Inspiration

There are 3,143 counties in the U.S. & before the pandemic over 2,000 of them had limited to no access to daily local news. COVID-19 layoffs have exacerbated that, leaving an even larger sum of Americans without essential real-time relevant information. The Brookings Institute reports that nearly 57% of U.S. counties that have reported cases of COVID-19, lack a daily local news source. Now more than ever, cities need a central place to access credible, real-time local information, including diverse perspectives on how communities are effectively handling the pandemic.

Vngle seeks to proactively inform isolated communities through a decentralized grassroots news network, taking a gig-economy approach to sourcing stories and experiences by organizing trained and vetted community members to capture underreported information.

What it does

The website allows new visitors to subscribe to newsletters based on their location (city or zip code). The main section showcases captured community experiences shared by locals across the United States (via our Instagram feed). The website also empowers visitors wishing to take part in the newsgathering process by facilitating the ability to request local coverage on matters unknown or not being represented to the general public, as well as the option to upload their own grassroots stories and content (e.g. photos, videos, etc).

Why?

Newsletters look simple at a glance, but they will prove to be crucial sources for isolated communities, especially those economically disadvantaged and lacking access to credible/locally-relevant information.

Fact: In Chicago, 67% of COVID-19 related deaths have been black people. In Louisiana, it is 70% with 1/3 of the population being black.

“There needs to be better communication about the virus in minority communities so that everyone understands what it's going to take for us all to protect one another”

  • Deborah Birx, M.D. White House coronavirus task force response coordinator

How we built it

We used Gatsby.js as the primary front-end framework to build the landing page and we are coding in React to build the various components shown on the page.

We utilized an npm package (nanogram.js) to retrieve data from the @vnglestories Instagram content catalog and displayed them on the website.

Some components such as input areas and buttons are imported from the Ant Design UI library.

Challenges we ran into

We encountered challenges directly connecting with the Instagram API, partially as Facebook has announced that they are deprecating API v1 for v2, which has more complex processes to authenticate users and retrieve data to increase user privacy. This led to some confusion and delay in terms of progress.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

This is Kenneth's second hackathon and this project turned out much better than his first one in terms of design and aesthetics.

This is also Blake, Jingwa, and Jaime's 1st hackathon. (In the past, Blake has helped host hackathons, but never took part himself).

What we learned

We learned how to think through the community's perspectives and design approaches to our problem that best fit our mission and our users' abilities and needs.

We integrated a media uploader component to allow anyone interested in sharing their stories about their local communities to quickly submit assets to us without going through a complicated verification process. This aligns with our mission of fostering a group of grassroots journalists who have the capabilities to surface local issues and stories in a decentralized fashion.

In terms of the technical aspects, we learned to work with the time constraints and code efficiently in order to showcase our idea concretely.

What's next for Vngle

We are a part of Mozilla's "Fix The Internet" MVP Lab and will be using what we've built in communities across Georgia starting this week. We're taking a grassroots approach to sourcing stories and launching our first newsletter in College Park, GA. We will be iterating through the process and replicating in cities across Georgia, eventually moving the offering to other states.

Just prior, we will officially transfer the new site to our https://www.vngle.com/ domain + use COVID-19 API's to populate Coronavirus updates based on custom geographies.

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Updates

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Newsletters look simple at a glance, but they will prove to be crucial sources for isolated communities, especially those economically disadvantaged and lacking access to credible/locally-relevant information.

Fact:

In Chicago, 67% of COVID-19 related deaths have been black people. In Louisiana, it is 70% with 1/3 of the population being black.

“There needs to be better communication about the virus in minority communities so that everyone understands what it's going to take for us all to protect one another”

  • Deborah Birx, M.D. White House coronavirus task force response coordinator

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