Why I Built a Hyperlocal News App

I had a problem with how traditional news works. I fixed it! Here is my fix: The Civic Press.

  David Daniel Announcement Posted 2 years, 12 months ago   2009


I made The Civic Press because the news cycle doesn't really reflect the real problems that affect us. I wanted to fix this more than a decade ago, but didn't know how. I finally decided to do something about it and actually fix it. This is why I made The Civic Press.

  • The Attention Deficit Disorder of the National News Media
  • The Occupy Wall Street Movement at Zuccotti Park
  • Lack of Real Information During The Riots for Freddie Gray
  • It's Time for a Change
  • You are the Best Reporter
  • News That Actually Affects You
  • The Cure to Bias
  • Download it Today
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The Attention Deficit Disorder of the National News Media

I got the idea for The Civic Press, back when I was in college, more than a decade ago. Back then, I was very shy and usually kept to myself and my small clique of engineering friends.When I wasn't busy failing Electronics, I would be on my laptop writing code, trying to solve problems that I wanted to be fixed with the help from technology. I was not involved in activism, politics or news, but I would follow daily news religiously and inevitably, follow the national politics very vigorously.

It was during college that I discovered that the news cycle had a serious case of Attention Deficit Disorder. Each week, on all the major news channels, there was 1 main topic and 3-4 minor topics. This main topic would be discussed in rather high detail, by the best political pundits, and by the time the weekend comes, the topic would be exhausted to the point where they were beating a dead horse. Then, as the new week starts, there would be a new major issue, and a new set of minor issues. The major issue of the prior week was never resolved. It fell by the wayside, and became part of the minutiae of everyday life. The news media would move on to the new issue of the week and the nation's conversation would change. I wanted to change that!

Surprisingly, I came up with the name The Civic Press rather quickly, and like any other computer engineering college student who thinks he knows what he's doing, I quickly went to a popular domain registrar and registered thecivicpress.com, before actually knowing what I'm going to do with the website. I put my side projects aside and started working on The Civic Press, but then didn't get far, since there was really no plans. I gave up and stopped, but I knew I'd get back to this project at some point later in my life.

The Occupy Wall Street Movement at Zuccotti Park

Years went by, and on a cold wintery night in late September of 2011, I found myself going down on the 1 train in New York City to Zuccotti Park with my coworkers to participate in the Occupy Wall Street movement. I went down to Zuccotti Park because I believed in the movement. You see, I was an intern that worked near Wall Street and lived through the 2008 Financial Crisis in NYC. When the financial crisis struck, I saw lives of friends, and family affected so much, for no fault of their own, and felt that corporate greed needed to be punished, which was not.

As a fresh college graduate, I wanted to change the world, and this movement struck a cord with me. My initial curiosity was sparked because I saw hundreds of people gathering and protesting at Zuccotti Park daily and lived there. If they were willing to do this for something that I also really believed in, then it was worth volunteering my time for.

Although the Zuccotti Park encampment lasted two months, I started going down to Zuccotti Park towards the end of the first month. I volunteered in trying to clean the place with my coworker, like picking up trash and talking with folks there. Sometimes, I would go down by myself to just be part of the crowd after work. I wanted to be with like minded individuals who wanted the same progress that I did: to bring down blatant corruption in Wall Street.

After going there, and participating there, I started having objections with certain aspects of the movement and the folks who were camped there. I felt that certain participants were very distracted, and the goals for the movement were not necessarily set forth properly. My objections certainly made me disappointed with the movement, but my disappointment with the movement was nothing compared to the betrayal that the news media committed when they were reporting the daily events of Zuccotti Park.

As someone who regularly went to Zuccotti Park, I saw men and women were gathered there to show the government that there needed to be serious financial reform to curb the corruption that lead to the financial debacle in 2008. Most of us were there for serious reform, and many stayed at the park day and night to show that we were serious what we believed in. This was not the perspective I got from watching coverage of the movement from the major news networks. The movement simply was portrayed on TV as a bunch of millennials with crazy homeless people, who were angry at the government, with silly protest signs. The featured bits on the news reports focused solely on the negative issues of the movement and not really what the movement was about. I felt betrayed because I trusted that these organizations would report on facts of the movement, but they were ridiculing the movement. I didn't know what to do. This was not something that I could fix.

