Gary Price at Resource Shelf provided the tip off. As he notes the idea is not new to use a map interface on the news, but when you put the power of Reuters (“before it’s news it’s Reuters” - never got that…) and MetaCarta it’s something more. The app, NewsMaps, is part of Reuters Labs (apparently one of the first “lab” sites, per Wikipedia) and provides mapping from Google or Microsoft. Next up - OpenLayers?
To answer Gary’s question regarding the “newness” of this beta - yes, it’s new. Per MetaCarta, “it’s not been officially announced” which is why there’s not much on it on the Web.