton, graphics coordinator at Newsweek. ``Editors want more room for words, photographers want more room for pictures. It's always a struggling match.''

But Nigel Holmes, art director at Time magazine and author of several books on symbol design, disagrees. ``You make space,'' he says. ``You just work a little harder.'' Mr. Holmes's solution is to put Alaska above Washington and stack the headline into two lines to the right of it. This is the solution that satisfies John Van Pelt, art director at The Christian Science Monitor.

But John Monahan, art director at the Associated Press in New York, says that any altering - of position or size - is not accurate. ``Taking the Alaska which sits on the sphere and moving it at all is a fib,'' says Mr. Monahan.

New York Times design director Tom Bodkin agrees. ``It's misleading to stick it where Canada would be.'' But Mr. Bodkin says that a big fib is better than a little one. ``When you're forced to take something out of context, it can be preferable to take it totally out of context, so there can be no confusion that this doesn't represent reality,'' he says. ``The reality is that Alaska does not sit in southwestern Canada.''

The outline of the United States is, in many cases, a symbol rather than a representation. ``When you're talking about symbolic representation, a thumbnail to represent the entire nation, the quickest, easiest tool is to just use the outline,'' says AP's Mr. Monahan.

Meanwhile, the world's largest commercial mapmaker, Rand McNally in Skokie, Ill., says Alaska will stay in the lower left-hand corner because that sells better than up above Washington. They know because in the mid-1960s they launched a map with Alaska in the upper left corner.

``It got favorable media attention. And people said, `Isn't this wonderful?''' recalls Conroy Erickson, McNally's public relations director. ``But they weren't out buying it. It never went for a second printing.''

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