Sunlight’s Politiwidgets Makes Your Reporting Brighter. One Widget at a Time.

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Everyone’s writing about politicians these days — especially these days — so Sunlight’s developed a tool to help enliven that article, blog post or comment. Our thinking was that when you write about a member of Congress, you should be able to insert contextual information about who funds their campaigns, who gets their earmarks and the like, into a blog post or news article as easily as you can embed a YouTube video. We designed our Politiwidgets to do just that.

We have ten free Politiwidgets that can help you display lawmakers’ top campaign contributors, earmarks they have requested, their voting record on any current bill, where their fundraisers are, etc. They are all based on data from groups like the Center for Responsive Politics so you know they’re factually correct and contain the very latest information. They’re completely customizable too so you can selected the size and color or each widget. Plus, you never have to refresh the data. We do that for you on the ‘backend’ of your widget daily. If you’re writing about any member of Congress, instead of just putting up the same-old picture of a Representative or Senator, you can use a Politiwidget to give your readers an interactive way to learn more about them, and perhaps do some of their own investigative work.

When the Sunlight Labs created these Politiwidgets, we were challenged by our funder, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, to ensure that 50 websites used them by Election Day (November 2, 2010). Today we have 106 sites that have implemented Politwidgets into their reporting routine!

Sites have used Politiwidgets as a way to easily show information about incumbents in their area such as the Afro-American Newspaper, a news provider in the Baltimore/DC region, on its Afro’s Election 2010 page. WNYMedia used three of our geo-location Politiwidgets on the right rail of their site to show anyone looking at their site their members of Congress’ earmarks, contributions and contact information.

In a nutshell, no matter how the widgets have been used, we have doubled our goal of placements for this election cycle. But we feel that we aren’t quite done! Sunlight wants our Politiwidgets to become the part of every political blogger’s and reporter’s routine. So go and get more. Really try to work them into your sites in the last few days before the election.

And after this election is completed, we’ll be preparing the Politiwidgets for the 112th Congress. We’d love to know what other information you’d like to see. We promise it will be as timely and as accurate as possible.

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