hyperlocal news: gather and report it in one fell swoop
In all the talk about the death of newspapers, people frequently argue that local news will still be of value, and more than that, the hyperlocal stories that couldn’t be covered when space (on paper) was limited. Bergens Tidende, our local paper, has a shining example today of how a local newspaper can gather and report local news simultaneously by coordinating reader participation in a very easy-to-contribute mashup focusing on an issue of huge importance to Bergeners right now, though it’s of absolutely no wider interest.
You see, we’re currently building a light rail system through Bergen, and the road works and constantly changing detours are of course causing major traffic problems. Bergens Tidende is doing the conventional reporting and interviews, but also set up a map where people can double click to show where they’re experiencing problems and where they can quickly enter information about what the problem is. They’ve even thought of anti-spam measures: you enter your mobile phone number and instantly receive an SMS with a code that you then type into the website to confirm that you’re an actual person and that you’re a different person to all the other people who’ve entered their comments. Your identity is not posted to the website. It all works beautifully smoothly and took no more than a couple of minutes in total. And now I can go and look to see whether other people are annoyed at the same temporary intersection as I swear at all alone in the car whenever I drive through it. [Update: Hm, the website I saw right after entering my comment gave a nicer interface for reading other comments than the one I can find now – could be smoother.]
Actually this is the sort of thing the city council should provide for us to tell them where potholes are too big or pedestrian crossings need to be renovated. Though perhaps having a disinterested party doing it (the fourth estate) is actually a very good thing.