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JA Resource Q&A: “See the documents that support fact-checks”

December 5, 2012 in Blog, Craft

EconocheckInvestigative Reporters and Editors teamed up with the Sunlight Foundation to create a guide to key national economic databases as a tool to fact-check political claims. Designed for journalists on deadline, useful and accessible to interested citizens, EconoCheck hopes to expand this service built initially for the 2012 election.

Journalism Accelerator

EconoCheck is a collection of economic data covering major issues frequently in the news. It’s designed to give reporters a quick way to understand the context of the data and a direct link to the datasets themselves.

EconoCheck was built with a simple premise: It can be challenging to verify economic claims. So the Sunlight Foundation teamed up with Investigative Reporters and Editors to offer direct links and helpful context to extract accurate information from key national economic datasets.

Data expert and journo prof David Herzog collaborated with Sunlight and IRE to launch EconoCheck for the 2012 election.

In the latest JA Resource Q&A, we talked with Herzog about how to report data effectively and how this tool can be useful outside the immediate demands of an election cycle. Read the rest of this entry →

Ten hot ethical challenges facing political reporting in 2012

September 28, 2012 in Blog, Craft

Gregory Korte

USA Today reporter Gregory Korte tells the crowd at the 2012 Poynter Kent State Media Ethics Workshop why he sometimes agrees to quote approval. Credit: Kent State University

Journalism Accelerator

“The values of journalism are under pressure.” With that remark, Kelly McBride of The Poynter Institute set the stage for “Dirty Politics,” the 2012 ethics workshop at Kent State University.

Here are ten hot ethical challenges in political coverage that emerged from the workshop. Join in the series of online conversations exploring ways to handle them. Bring your questions! Bring your experience! Help uncover ethical issues in political coverage that require clarity to provide the accurate reporting people deserve to inform their vote. Read the rest of this entry →

Project Vote Smart

December 5, 2011 in Community, Education, Resources

Since Project Vote Smart was inaugurated in 1992, we have offered special services and programs to journalists in order to enhance their coverage of local and federal candidates, legislation, and elections. Over the years, Vote Smart has partnered with hundreds of national, state, and local news organizations, all lending their support for our programs and comprehensive databases on more than 40,000 candidates and incumbents, used to help Americans Vote Smart.

Relevant Programs

Research Assistance
Call the Voter’s Research Hotline (1-888-VOTESMART) or email your questions to media@votesmart.org in order to access a free research and referral service for working journalists. Our researchers have access to an extensive library and databases of continually-updated information on elected officials, candidates, issues, special interest groups, and government activities, in order to help journalists with fact-checking and background information for their stories. Also view our web directory for a complete list of information found on our website.

Resources for Your Website
Ready-to-upload widgets, logos and banners make it easy for news organizations to customize Vote Smart’s information resources for their own communities and audiences. To create customized web pages and applications using all or selected parts of Vote Smart’s databases, news organizations can use our Application Programming Interface (API). The API will respond to simple requests for data, such as ‘get bio information for candidate Y’ and ‘get Votes for candidate X.’

The Political Courage Test
Each election cycle, news organizations support our programs by both informing their audience about Vote Smart’s candidate information, and by encouraging their candidates to provide relevant issue information through the Political Courage Test. Previous election-year Test results show, when local news organizations speak out in support of the Political Courage Test, candidates are more likely to provide answers. Candidates’ subsequent answers to Test questions are offered in advance of public release to collaborating news organizations, in order to enrich their campaign coverage. For more information email media@votesmart.org or call 406-859-8683.

The Political Courage Test is the organization’s flagship program, asking all candidates one central question: “Are you willing to tell citizens where you stand on the issues you may face if elected?” Candidates who reply “yes” are asked to address key issues known to be both consistently of top concern to the American people and also likely to come up in the next legislative session.

