Loren Baker of the Search Engine Journal reports that Google News has tweaked it algorithm (hat tip: MediaPost).  The search engine hopes to its users more relevant results about breaking news stories.

One of the tweaks aims to better identify the news source that was first in reporting information about a story.  Further, the tweak will better highlight fresher reporting as the story develops.

Another tweak that I find really interesting and helpful to local media outlets is that Google aims to place more emphasis on providing users with reports from media outlets whom are local to breaking news.  Thus, if there is flooding in Houston, Google wants to highlight reporting from, say, the Houston Chronicle instead of a wire report picked up by the Los Angles Times.  That is if the local coverage is at least equal in relevance to articles from elsehwere.

I think that this is great news for local news outlets since Google is explicitly trying to promote them.  Of course, this does not negate the need for local sources from working harder than larger organizations that have more resources and enjoy a larger presence on-line, but the search engine's changes could level the playing field.