By embedding within the organization, the Lab will explore how experimentation and innovation can be operationalized and will share what they learn.

Photo by Lance Grandahl on Unsplash

Editor’s note: This post was co-written and edited by Sarah Schmalbach, Product Director of the Lenfest Local Lab @ The Inquirer and Matt Boggie, Chief Product and Technology Officer at The Inquirer.

We are glad to share that after two and a half years as a standalone team collaborating with local newsrooms, the Lenfest Local Lab has joined The Philadelphia Inquirer. For anyone who has followed the Lab’s work, you know that the team experiments in the open. This change is an experiment too.

The benefits are intended to travel in many directions. We’re hoping that this new way of…


Our collaborative project won the Google GNI Innovation Challenge, securing $300,000 to build and test machine learning-based tools that help newsrooms analyze equity and representation in their work at scale.

Editor’s note: This post was co-written and edited by Michael Krisch, Deputy Director of the Brown Institute; Sarah Schmalbach, Product Director of the Lenfest Local Lab and Ana Graciela Méndez, Special Projects Editor for the Lab.

We are pleased to announce new support from Google’s GNI Innovation Challenge to expand our partnership with The Brown Institute and The Philadelphia Inquirer creating open-source content audit and analysis tools for local newsrooms. The tools are aimed at making content audits faster and less expensive, which could speed the advancement of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in local coverage. …


Leveraging breakthroughs in NLP and machine learning, the Lenfest Lab and Brown Institute built an analysis tool that maps locations found in local news stories.

Editor’s note: This post was co-written and edited by Michael Krisch, Deputy Director of the Brown Institute; Sarah Schmalbach, Product Director of the Lenfest Local Lab & Sarang Gupta, data science student at Columbia University and Ajay Chainani, engineer in the Lenfest Local Lab.

The Brown Institute and the Lenfest Local Lab co-developed a prototype that lets local newsrooms map the locations that appear in their articles. …


Major advances in computation have made mapping local news easier. What can we learn from analyzing where stories fall on a map?

An early version of our mapping prototype

Editor’s note: This post was co-written by Michael Krisch, Deputy Director of the Brown Institute and Sarah Schmalbach, Product Director for the Lenfest Local Lab.

Last fall the Brown Institute and The Lenfest Institute for Journalism’s Lenfest Local Lab came together to try to answer some shared questions about the relationship between geography, quality and experience in local news. The combination of our resources takes advantage of both organizations’ strengths in data visualization, media, and innovation.

The Brown Institute often focuses on databases and predictions, including projects aimed at telling stories through the large sets of public and/or private data…


A one-year post to oversee a hyperlocal newsletter collaboration with The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Photo by Tom Rumble on Unsplash

The Lenfest Local Lab is looking for a community-focused email newsletter editor to oversee a series of exciting neighborhood newsletter pilot projects in collaboration with The Philadelphia Inquirer in 2020.

The project is supported by a Google News Initiative grant for experimentation with new hyperlocal news products that embrace the benefits of technical automation, broad editorial collaboration and new business model generation.

You can read more about the project here.


After winning the Google Local News Innovation Challenge, the Lenfest Local Lab and The Philadelphia Inquirer will collaborate to test a new form of hyperlocal newsletters.

“Workin’ in Philly — Philadelphia, PA” by Brolafsson is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

When streets close unexpectedly, a construction site pops up or library hours change in your neighborhood, where do you go for reliable information? With many regional local news organizations primarily focusing on citywide issues, finding consistent and in-depth hyperlocal coverage on things like street closures, construction, neighborhood services and more can be difficult and time-consuming.

The problem: scaling reliable hyperlocal coverage

The Lenfest Local Lab and The Philadelphia Inquirer are partnering on solutions to the growing hyperlocal news problem and…


Photo by stockcatalog | CC BY 2.0

We recently launched Philly Eats, a new product that lets our team experiment with ways technology and design can make local news more accessible and useful to people, and help support better decision making. You can read more about the app launch, here.


An experiment in finding out what happens when you make local reviews easier for people to search, scan, save and see what’s nearby.

In a city with a restaurant scene as vibrant as Philadelphia’s it’s not difficult to find a place to eat—it’s hard to find the best place to eat. Our latest experiment improves local food-finding by giving people access to hundreds of professional recommendations from trusted local food writers, and we’re looking for feedback from early adopters.

Philly Eats was built in partnership with The Philadelphia Inquirer, and makes professional reviews easy to search, scan, save and know…


Real-time location data lets newsrooms deliver relevant stories to people when it makes the most sense.

A view of background location tracking information for HERE app users.

When the Lenfest Local Lab introduced our second experiment, we started with this observation about local news:

Oftentimes local news stories are written about the places we live, work or pass by — but we would never know it because there’s no front page in the physical world. Addressing this issue, and breathing geographic life into local coverage, was the inspiration for our first experimental local news app.

Our way of exploring the issue was to test an app that sends people local news stories about where they actually are. Unlike national or international newsrooms that are incentivized to send…


Texting is an affordable, accessible and popular way to communicate, making it a great space to try out new journalism ideas.

Inquirer reporters Jonathan Lai and Christian Hetrick introduce themselves.

Text messaging gets overlooked in most local news strategies. Maybe it appears too simplistic. Maybe it seems too personal or intimate. Or maybe it just doesn’t seem like journalism. (Spoiler: it is.)

But the list of reasons why newsrooms should consider adding texts to their mix of products to reach and engage people is growing, and before we tell you how our experiment with went, here are just some of the top reasons to consider trying it yourself.

Nearly 2 trillion messages were exchanged in 2017 and texting is more accessible to audiences than most news sites and apps, which…

Sarah Schmalbach

Leading the Lenfest Local Lab (@lenfestlab) for the Lenfest Institute (@lenfestinst). Philadelphian and former product @GdnMobileLab @usatoday @phillydotcom.

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