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JA Resource Q&A: Sunlight’s Scout is “useful in an obvious way.”

August 21, 2012 in Blog, Craft, Technology

Scout is a tool by Sunlight Labs. Visit their resource page on the JA“Useful…right away.”

Scout developer, Eric Mill, click to visit Eric's JA Profile width=For developer Eric Mill, many goals came together in Scout. It’s a simple concept – a tool you might have expected to exist already. It helps public information flow freely – a key goal of Sunlight. And there is much more it can do. Mill says he’s proud of Scout because it’s “useful in an obvious way, right away.” Is it to you?

Journalism Accelerator

Last week we kicked off a new online conversation series by talking with Sunlight Foundation developer Eric Mill about Scout, a tool that alerts you to developments in legislation. This series is designed to help you learn more about resources you might not have had a chance to try yet, or share your insight into those that you know. To participate in or listen in on future conversations in this series, check back or follow @journaccel on Twitter to see what’s coming up.

Every couple of weeks we’ll choose from our growing collection of practical tools, reports, databases, blogs, platforms, new business models and more. JA “resource Q&As” go deeper into the tools and information featured on this site, bringing together both creators and those using the resource to help new iterations continue to align more closely with community interests and needs.

Scout tracks state and federal legislation, federal regulations and speeches in Congress on subjects you choose to follow. We picked Scout for our first resource Q&A because it’s easy to use and offers tangible results, such as cutting research time and delivering information you want quickly and directly. Based on comments in past JA discussions, including our forum on covering Election 2012, journalists value tools that are straightforward and practical. Read the rest of this entry →

Scout

June 27, 2012 in Craft, Experiments, Resources, Technology

[W]e’re proud to introduce Scout, a tool that allows you to create customized keyword alerts to notify you whenever issues you care about are included in legislative or regulatory actions. This project embodies our goals as an organization: anyone can now freely get the immediate access to information that previously required significant organizational capacity in your state capital or Washington, D.C.

Start by entering a keyword or phrase you would like to get updates about. Scout then saves your subscriptions and sends notifications via email or text message whenever the subscribed issue or bill is talked about in Congress, mentioned in the Federal Register or comes up in state legislation. Through your profile you can create as many alerts as you’d like and group them by tags with the additional option to make them public for others to follow your issues. Users can also complement a Scout subscription by adding optional external RSS feeds, such as press releases from a member of Congress or an issue-based blog.” Source: Sunlight Foundation

[W]e’d be remiss if we didn’t give credit to the Sunlight Foundation’s latest legislative language tool, Scout (http://scout.sunlightfoundation.com/), for alerting us to the existence of the original provision. You can use the tool to set up email alerts for key phrases or follow a particular bill. It covers Congress, regulations across the whole executive branch, and legislation in all 50 states.

We use Scout to get updates anytime Congress is considering expanding what can be withheld under the federal FOIA by setting up an alert that searches bills in Congress for the term “552 (b)” (thanks to a reform written into law last year, all new b3 statutes must cite FOIA – USC 552).” Source: OpenTheGovernment.org, via the Sunlight Foundation

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

October 18, 2011 in Policy, Resources

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press was created in 1970 at a time when the nation’s news media faced a wave of government subpoenas asking reporters to name confidential sources…

By the time executive director Lucy A. Dalglish took over in 2000, the Committee was poised to build on its considerable reputation. After the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, the Committee became the nation’s leading authority on efforts to prevent important information from reaching the public. Its “Homefront Confidential” reports and “Behind the Homefront” weblog are authoritative summaries of what has happened to the public’s right to know in the post-9/11 world.

In recent years, the Committee has taken the lead in building coalitions with other media-related organizations to protect reporters’ rights to keep sources confidential and to keep an eye on legislative efforts that impact the public’s right to know. It also has aggressively sought opportunities to speak out nationwide through amicus curiae briefs filed on behalf of journalists.” SourceThe Reporters Committee

National Freedom of Information Coalition

October 12, 2011 in Community, Craft, Policy, Resources

The National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC) is a nonpartisan network of state and regional open government groups and advocates headquartered at the Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia, Missouri. The organization’s ongoing work is supported, primarily, by a $2 million, three-year grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. NFOIC’s core work and mission includes public education and advocacy to foster government transparency, especially at the state and local levels. Key components of that work are grant making, convening and other services that help to strengthen and support affiliated state and regional groups. Another signature initiative, since the beginning of its current sustaining grant, is the administration of a legal fund to fuel and assist the pursuit of important FOI and access cases.

The NFOIC serves as the cornerstone of the movement to protect the public’s “right to know” through access to governmental records and meetings, particularly at the state and local levels. It also seeks to be an effective voice and champion for greater government transparency at all levels by educating about and defending against constant legislative and judicial threats that would erode hard-won rights of access and allow more governmental secrecy.” Source: Ken Bunting, Executive Director, NFOIC

 

OpenMissouri.org

October 7, 2011 in Craft, Education, Policy, Resources

[OpenMissouri.org] offers information on what data sets government agencies have. First of all, while governmental agencies collect a great deal of information, much of it is not available online. Nor is what is collected always publicized or well known.

This site lists what information is available. Think of it as a directory of information that’s collected by the state of Missouri.

OpenMissouri.org lists what data sets exists, what format the data set is in (i.e. Excel, Word document), the date the data was collected or time period which it covers, how often it is updated, any fixed cost for the database, the agency that collects the information, contact information and so forth.

Anyone can use this information, from citizens to journalists to businesses.

The site was officially launched in March 2011 and is the result of Herzog’s Donald W. Reynolds Fellowship. Herzog is a veteran investigative reporter, data journalist and educator. He teaches computer-assisted reporting (CAR) and data mapping to student and professional journalists.

The site includes an avenue to suggest additional data sets, comment on the sets and ways to use social media to share the information on the site. The site will eventually include a Sunshine letter generator to allow anyone to ask an agency to provide the information listed as available.” SourceColumbia Freelance Forum

Public Eye Northwest

April 14, 2011 in Craft, Experiments, Resources, Technology

Public Eye Northwest (PEN) is a Seattle-based non-profit that helps people and communities plug in to government information online so they can be informed, constructive participants in our democracy. As a news partner with The Seattle Times, our Public Data Ferret project captures and translates into plain language for readers a wide variety of important new government reports and information that would otherwise slip through the cracks. To accent government transparency and civic capacity building we also do teaching, journalism internships, outside publishing, social media, and informal consulting. Our work covers Seattle and other local and regional governments in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. We also selectively cover the Washington state and U.S. governments.” Source: Public Eye Northwest