Reporting Innovations


One day I am going to have to actually meet Howard Weaver. He’s been on the edge of my life for years now — he was money and politics database expert Larry Makinson’s editor at the Anchorage Daily News in the early- 80’s. Weaver is clearly an insightful guy for an MSM editor. Makinson was working with graphs and charts back then to display the relative influence of political donors in Alaska. (Maybe if Makinson and Weaver hadn’t left that paper someone would have followed up on their initial leads. Veco was the top political donor there in 1984.) Weaver encouraged Makinson to create the first Open Secrets (for Alaska) and they teamed up together for the second edition. (BTW The Anchorage Daily News won two Pulitzer Prizes for Public Service while Howard was editor there. Makinson went on to give his talents to the Center for Responsive Politics for many years.)

Now Weaver, as one of the top executives at McClatchy, has picked up an idea that Jeff Jarvis floated to create a Google map with citizens reporting, identifing and cataloguing infrastructure problems. The Merced Sun Star launched it in couple of hours. Very neat.

I wonder what the analogue to what might be in our world of Congressional activity? A Google map of earmarks? A map that reflects where lawmakers have their fundraising events with lobbyists? (Yes, still permitted.) A Gawker Stalker effort that tracks lobbyists visits in the halls of Congress? A map that shows the land deals lawmakers have that also shows earmarks from the same members? A map of lawmakers daily schedules, each point representing the location of the group/business/person the lawmaker is meeting with (not the location of the meeting). More ideas?