The New York Times just launched a new interactive feature called Represent. Represent allows New York City residents to type in their address and receive a stream of political information for all of their elected representatives from the City Council to the U.S. Senate. The information currently contained in Represent includes mentions in Times articles and congressional votes. It’s very much like a political coverage EveryBlock (and it wouldn’t be a bad idea for EveryBlock to integrate this data into their local data streams). The Open blog at the Times explains:
Using your address as a starting point, Represent figures out which political districts you live in and who represents you at different levels of government. It draws maps that show how where you live fits into the political geography of the city. And using information collected from around the Web, it presents a customized activity stream that tracks what the people who represent you are doing.
Represent crawls a collection of New York Times stories and City Room blog posts, looking for references to public officials. It also draws from official data sources — currently, Congressional roll-call votes, which we collect by parsing feeds and scraping government Web sites. It evaluates each article, blog post and vote to find the stories most relevant to you. (Both our article search and our Congressional votes database will soon be available to outside developers through free, open APIs.)
The fact that the Times is launching something that serves not just as a supplement to coverage, but also as a public service, shows the direction that large, traditional media sources are heading as they shrink in print and expand online. Another example would be the Washington Post’s congressional votes database. The Post also currently experiments with Apture to provide greater context in their political coverage. Here’s Apture explaining their partnership with the Post: I can only imagine that we’ll be seeing a lot more information integration from large traditional news organizations in the coming years.