(NOTE: I published a slightly different version of this article today in Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits.)
News organizations, bloggers, advocacy groups, think tanks, and others routinely cover the legislative process – especially about the real or potential effects of bills and laws. In most cases the full text of those bills and laws, and information about their status, are available online.
Why, then, is it so rare to see an online news story that links to the bill or law being covered? Or that at least cites the reference number so people can look up and follow the legislation on their own? It just seems odd to me that many organizations (especially news media) routinely cite the party and state/district of legislators, but omit brief citations and links to the products of their efforts on our behalf.
For example, today’s Washington Post includes this story: House Passes Bill Ending Ban On Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling. Nowhere does that story cite the specific bill number, let alone link to the bill text and info via the Library of
Congress’ Thomas online database. (For the record, the bill discussed in that story is H.R. 4761. There – see how easy and brief that was?)
Similarly, an AP story which ran today on Philly.com reports on the Penn. General Assembly: “School districts would have to conduct exit interviews with students who are dropping out or withdrawing from school, or who have accumulated more than 10 unexcused absences, under a bill passed by the House 164-28 and sent to the Senate.” Which bill? Hey, statehouse legislative info is online too! I found this bill: HB 1729.
Here’s why this common oversight bugs me so much…