Lack of Real Information During The Riots for Freddie Gray

Years have gone by since Zuccotti Park, and now I live in Baltimore. I've grown older, and hopefully wiser, since my days in college and at Zuccotti Park. After moving to Baltimore, I've lived through the Freddy Grey riots in Baltimore, and I was frankly scared to be out in the streets, as any reasonable person should be.

During these riots, we would turn on the news, and like many times before, only kept seeing the same video clips again and again. During the many hours that we watched the news that evening, we didn't really get any proper information. The anchors would cycle and recycle through the same information they received and didn't shed any new information on what was happening as hours went by, meanwhile showing video footage that only showed chaos. The news didn't help anyone other. It only made us more scared.

It's Time for a Change

I created The Civic Press because the way traditional news media collected news is old and decrepit. The news that we end up hearing comes hours too late and not when it actually affects us. The way the news is disseminated is biased.

I created The Civic Press as a way to solve the problems of traditional news media. And I solved it!

You are the Best Reporter

In 2019, there is no need to send a news crew to report something when we have a phone in our hands that can take photos and video. In fact, when something happens near us, the first thing we do is open up our phones and start taking photos and videos. The Civic Press lets you do the same thing, but now your photos and videos actually can help your community better understand what is actually happening.

The Civic Press Solution

The Civic Press is a hyperlocal social news network app where individuals can connect and contribute real news based on their proximity to a newsworthy event. The app lets you record photos and videos of events happening in your community. It informs everyone in your about it. If others are near you, they can participate and contribute photos and videos to what you already posted. Only those around you can contribute to your post. The photos and video you post are vetted by those near you for validity. The app does this with anonymous voting to sure reliability of the information. If a person is not near you, they will not be allowed to vote on the reliability of what you posted.

News That Actually Affects You

Traditional news media coverage does not reflect the real issues that we face in our day-to–day lives. The real issues that affects our lives are the ones that happen in our neighborhoods. The fire that burned down your neighbor's house affects your life a lot more than what the president said on Twitter. The 5-car pile up on the freeway affects your life a lot more than a celebrity's scandal.

Traditional news media can't scale this fast. They have local reporters that report on issues, but they need to pick and choose what story they can cover because they can't be everywhere at all times. Naturally, the stories they report also need to be ones that gather people's attention so that advertisers can pay to get their products and services to these readers and viewers. These might not necessarily be the stories that you care about, but you are told to care about it because it has been reported.

The Civic Press Solution

The Civic Press lets you find out what is happening near you, no matter where you are. I discovered that the real issues that affect you actually happens close to you. That's why, using your phone's GPS, The Civic Press provides you the latest news that others reported near you.

The Cure to Bias

Traditional news media has a bias. The bias might be a slant towards their favored political party and views, or it could be towards what their advertisers want them to report. While traditional news media will never really openly admit to this, they tend to skew their stories in favor of their bias, and show the party or view that is against their bias in a bad light. This is true of conservative media and this is true of liberal media.

Bias is inevitable when you have an organization of like-minded individuals. However, our communities, cities, states and countries are not made up of like-minded individuals. We all have different points of view on various things. When a reporter in a traditional news media outlet reports a story, their bias is allowed to propagate with the organization because they do not see anything wrong with what they're saying. The editor or producer would think "Hey, that's a great story! It makes sense to me, let's publish it!", when it reality, the bias wasn't checked and it enrages those of us who see that story because we view it as inaccurate. As I said, this is true of conservative media and this is true of liberal media.

The Civic Press Solution

The Civic Press democratizes the validity and reliability of information to remove individual biases. It does this by letting you vote anonymously on reports and each piece of information. If you are near a report that someone posted, you can vote on whether or not each piece of information (photo, video, text, etc.) that the poster made was reliable or unreliable. If you're not near a post, you can vote on whether or not the report is newsworthy or not.

When enough people vote that a report is not newsworthy, the report disappears. When enough people that are close to a report vote that a piece of information is unreliable, the report will state to everyone that the information is unreliable, but still stays to show what is reliable and what was marked unreliable.

Download it Today

I believe I solved the problems that ails traditional news media with my app: The Civic Press. The Civic Press is definitely an app that you should download and check out today. If you don't see any news stories near you, simply swipe right to see what is happening in your community, your state and your country.

You can download it today!

Just click here to Download for iOS: Download for iOS

Just click here to Download for Android: Download for Android