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How automation helped this journalist quench a 'news desert'

By Krystina Martinez · January 6, 2021
A group of people stand together outside a building. On the far right is Simon Galperin

While there's more information at our fingertips than ever before, there's also more misinformation. With small newspapers shutting down across the United States, many towns are becoming "news deserts"—communities no longer covered by local newspapers.

Simon Galperin sought to fill this hole in Bloomfield, N.J., with the Bloomfield Information Project, which collects and shares news and information to people across the community. This longtime journalist has spent his career working to make news more accessible to the public, and he knew Bloomfield needed a different way to receive news.

"I've been looking at Zapier for years in hopes of being able to put it to work in journalism, but I [didn't] have the time or bandwidth to do so," Simon says. 

The challenge: Manually curating information into a newsletter

In a listening session, Bloomfield residents told Simon that news and information in town came in pieces, with no single reliable source. He needed to bring all those pieces together and disseminate them to the public—a full-time job.

This news product wouldn't exist in its present form without Zapier.

Simon Galperin

The Bloomfield Information Project aggregates news through RSS, websites, online search, and CrowdTangle, a social monitoring tool. While verifying sources and information require a human touch, Simon used Zapier to help with some of the more tedious aspects. 

"We use Mailparser.io to parse press releases we get sent by the municipality and county and Zapier readies them as posts on our WordPress site," he said. 

Try the Bloomfield Information Project's press release parser by using Simon's Shared Zap. You'll be able to create your own copy to set up for yourself. Or, explore other ways to automate Mailparser with Zapier.

Google Sheets and Digest by Zapier also play a big role in Simon's newsgathering. Once information is curated into Google Sheets, where he writes headline summaries and links, a Zap adds those entries to Digest—a tool that allows Zapier users to aggregate anything into summaries.  

Try the Bloomfield Information Project's content curation workflow with this Shared Zap.

When he's ready to publish his email newsletter, Simon uses Zapier's Chrome extension to release those digests, draft an email, and send him a copy in Gmail to look over. 

Try the Bloomfield Information Project's digest publication Zap with this Shared Zap.

Zaps also help automate publication to the Bloomfield Information Project's Mailchimp newsletter, Instagram, and Twitter accounts. 

"Automation helps us put the news and information we find in the right places for publishing and sharing," Simon says. 

Democratizing news through automation

The Bloomfield Information Project has shared almost 2,000 news items across its site, newsletter, and social media platforms since March. And with 400 email subscribers to the newsletter alone, there's a clear appetite in the community for news.

"This news product wouldn't exist in its present form without Zapier," says Simon. "To produce this much content, I'd have to be doing a lot more reporting and more manual publishing. It might be the sort of thing that would even take up most of my day." 

With automation, Simon can focus on program development, community engagement, and other big picture projects for the Community Info Coop, his grander vision for news as a public utility. 

"I believe that quality news and information is a human right and should be treated as a public good," he says. "I'm working on developing policy and practice to make that happen."

And with the Bloomfield Information Project as a pilot, automation has helped Simon begin to fill a gap in New Jersey's news deserts. 

What's your story? Tell us how you use Zapier to do more. You can also read even more customer stories and find new ways to improve your workflow and productivity.

For more on how automation with Zapier can help journalists and content creators:

Photo by Joe Amditis of the Center for Cooperative Media. Simon Galperin is standing in the far right of this image.

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