RB Search Gizmos

SchoolScoop Local News Search: Find Schools by City/State and Search them on Google News

Last week I made a Search Gizmo called StreetScoop Local News search. It lets you input a street address in the US and get Google News about that street from local TV stations. It works with a combination of an FCC license database lookup and a dataset I downloaded from SimpleMaps and customized.

It’s fun and often finds interesting results, but it’s unsatisfying in other ways. Some streets are tiny and are never mentioned on the news, and there enough common street names and syndicated content across television stations that the Google News results are not as local as I’d like. It wasn’t a good answer to the local search question I’m always asking myself, so I went looking for another answer.

The National Center for Education Statistics offers a dataset / API of information about the K-12 institutions in America, all ~100,000 of them. Schools are not as hyperlocal as streets, but they’re still pretty local. In addition, as institutions of local government with which the community will reliably interact, it seems a good bet that a school would be regularly mentioned in the news.

To test whether school names made for good local search, I made a new Search Gizmo called SchoolScoop, which lets you browse the NCES dataset and search for individual school names in Google News. You can search for the school name and city name by themselves or add one of three topic modifier query sets.

WOW, what a difference. Searching for school names brings small sets of extremely focused results. Very little syndicated content here except in the case of schools which have been in the national news. And if you don’t include topic modifiers you get all kinds of results – crimes, graduations, alumni, politics, local government . You even get results where the school is used a municipal landmark: fires and traffic accidents are denoted as occurring near this school or that school.

Now that I’ve accidentally made this really productive local search space I need to figure out how I can replicate it and apply it in other contexts (not just schools.)

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