A Chicago company is taking a unique approach to online journalism and creating a useful resource for local information in the process.
EveryBlock is hybrid news site, combining information from traditional sources with a growing percentage of user-generated content. But regardless of the source, users through their interactions have the power to determine the news and issues most important to them. The end result is a collection of local news sites where users ultimately inform each other and serve as helpful resources to those looking for answers.
“The whole idea behind EveryBlock is rediscovering your neighborhood by connecting users to each other in a way we haven’t seen being done on the Web,” said Parinda Muley, the company’s director of business development. “We’re like the modern-day block watch or neighborhood watch, gone digital.”
EveryBlock was launched by Adrian Holovaty in 2007 to bring to the Web the hyper-local approach to journalism traditionally employed by community newspapers. While the MSNBC-owned company has a presence in 16 major markets and counting, each of its subdomains is extremely localized and only includes content relevant to the targeted area.
Users select the ZIP codes they want to follow or can even map the areas from which they want to receive alerts. Each user-defined “block” has its own news feed, populated by three primary sources of information: official municipal releases, media partners and user-generated content. The last of the three, Ms. Muley said, was added within the last year and has proven popular with EveryBlock users, who now have the ability to begin and reply to threads on any topic, from restaurant suggestions to landlord issues.
“News is what our users want it to be,” she said, though adding EveryBlock’s staff still monitors all active conversations.
Traffic, she said, is a common topic in every market.
It is common for users to claim to have witnessed an accident at a particular time and place and ask if others can share additional details. Those conversations could then lead to, for example, discussions of an accident’s effect on traffic or perhaps the sharing of experiences navigating the busy intersection in question.
A recent discussion on EveryBlock Chicago, for example, detailed a local resident’s voluntary efforts to repaint a discolored and potentially dangerous stop sign in Rogers Park.
For these types of stories, as well as the site’s ability to pair those seeking information with those who can provide it, EveryBlock could be a great compliment to FindMyAccident’s news coverage, a place where productive dialogs can be started and helpful information shared. Should users want more information on an area pinpointed on FindMyAccident’s interactive map, EveryBlock could be an ideal place to begin.
“It’s the one place where you really can get hyper-local information, and we really just haven’t seen this on the Web,” Ms. Muley said.
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