Friday, December 07, 2007

Congressional hearings for the people

One of the hardest things to get out of Congress has always been the actual transcripts of hearings. Although hearings are available from the GPO (Appropriations from 1998 forward, more from 10th Congress forward), you needed to subscribe to a transcript service to get recent transcripts, too expensive for papers that needed hearing texts only occasionally. Ordering them took too long if you needed it for deadline, and sometimes it took months for the transcripts to be published. With the arrival of Thomas and other Congressional Web services it seemed there was a chance transcripts would be available, but that promise was far.

Now Dan Froomkin reports at Nieman Watchdog that there is help on the way, for everybody: Citizen Journalists, Start Your Engines! The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has started posting preliminary transcripts of many of its hearings on its Web site. Says Froomkin:
One of the dirty little secrets of Washington journalism is that very few news organizations assign staff to cover anything but the most high-profile hearings and debates on Capitol Hill. As a result, few if any reporters show up for oversight hearings – and those who do tend to leave early.
...This is a great opportunity for citizen journalists to become Washington reporters. If you find some overlooked news in these or other transcripts, e-mail me your blog posts or your findings, and I’ll try to make sure that they aren’t overlooked as well.



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