VoteEasy™
Utilizing thousands of hours of research and a vast collection of data assembled by Vote Smart researchers, this interactive tool allows the general public to quickly and easily see which presidential and congressional candidates align with their views on key issues such as abortion, immigration, and the environment. Use it now! News organizations are encouraged to link directly to VoteEasy™ by placing VoteEasy banners on their elections website page.

“The ultimate tool for pre-election research; [VoteEasy] does a great job of connecting you to political candidates that share your views in a fun, dynamic way.” – CommArts Annual

  • 2011 CommArts Interactive Annual Award Winner
  • 2011 Webvisionary Award Winner, “Visualize This” Category
  • Featured as part of the Museum of Modern Art’s “Talk to Me” exhibit” Source: Vote Smart

The Sunlight Foundation

December 5, 2011 in Experiments, Resources, Technology

In April 2006, the Sunlight Foundation formally opened its doors. Unlike other non-profit institutions based in Washington, DC, Sunlight sought, much like a tech start-up, to take an experimental approach to achieving its goals of making government data more available and accessible. Rather than focusing exclusively on policy work aimed at Washington insiders or grassroots engagement efforts aimed at ordinary Americans, Sunlight focused on three key priorities: digitizing data, building tools and the sites for easy access to it, and developing communities to support and help carry on its work. 

Sunlight’s main policy priority is to establish within government an a priori assumption that all public information should be made available online, in as close to real-time as possible…

Perhaps most importantly, at our core, Sunlight recognizes that no number of staff at Sunlight or organizations we fund will be able to accomplish the task of making government transparent and accountable alone. Consequently, Sunlight seeks, at every opportunity, to engage concerned citizens in the work of making Washington more transparent, accessible and accountable.” Source: Sunlight Foundation

Electronic Frontier Foundation

November 16, 2011 in Community, Policy, Resources, Technology

From the Internet to the iPod, technologies are transforming our society and empowering us as speakers, citizens, creators, and consumers. When our freedoms in the networked world come under attack, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is the first line of defense. EFF broke new ground when it was founded in 1990 — well before the Internet was on most people’s radar — and continues to confront cutting-edge issues defending free speech, privacy, innovation, and consumer rights today. From the beginning, EFF has championed the public interest in every critical battle affecting digital rights.

Blending the expertise of lawyers, policy analysts, activists, and technologists, EFF achieves significant victories on behalf of consumers and the general public. EFF fights for freedom primarily in the courts, bringing and defending lawsuits even when that means taking on the US government or large corporations. By mobilizing more than 61,000 concerned citizens through our Action Center, EFF beats back bad legislation. In addition to advising policymakers, EFF educates the press and public.” Source: Electronic Frontier 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

The National Institute on Money in State Politics: Follow the Money

October 3, 2011 in Community, Policy, Resources, Revenue

The National Institute on Money in State Politics (NIMSP) is the only nonpartisan, nonprofit organization revealing the influence of campaign money on state-level elections and public policy in all 50 states. Our comprehensive and verifiable campaign-finance database and relevant issue analyses are available for free through our Web site FollowTheMoney.org.

We encourage transparency and promote independent investigation of state-level campaign contributions by journalists, academic researchers, public-interest groups, government agencies, policymakers, students and the public at large.

Every two years, Institute data acquisition specialists collect, input and upload more than 90,000 contribution reports filed by 15,500 statewide, legislative and judicial candidates, 250 political party committees and 500 ballot measure committees in the 50 states. Researchers standardize donor names and code over $2 billion in contributions to 400 business categories and other interests. Programmers create open access to the records and attract thousands of users to the information. Staff also introduce users to the tools and resources and work with dozens of reporters to answer questions and provide custom data sets for their investigation.

The Institute receives its data in either electronic or paper files from the state disclosure agencies with which candidates must file their campaign finance reports. The Institute collects the information for all state-level candidates in the primary and general elections and then puts it into a database.” Sourcefollowthemoney.org

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