About Anything

The personal blog of Al Stevens. Focus is overrated.

EveryBlock — all news is local

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The earliest use of the tagline “all news is local” that I could find was as the title of an article by Peter Osnos of The Century Foundation. Osnos was writing about the closing of several local news bureaus in Rhode Island (www.tcf.org/list.asp?type=NC&pubid=1220). Osnos freely credits the line to Tip O’Neill who actually said “All politics is local”, pointing out “As Tip framed the notion, politicians and newspapers had best remember that their constituents care above all about what is happening in their lives; the big issues writ small.”

Google has since appropriated the line to describe their ability to customize news feeds based on location. In their words, “we analyze every word in every story to understand what location the news is about and where the source is located” (googlenewsblog.blogspot.com/2008/02/all-news-is-local.html). When I enter my zipcode on the Google News page, I do get a list of stories that are generally about my area. The problem is they are compiled by those same news organizations that, as Osnos points out, have closed their local bureaus and no longer actually report on anything local. Without real local news sources, how can news be local?

EveryBlock really is local. Their sources do include major newspapers but go far beyond them to include community weeklies, government sites listing building permits, crimes, and restaurant inspections as well as local specialty publications and local blogs and even further include sites like Yelp, Craigslist and Flickr. Led by Adrian Holovaty, who developed the ChicagoCrime (which is now part of EveryBlock) the team has integrated it all.

If you’ve ever walked by a work crew in your neighborhood and wondered “are they cutting into a gas line, removing a buried gas tank or or adding fiber?”, it’s here. Just check out the the street use permits. Crimes, photos, public housing, restaurant inspections can be quickly browsed, in map or list form and provide a real feel for what’s happening, where it matters most — in my neighborhood.

All this detail could be uselessly overwhelming if poorly presented. EveryBlock makes it easy to find what you want and fun to explore. One or two clicks click gets you a list of either what you want or where you want. But this is about “local” and “local” means maps. Zoom in to your neighborhood and pick a category — all of the relevant items are there, on the map ready to roll over and read.

There is a small problem, EveryBlock only covers Chicago, New York and San Francisco, so I can’t actually use it for anything that matters to me here in Boston. I eagerly anticipate it’s roll out in my fair city. For those of you in one of the three they currently cover it’s at www.everyblock.com.

Written by Al Stevens

March 16th, 2008 at 9:51 am