Escape your news bubble.

Use your Amazon Echo to hear headlines from random local public radio stations.

How it works

First, ask Alexa to activate the Random Local News skill.

You
Alexa, enable Random Local News.
Alexa
OK.

Then, every time you ask Alexa for your Flash Briefing, it'll play a news summary from a random place in the US.

You
Alexa, what's in the news?
Alexa
Here's your flash briefing… from a random public radio station:
Alexa
Headlines from somewhere in the US

If you don't have an Amazon Echo but want to try this out, click here to listen to a random news summary. (One moment—it's loading.) You can also use Amazon's Echo simulator.

Why listen to news from random places?

Increasingly, our most ubiquitous technologies have been upending the original premise of the internet. Instead of exposing us to a greater humanity, our ostensibly worldwide networks have only made us more insular. Opaque algorithms only show us posts and articles they think we’ll like — or at least, on which we’ll click “like.” Far from nudging us to widen our perspectives, the internet tempts our most tribalistic tendencies to associate only with people whose values and views hew closest to ours.

Discussions about this pernicious digital parochialism were reinvigorated after the 2016 presidential election laid bare its perils. This project is my first small contribution to the upswell of efforts aiming to burst our filter bubbles.

Perhaps, by hearing slivers of news from around the country—deliberately non-personalized and unfiltered—we can gain a wider and deeper understanding of our nation. “Democracy works only if we citizens are capable of thinking beyond our narrow self-interest,” as Eli Pariser wrote in his seminal work, The Filter Bubble. “But to do so, we need a shared view of the world we cohabit. We need to come into contact with other people’s lives and needs and desires.” In our Balkanized digital media landscape, I hope this can be one oasis of cohesion and serendipity.

Read more on Medium.

Don’t forget: Support your local public radio station

This project is made possible by the work of stations across the country. If you want to support your local station—or one you hear through this project—please visit its website, or use NPR's station finder.

Colophon

This project is open source. See the data sources on Google Sheets (please suggest more!) and the application code on GitHub.

It was created by Ryan Catalani. Read more about how and why he created it. Tweet at @magicofpi with feedback and suggestions.