Index your city: An idea for local news

A while back I moved into a new apartment in Portland. It’s in a great neighborhood and a terrific building. One of the best parts is the top floor view of Lone Fir Cemetery across the street. It’s a cemetery that saw its first burial in 1846 and has quite a bit of history tied to it.

What is interesting to me is that on the edge of this massive, historic cemetery is an empty corner of land. It’s roped off and is mostly gravel. After digging through Wikipedia’s footnotes I found that this lot is tied to some controversy.

The one useful article I could find online states that:

The county would go ahead with plans to tear down its building at the corner of Southeast Morrison Street and 20th Avenue — a squat beige box and parking lot built atop the graves of Chinese immigrants buried there in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

To me that’s fascinating. It’s a corner of land that has roots going back over 100 years but is still empty and unmarked. There’s no reason I should have to dig through Wikipedia and track down an Oregonian article re-posted on another site to find that out.

Dave Winer says that, “Rule #1 of local blogging: If you hear fire trucks in the night, in the morning you should be able to find out where the fire was.” If that’s local blogging then a thriving local news ecosystem should adopt a mindset akin to “If you have a question about something in our city, we’ll answer it for you.”

The Oregonian, or a startup news service, is missing a golden opportunity here. Portland is a town with pretty well-defined neighborhoods that each have their unique histories. Someone who can index those locations as well as the news and history of each has created a solid product which they can deliver to residents as well as visitors.