Saturday, March 10, 2007

Open Congress

My vote for the coolest new Web site is

Yes, it's for the public, but journalists especially should take note of it. There are no more excuses for saying you don't know what is going on in Capitol Hill, even if you are in South Carolina, or Nebraska or hard by the California Coast.

The almost two-week-old site by the Sunlight Foundation opens so many new tools -- the ability to follow specific bills and, by using RSS feeds, to track action on them. To see if your congressman or woman is generating heat among the blogs (often an early warning sign). To see what industry sectors are contributing to your senator or representative.

The news organization that does not tune into this site is missing the boat. The foundation also soon hopes to have up a site that will give wide access to all the Congressional Research Service reports.

Listen to an interview with the technical adviser to OpenCongress at "On the Media." (text)

(A much-less-robust site for tracking state legislation is We need more efforts in that area, too. Right now, Billhop lacks most states and is rather rudimentary. Yes, states have their individual sites, but imagine the collective knowledge from seeing what all states are doing on an issue.)

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