California Local's Spring 2023 Roadmap

We're building out more civic coolness.

PUBLISHED MAR 24, 2023 4:10 P.M.
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We're working to make it easier for you to find your way around this awesome state by improving our site architecture and User Interface, and building out two new editorial products.

We're working to make it easier for you to find your way around this awesome state by improving our site architecture and User Interface, and building out two new editorial products.   Alexander Lukatskiy   Shutterstock/Standard

California Local is built on top of a proprietary and custom content management system (CMS) we call NewsOS. A custom CMS is usually a red flag in the world of online publishing, because most small and midsize local newsrooms don’t have strong development teams, and so they publish on WordPress or one of the existing CMS platforms purpose-built for news.

My background is in software development, so we decided to leverage that and do something new.

This has proven to be a good choice over the last couple of years as we’ve tried and discarded things in an organic development process.  

Recently, we’ve reviewed what’s working and what’s not, and have started implementing the next generation of NewsOS and California Local.  

We’re particularly excited by a few new projects underway—reworking the site architecture and User Interface (UI); and building out two new editorial products: Collections and Membership (aka Member Profile).

User Interface

Members and frequent visitors will have noticed recent improvements to the general site design, navigation and appearance on mobile devices. We’re working with a great UI design team and have been steadily updating their latest specifications and will continue to do so in upcoming weeks and months.

California Local is becoming increasingly useful as a civic engagement tool. We also want it to be beautiful. 


A lot of the information we publish is non-volatile or “evergreen,” meaning it doesn’t change often. Some examples of non-volatile content would be an Explainer about how a civic process works, or how some civic entity (such as California's governmental structure) came to be. Another evergreen piece might be special places to visit during a particular season.

A benefit of this kind of evergreen content is that it accumulates over time and can be “resurfaced” when appropriate. For instance, as a Collection of related stories presented together. This is fairly simple to implement in NewsOS, which sees a Collection as an article linking to other existing articles in the database.

An example would be a civics text collection titled “How the California Criminal Justice System Works” which links to existing articles about how a county's superior court system, district attorneys, public defenders and county sheriffs work.

Or, if you are our partner publication Sacramento Digs Gardening, with hundreds of recipes and articles about gardening—cookbooks and gardening guides will make superb Collections. 

Membership / Profile

We’ve been focused so far on developing the workflow associated with gathering information about government entities, community groups and nonprofits into our database, writing and publishing Explainers and other articles about civic life in California, and making alliances with local newsrooms in the eight counties where we publish.

We’re turning our attention to membership, and developing more tools to help our members be more active citizens in their communities.

Co-founder Eric Johnson has started referring to California Local and NewsOS as a “civic engagement engine” and that fits well with our Discover > Connect > Act tagline, which we see as the formula for civic engagement.

It’s also the stripped-down design specification for the upcoming California Local membership features, which is to facilitate discovery, connection and action.  

We’re going to make it easier to find and then follow information and sources about the issues and topics of most interest to you.

We’re going to make it easier to find, follow and connect with the organizations and individuals which share your interests.

Your alignment of informed and mutual interests will then guide your actions in making the community better.

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