The Newsroom: Public Insight Network API Connects Journalists with Local Sources

Mark Boyd
Jul. 15 2013, 12:00PM EDT

The new Public Insight Network API from American Public Media aims to help journalists and media outlets more easily connect with community sources when drafting news content based on local issues.

To create a balance between more global current affairs content and local events, many news broadcasters are turning to a hyperlocal news API to share updates on what is happening in a viewer’s home city. CNN, for example, already makes use of the Patch API to stream local news based on an app viewer’s location in amongst it’s global and national headlines.

But for news APIs to be able to feed local content into a wider news stream, they need to have the local perspective in the first place. That’s where the Public Insight Network API steps in.

The PIN API connects journalists and newsrooms with community members and local residents who have volunteered to be a local news source. For reporters, editors and news sites, the Public Insight Network API can be used to pose questions around local issues and glean responses from a volunteer network that spans the United States.

For over a year now, media sites and content producers have been requesting a connected service along these lines. For example, many journalists have been looking for an API from the Help a Reporter Out (HARO) service run by Vocus. That service uses email and Twitter to send daily alerts of items reporters are working on and seeks input from locals or insiders with specific knowledge of the issue at hand. In HARO’s Get Satisfaction community forum, a radio show newsroom asked for this type of API a year ago, but as yet the request has not received any official response… and there is still no HARO API.

Conceivably, a hyperlocal news tool like the Public Insight Network API could also be used by any business that wanted to add a human face to their product, or to raise the local profile of their business and service value. As all businesses become media companies, the Public Insight Network API could be invaluable to help blog writers, and podcasters show real life examples of the pain points that people are experiencing and that their product or service could solve.

Speaking with ProgrammableWeb, Public Insight Network Director Linda Fartin said:

"Authorized journalists can submit questions to sources via queries, and the responses are captured in the PIN database for reading, tagging and future reference.

Currently PIN partnerships are available only to organizations engaged in journalism, and only journalists (as opposed to marketing, membership, circulation) have the ability to query sources in the database. Those partners pay a fee for this access. We are exploring options for allowing sources to opt into relationships with non-journalistic organizations in which case, theoretically, a start-up could become a partner and query a segment of the source network. One footnote: It would not be acceptable to ask PIN sources for their insight without disclosing how that information was going to be used, in this case to guide development of a product or help them to market it."

For journalists wanting to add a local context to a national or international stories, the Public Insight Network API is ready to use. The Public Insight Network provides a RESTful API that allows users to push and pull data to and from the Network programmatically. Full documentation is available.

Mark Boyd is a ProgrammableWeb writer covering breaking news, API business strategies and models, open data, and smart cities. I can be contacted via email, on Twitter, or on Google+.

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