Turning Raleigh Trees into Hyperlocal News Reporters

Turning Raleigh Trees into Hyperlocal News Reporters

I’m having so much fun playing with Raleigh’s tree dataset and giving the trees something to say. Today I gave the trees some hyperlocal news mojo.

How it works: when you ask a tree for local news, the program checks to find streets nearby. It then uses a news API to check WRAL, WTVD, and WNCN for mentions of those streets in the last 90 days. Finally, it bundles that information into a ChatGPT prompt and generates a summary (while links to the news articles used for the summary appear beneath.)

Obviously how much the trees have to report depends on where they are. As you might imagine, a tree near the NCSU campus has plenty of gossip to pass along!

Up next: getting restaurant recommendations and local construction information from the tree. 😂

A screenshot of Raleigh Tree Chatter. The  site is set to an American holly on Pullen Road near the state campus. Underneath a map of the tree's location, there's a header reading "The Tree Tells You the Latest News" and it reads: 

"Hey friend, some stuff has been happening around here lately. Back in February, there was this 19-year-old who got arrested for bringing a loaded AR-15 rifle onto the NC State campus. Not just once, but twice on the same day, can you believe it?

Then, in mid-March, there was a bit of a mess on I-440. A dump truck crashed into an overpass at Ligon Street and they had to close down two westbound lanes between Hillsboro Street and Western Boulevard. A little later the same day, they ended up closing part of I-440 East as well because of the same accident. That sure caused quite a traffic jam!

In April, they closed Hillsborough Street between Brooks Avenue and Oberlin Road for a Final Four watch party. NC State must've done pretty well to have a block party like that, huh? But then the next day, something caused a power line to fall down on Western Blvd, and they had to close both directions during the morning commute. They're still figuring out what caused it, but it wasn't because of a crash.

And just last week, there was a sad incident at Central Prison. An offender who was supposed to be released next year was assaulted by another prisoner and died. It's been a pretty eventful couple of months around here."
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