NIU acquires local government news service

Samantha Brunell

Samantha Brunell

NIU’s Center for Governmental Studies recently added a new service to its portfolio of offerings for local governments and businesses: popular news aggregator LocalGovNews.

Center staff now are busy making plans to expand the service’s reach and scope.

“Our mission is to build the capacity of local government, and there is no better way to do that than through provision of up-to-date information,” said CGS Director Diana Robinson.

LocalGovNews, or LGN, is a subscription-based service that delivers dozens of relevant news stories to users’ desktops each morning Monday through Saturday.

On a typical day, subscribers can scan about 75 stories in categories such as education, community and economic development, public health and safety, local government, state and federal and new public buildings.

New CGS associate and recent NIU MPA graduate Samantha Brunell coordinates the LGN service. In addition to scanning literally hundreds of news sources early each morning, Brunell creates headlines that convey the essence of each story, allowing subscribers to take in basic information even if they don’t read each post in its entirety.

Brunell, who recently completed a two-year internship in the Rockford mayor’s office, says that experience convinced her of LGN’s value.

“I spent countless hours (in Rockford) looking for information on topics that LGN covers every day,” Brunell said. “Having a subscription to this service is like hiring a full-time researcher – at a fraction of the cost.”

LocalGovNews logoMore than 800 Illinois local governments, businesses and NGOs apparently agree, as LGN’s subscription base continues to grow. Among those who find value in LGN’s daily service are schools, construction companies, attorneys, engineers, park districts and public safety departments.

“We think LGN is a great service,” said James McDonough of IHC Construction Companies in Elgin. “It gives us ideas of where construction projects may occur, and it gives us information we can share with other agencies to build goodwill.”

Stewart Diamond of municipal law firm Ancel Glink agrees.

“Without a skilled, in-house researcher, there is nowhere else for Illinois public bodies and businesses to get the depth of information available through LGN,” Diamond said. “We use the service to stay on top of breaking news as well as long-term trends, both of which help us advise our clients.”

NIU’s Center for Governmental Studies is exploring a number of upgrades to the service, Robinson said, including the addition of multimedia, job postings and RFP templates. In the meantime, she said, CGS wants to make the service available to members of the NIU community and already is offering free subscriptions to Public Administration students.

For Brunell, running LocalGovNews is not just a job – it’s a great continuing education.

“As an aspiring public administrator, having access to all this information really helps me grow in my understanding of the issues that local governments and businesses face,” she said. “By the time each day’s digest appears in our subscribers’ mailboxes at 7 a.m., I’ve done about six hours of research. That’s a lot of information in a single email, so I feel like we’re offering a lot of value to our subscribers.”

For more information, contact Brunell at localgovnews@niu.edu.

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