News21 National Site

About CityLab

CityLab is a database created by and for reporters. Aimed at assisting time and resource-strapped newsrooms, CityLab currently collects and displays demographic data about 65 cities throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. It has been designed as a working prototype for a nationwide city database that will allow reporters to compare important, but hard-to-find information about cities all over the country.

Data for the Bay Area prototype was gathered by our team in Berkeley, California during the spring and summer of 2009. As CityLab expands to other regions, we will ask reporters to contribute data about the cities in which they live and work. Our hope is to enrich the detail and depth of local reporting across the country by encouraging journalists, especially free-lancers and hyper-local websites, to collaborate in an on-line community that is both open-sourced and closely vetted.

In the meantime, reporters searching for local story ideas or seeking to enhance a national story can go to CityLab for a comprehensive presentation of city-specific information ranging from standard U.S. Census data to esoteric facts like the number of funeral homes or licensed midwives in a city. Cities can be compared on one screen, and CityLab automatically will generate comparison suggestions for cities with similar characteristics.

Each of the thousands of data points in CityLab is individually sourced, allowing reporters to fact-check on their own by visiting the website from which the data was pulled, or by directly contacting the reporter who contributed the data.

In collaboration with Dante Chinni, creator of the Christian Science Monitor's Patchwork Nation, and University of Maryland demographer Jim Gimpel, CityLab is working to create a typology for classifying each city based on unique demographic profiles. These typologies will provide another basis for comparing cities.

To illustrate how CityLab could be used to tell new and interesting stories, the web site will feature original written and multimedia stories as well as a regularly updated marquee of interesting facts.

Follow our progress at