Knight Lab seeks feedback on Local Angle’s use in local news

The Knight News Innovation Lab wants innovative editors and reporters to tell them how to develop its new tool for local news, Local Angle. The Lab is seeking feedback from the community to refine its next iteration.

“This is something in between an experiment and a product,” said Ryan Graff, Outreach Manager for Knight News Innovation Lab. “At this point we just want to have a product out, get some feedback and see if there is interest in a product like this.

Local Angle  is news spotter for local news

The beta acts as a news “spotter” for local news by sifting through articles, identifying the names of prominent citizens and celebrities and then listing their birthplace towns. The editor or reporter who is looking for leads to develop local news would visit his state to see a list of headlines and then browse to find useful information. The application can be adapted to search along many terms. The Knight Lab chose celebrities because they are featured in Wikipedia and are an accessible search. But in the future, the tool could be adapted to search for company names or less prominent names. It could also deliver information in a different form.

Local news knowledge of a City Editor

A newsroom could also think of Local Angle as a tool to help reporters understand their places better, Graff said in a follow-up email:

One of the anecdotes that Rich Gordon uses frequently when talking about Local Angle is that many years ago every newsroom had a city editor with a deep knowledge of the town they worked in and of everyone who was born or important in that particular place. These days, city editors don’t exist in every newsroom, particularly when the “newsroom” consists of one reporter with a laptop. Local Angle could conceviably help reporters know their communities better, and in the process serve as a source for content ideas and relevant links.

Testing the tool out, I searched for national stories that could be localized for Chicago. For instance, ShoreNewsToday in New Jersey reminded me that Centralia, IL, is the birthplace of anti-gun activist James Brady, the aide to President Ronald Reagan who was severely injured in an assassination attempt in 1981. The tie-in could possibly be useful for local news coverage related to the July 20 mass shooting in Aurora, Colo.

“Local Angle’s goal is to spot content from around the web that may be of particular interest to a city or town no matter if it happens somewhere else,” a press release said. “The application uses Google News to scoop up current news stories, AlchemyAPI to identify the people mentioned in each story, and DBpedia to identify a geographical tie.”

Crunchbase says Alchemy API is a text mining platform providing the most comprehensive set of semantic analysis capabilities in the natural language processing field… and that it tracks influencers and sentiment within the media.” DBpedia “extracts factual information from Wikipedia pages, allowing users to find answers to questions where the information is spread across many different Wikipedia articles,” Wikipedia says.

Local Angle was developed by computer science Ph.D. Student Shawn O’Banion and McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science computer science professor Larry Birnbaum, a co-founder of the Knight Lab. The first iteration was released in June.

Give it a close look and if you have any idea of how you’d like to see it developed get back to the inventors at knightlab AT northwestern.edu.

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