Show Us the Real Story

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Nick Penniman, my friend and former colleague, has launched American News Project, a promising venture that’s moving into the online video journalism world.

During the development of this project, Nick and I discussed how important it is to focus on the frequently overlooked stories and to show up, ready to film, where "traditional" journalists fear to tread — covering Washington’s behind the scenes decision/deal-making. Think of all the congressional hearings that aren’t front page news, but should be, or advisory council meetings where corporate lobbyists advise policy makers out of the public’s view. Lobbyists on their way into and out of the Capitol should be buttonholed: who are you meeting with and what did you talk about (maybe a regular feature?); lawmakers should be asked why they voted ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ on legislation as they leave the floor after a vote or what the last favor was they did for a "constituent." (Surely they would admit to some.) Freshman lawmakers should be interviewed about their vision for serving their constituents and their constituents should be interviewed to see if their expectations are the same.

The American News Project can make the information in databases come alive. Imagine looking at the wealthiest or poorest members of Congress and then showing us the homes in which lawmakers. Put some faces to the names of those who’ve been through the revolving door from the Capitol to K Street. Let’s see footage of the private jets that ferry some members (still) in and out of Washington. Give some texture to earmarks with footage of the roads and bridges widened or bombers being built. Show us what our money buys.

Think disruptive reporting.

ANP is asking visitors to their Web site to partner with them to send them story ideas, tips and video clips and potentially to participate in the reporting too.

Check them out.

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