Monday, April 13, 2009

New face of local news after newspapers is not so bad; computers search, find news for you

The New York Times shows us the face of local journalism after newspapers, one that computers can compile for an arrest on the next street to articles on entire communities.

Williamson County, TN, with deep penetration by the Internet, would be perfect for what would be called "hyper-local" news.

The Times reports:

If your local newspaper shuts down, what will take the place of its coverage?

Perhaps a package of information about your neighborhood, or even your block, assembled by a computer.

A number of Web start-up companies are creating so-called hyperlocal news sites that let people zoom in on what is happening closest to them, often without involving traditional journalists.

The sites, like EveryBlock,, Placeblogger and Patch, collect links to articles and blogs and often supplement them with data from local governments and other sources. They might let a visitor know about an arrest a block away, the sale of a home down the street and reviews of nearby restaurants.

Internet companies have been trying to develop such sites for more than a decade, in part as a way to lure local advertisers to the Web. But the notion of customized news has taken on greater urgency as some newspapers, like The Rocky Mountain News and The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, have stopped printing.

The news business “is in a difficult time period right now, between what was and what will be,” said Gary Kebbel, the journalism program director for the Knight Foundation, which has backed 35 local Web experiments. “Our democracy is based upon geography, and we believe local information is such a core need for our democracy to survive.”

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