Friday, December 14, 2012

Public Post: Community Resource & News Tool

In 2011 VPR launched Public Post, an initiative to find local news stories and trends in the selectboard meeting minutes from Vermont cities and towns. The goal was to develop a new digital source of city and town news from around Vermont. We spent the past year developing a working prototype and trying to prove the model, and we believe we've created a resource that has value as a community service and a journalism tool.

Public Post has evolved into a site with 3 primary features: to facilitate the browsing, commenting, and sharing of public documents from VT cities and towns; to enable searching those documents by town and across the state; and to use the tools of the internet to expose that index to crowd-assisted and computer-assisted reporting. Over the past year, our reporters have used the Post to find relevant local stories in Vermont cities and towns. Sometimes they use it to research stories, sometimes they use it to find new stories. Sometimes, they find stories that take off on social media and end up on NPR.

We believe there is more potential in the Post, and we're positioning it to grow. We're now partnering with startup NearbyFYI to use their automated crawler and other web tools to index the documents and power many features of the Post. As of this blogpost, the public meeting minutes of 79 Vermont cities and towns are flowing automatically into Public Post via NearbyFYI, making them available to browse, search, and analyze.

Going forward we're working to expand the number of Vermont towns and public documents included in the site. Most importantly, VPR News will continue to use the Post to source and research more local Vermont stories and issues. We encourage other Vermont reporters, bloggers, local officials, and interested citizens to check out Public Post and use it as another tool for finding out what's going on in towns around Vermont. If you spot an interesting news item in the documents, let us know.

If you have a suggestion or question, or if you spot an error, send us an email. If you want to see your town on Public Post, or you're wondering why it's not there now, send us an email. If you're working on a similar data project, we'd love to hear from you.

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