We would never imply that Adrian Holovaty, the supremely talented journalist-programmer who's now the CEO of local-news startup EveryBlock, is being cagey or dishonest about his talks with Google, which continued as recently as last weekend. Our theory: He's just shy and bashful, and doesn't like talking about what a hot commodity he is! Sources close to Google confirm that they are very interested in bringing Holovaty, the creator of a set of programming tools called Django, into the Googleplex. There are not one but two hitches, though.First, there are the conditions of his grant from the Knight Foundation, which is currently funding EveryBlock. The Knight Foundation used to have strong ties with the now-defunct Knight-Ridder newspaper chain; some of those ties now reach beyond the corporate grave, a tipster explains:
Adrian Holovaty is going to save journalism, darn it, if the industry likes it or not. And he may soon be doing it at Google. The search engine has long suffered from a tin ear in its relations with writers and editors — the people who create the content it indexes. Holovaty gained fame for linking up Google Maps with local crime statistics to create chicagocrime.org, one of the first mapping mashups. And he gained cred in the journalism world by melding programming and reportage at the Washington Post. Most recently, he's been pursuing the same goal at his own local-news startup, EveryBlock, which he funded by winning a contest held by the Knight Foundation. And now Google wants to buy Holovaty's startup, we hear. Holovaty says that he's had no conversations with Google, but did have lunch with a friend at Google's campus last week, which he stresses was "a social matter." The effort to buy his venture — there's no "deal," Holovaty tells us — has hit some kind of unusual hitch. It's not clear what the holdup is.Google's such a natural home for Holovaty, it's hard not to see the deal going through. Besides his journalism work, Holovaty's also the creator of Django, a set of tools for coding in Python, a programming language that's strongly preferred at the Googleplex. (Guido Van Rossum, the creator of Python, already works at Google.) If Holovaty does land at Google, expect him to transform Google News into a site that's more of a database of information than a news archive. He's long been critical of the newspaper industry's focus on stories, rather than information. A police-blotter news report, for example, is not as useful as a website which displays crimes on a map by type and date. If Holovaty's going to save journalism, he may have to do it at a search engine that many believe is killing the newspaper business. They can't say he didn't warn them.
Local journalism isn't a hot Web 2.0 field. Journalist Dan Gillmor learned that the hard way when he had to sell his unsuccessful citizen journalism site Bayosphere to a similar venture, Back Fence, which itself has barely grown past a few communities in Maryland and Virginia. Turns out people get their local news from old outlets just fine, or they turn to specific blogs. That makes sense; why would I need my local news to share a platform with everyone else's local news? The only way to add value is to aggregate already-existing local news and let the user pick the geographic and topical scope they want. That's exactly what EveryBlock, which launched this week, aims to do.