Local journalism isn't a hot Web 2.0 field. Journalist Dan Gillmor learned that the hard way when he had to sell his unsuccessful citizen journalism site Bayosphere to a similar venture, Back Fence, which itself has barely grown past a few communities in Maryland and Virginia. Turns out people get their local news from old outlets just fine, or they turn to specific blogs. That makes sense; why would I need my local news to share a platform with everyone else's local news? The only way to add value is to aggregate already-existing local news and let the user pick the geographic and topical scope they want. That's exactly what EveryBlock, which launched this week, aims to do.
At EveryBlock (now available for Chicago, San Francisco, and New York). I can get news from the whole city, a neighborhood, a zip code, or a specific block. I can see crime reports, Craigslist ads, zoning news, Yelp reviews, and Flickr photos.
I can see local news, which really should be the site's big draw, but I have a feeling there's much more out there than what EveryBlock aggregates. My neighborhood (SF's Mission District) has a local paper that doesn't show up, and I expected more info from the city's several alt weeklies. The promise of a site like EveryBlock is that it could win back the online readers who abandoned local papers for news sources like Drudge and blogs. This is the same problem others tried to solve with "citizen journalism" — but EveryBlock recognizes that the real journalists are still out there. They just need a modern delivery system.