The Sunlight Foundation, the Center for Media and Democracy's partner in Congresspedia, has been doing some really interesting participatory journalism lately. Their current project is to get citizens to rate the websites of their members of Congress for transparency and accountability. So far 294 members have been rated and, in the wake of members like Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) posting their daily schedules online, the bar is getting higher for what citizens expect. The best part is that when the results are all in, we're going to post them on every member's Congresspedia profile so it can become part of their permanent record.
Here's the Sunlight Foundation's Bill Allison to explain the effort and how you can participate:
We're launching a new citizen journalism project to find out what members of Congress are doing with their taxpayer-funded, official Web sites. Are they using the sites to further transparency and be accountable to their constituents? Or are they using them to post press releases touting their actions or to highlight favorable stories from the press?
We're asking you to dig through the official, taxpayer-funded Website of a member of Congress, and help determine those that act as genuine tools for transparency. We're asking questions in three broad areas: do they provide access to basic information on what they do in Congress (the bills they sponsor, the committees they serve on); do they provide information from or access to any of the legally-required disclosures they have to file (on personal finances or junkets they take), and do they provide any additional information that furthers transparency (their daily schedule, lists of earmarks they've asked for or gotten).
Members of Congress provide all sorts of information they want us to know--press releases and favorable stories saying they're off to a good start or helping to fight cancer or being honored for their work in Congress. Do they also provide access to the kinds of information that allow us, as constituents, to evaluate their work and exercise responsible citizen oversight? How much of their public record do they provide, online, to the public?
We're asking you to help us determine which members use their Web sites is a tool for transparency. The findings will be used to highlight the best practices, and to develop a set of guidelines for sites of members to meet in the future.
To dig in, click here.