Local News Engine: Needles in haystacks

United Kingdom | Project Type: Large | Local News Engine | Amount Awarded: €50,000

For decades, weekly lists of civic information have been a major source of story leads for local journalists. But with lists such as those from magistrates’ courts and planning and licensing departments often totalling more than 500 pages a week, which would take several days for a journalist to go through, this is needle-in-haystack territory. And few local publishers now have the resource or the time to analyse the lists in any detail.

Now complete, Local News Engine (LNE) was essentially a prototype project created by Talk About Local to discover whether algorithms could analyse lists and identify story leads. Running from autumn 2016 to spring 2017, the project was made possible by the DNI Fund, which paid for the complex coding.

We’ve open sourced the code on GitHub, and I’d welcome anyone using it in the wider public interest.

William Perrin
Entrepreneur and Founder of Talk About Local

“This was an exceptionally well-run process and I’d encourage people to apply for funding,” explains William Perrin, founder of Talk About Local. “Our conclusion was that relatively simple sorting by computers did make it easier to spot leads, shedding many hours of reading. As resources diminish in newsrooms, this could become a vital productivity tool. While the project has closed, its potential lives on – we’ve open sourced the code on GitHub, and I’d welcome anyone using it in the wider public interest.”

Telling local stories

DNI Fund Report 2020

Explore this year's report to find out about projects that have been supported by the DNI Fund and the impact they’re having in newsrooms across Europe.
Download full report