Why You Should Link to Legislation

(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…

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Jay Rosen on \”The People Formerly Known as the Audience\”

(NOTE: I’m cross-posting this from Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits weblog, which is read mainly by mainstream journalists. But I think Jeffrey Treem — noted below — is right: this topic deserves examination beyond newsrooms.)

On June 27, NYU professor Jay Rosen published a bluntly worded clarion call to mainstream media organizations: The People Formerly Known as the Audience

Here’s my favorite quote…

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I, Reporter is Fixed Now

Wow, that was fast! Earlier today I was shocked to discover that my domain ireporter.org, home of my blog I, Reporter, was being occupied by a spam site. I went right over to my domain registrar, Simple URL, and was able to renew the domain.

It was totally my fault the domain expired on June 18. I switched to Gmail several months ago, but forgot to whitelist the support e-mail address from Simple URL. Consequently, several reminders that my domain was expiring went right into my spam folder. Oops!

Anyway, I was able to renew that domain (and several others) today. The folks at Simple URL managed to immediately restore service sot that ireporter.org now points to my weblog.

Many thanks for the fast action from Simple URL!

The Downside of WordPress: PHP and Crackers

I just had a very interesting discussion with my husband, Tom Vilot, who used to host Contentious on his server.

Last December he started having some mysterious problems with his server. Random files (including most of my stored e-mail) were disappearing. Because of this, I moved Contentious to a new host, and also started using Gmail for my primary e-mail access and storage.

This weekend, as he worked to sort out a difficult upgrade to WordPress on my new host, he figured out what went so awry in December.

In a nutshell, WordPress made his server vulnerable to an attack by a cracker

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My Must-Listen Podcasts

I subscribe to a great many podcasts. However, I’ve noticed over time that there are a few I absolutely must listen to as soon as (or within a day of) when they come out.

Interestingly, as I look at my must-listen preferences, they tell me interesting things about the kind of mobile audio information I feels works best in the context of my life. Generally I don’t feel an urgent desire to listen to the same kinds of content that I read.

I’m not quite sure what to make of all this, but I thought I’d put it out there as food for thought. Here are my must-listen podcasts, and what I find compelling about them. I’d love to hear your list, too…

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Join me in Seattle this Wednesday!

UPDATE JUNE 7: This get-together is tonight! I’ll be there from 6-8 pm Pacific, Look for the “Contentious” sign. And, in case it matters to you, the location (Fado Irish Pub, 801 1st Ave., Seattle, WA) does have free open wireless. I’m actually going to head down early to get a good table. Hope to see some of my Seattle-area readers and colleagues there!

Greetings, all!

I know I’ve been silent lately – I’ve been overwhelmed with work and business-related travel for the last couple of weeks. Most of my blogging has been happening on Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits, where I continue as editor.

I’m spending this week in Seattle, WA – where I’m working and spending some time with my husband Tom Vilot, who’s on extended contract to a major tech e-commerce company here.

I’ll get back to regular blogging on Contentious and The Right Conversation soon… But in the meantime, I’d like to invite all my Seattle-area readers and blogging/media colleagues to an informal get-together on Wednesday evening, June 7.

Here are the details…

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Killing intrusive ads with Firefox extensions

I’m not anti-advertising, but I am anti-intrusion. Unfortunately, so much online advertising is intrusive. It’s not just a matter of visual distraction or clutter. It’s also about a profound lack of relevance in many cases.

As far as I’m concerned, I’m willing to peruse text-based ads as long as they are relevant to the content in some clear way and also clearly separated from the editorial content. Anything other kind of online advertising diminishes my experience.

Yesterday and today at Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits blog, I’ve posted a couple of items about some nifty extensions to the open-source web browser Firefox that allow me to kill the types of online advertising that bug me most. Here’s a quick recap of those tools…

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Why News Needs More Collaboration

A couple of days ago, on Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits weblog, I posted an item that attracted an interesting and varied discussion: Has News Competition Outlived Its Usefulness? (Check out the comments to that post.)

I was deliberately provocative in that article, and now I’m moving that discussion over to this weblog so I can be a bit more, eh, “Contentious” about it. ;-)

Right now, commercial news organizations – and the field of traditional, professional journalism they largely support – have good reason to worry about their very survival.

Personally, I want traditional journalism to survive. As much as I’m a champion of alternative approaches to news and media (such as citizen journalism and conversational media), I also believe that if ethical, trained, motivated, skilled, professional journalists could no longer make a living we’d all be in a ton of trouble.

So I think there’s room – and a strong need – for both approaches to news. In fact, they’re deeply complementary. But the way most news organizations are heading, we might actually end up killing a profession I value.

Part of how we can save traditional journalism, I suspect, lies in overcoming the deeply competitive culture of newsrooms – at least enough to allow for more constructive collaboration between news organizations.

Here’s what I mean…

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