Geographic News: News should be available by location.

posted 1999-Dec-12
— updated 2000-Mar-25

One night I drove past a bizarre-looking accident on my way home from work. I wanted to know what happened. What I want to be able to do is go to a news source and say "Show my news stories which happened at the intersection of Byberry and Huntingdon Pike."

It wouldn't really be that hard, right? News stories would just have to be tagged with a location (probably best stored as a latitude/longitude pair), and you could do proximity matching on that. Not just a tool to satisfy my own curiosity, this could be a tool for news reporters and department of transportation people:

There are three major obstacles I see to making this happen:

  1. A standard needs to be created for keyword classification. Because this project will require the coordination of many many news sources to be truly effective, creating this standard may get quite political, particularly if some have existing classifications. (I imagine that major newspapers do.)
  2. Get many many news source to adopt this new standard, and to submit their past stories and new ones to the database. I love the phrase 'information wants to be free', but I'm sure that most who are generating the news don't see it this way. The service would have to involve some sort of compensation, so those companies writing up real stories would get something out of the service for putting their work into it. Government agencies could be forced to put this information into the site (DOT accident reports, police reports, etc.) but privately owned corporations will want their just rewards. Perhaps a micropayment system where any time one of their stories is read they get .1 cents from the reader (subscribed to the system), and every time it's used they get 10 cents, or something.
  3. Past news stories need to be read, assigned a location (or multiple locations--some stories will mention multiple places) and optionally categorized. [While categorization could be a phase II item, it would probably be best to assign it in the first pass, rather than having a workforce review all the stories again at a later time.] This will be a large undertaking, and probably best done in reverse chronological order, since it will likely take a long, long time to complete, and more recent stories are probably more relevant than older ones.

This started as my desire to just have access to this information, but now I'm seeing it as a great new tool that could be launched as a massive information service for news sources and government agencies.

Who's up for making it? :)

Update: Well, it seems I may be 4-5 years too late with this concept. I'm having trouble finding more information, but it looks like FishWrap, created by the MIT media lab as part of their News in the Future, may contain the geographic features I'm looking for. Does anyone have any additional information on FishWrap?

03:58PM ET
It'd be important to allow an item to be about a region as well as points, so that an article about my City would be found when I search my street - this would make the system for recording the geographic data much more complex.
Gavin Kistner
12:28PM ET
A hierarchy (strict or otherwise) of locations shouldn't be hard. Simply saying "This neighborhood has these bounds...the city has these bounds (or includes these neighborhoods)....the state has these bounds (or includes these cities)" would make it trivial to search on a variety of bounding criteria, while still associating with a news item with a single latitude/longitude, neighborhood, street, etc.
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