Memo to Virginia journalists.

Please start including bill numbers in your coverage of legislation. If you did that, then Richmond Sunlight would promote your coverage of that bill, prominently, on that bill’s page, as well as on pages about related bills. Media coverage is the only major component of the information ecosystem that simply can’t be incorporated into this legislative data structure, because the lack of bill numbers makes it impossible to know programmatically what bill that an article is about. For bonus points, you could include a listing of bill numbers within the article as Dublin Core metadata at the head of the HTML, which would make the task easier still.

Also, of course, then citizens can look up the bill and learn more about it. Without that, your average citizen is probably out of luck. Writing about a bill without giving the number is like writing about a great new restaurant without bothering to mention its name.

I understand that this isn’t likely to happen with this session, but it sure would be great if it could happen by next year. Need some help? Have your programmer get in touch with me and I’m glad to take some time to talk this through.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

5 replies on “Memo to Virginia journalists.”

  1. Yes! Please! I am often frustrated when I read about an interesting piece of legislation, but then have no good way to read the actual legislation itself. It’s amazing how often this happens.

  2. I’m all in favor but I don’t hold out a lot of hope; aside from the fact that journalists are usually pretty crap about citing base-level items there’s also the fact of how they tend to work. Modern journalism education strongly emphasizes the quote & human source above what they call “primary sources” like their own personal observation.

    There’s also a strong bias against a journalist doing their own analysis, which would be the only reason they’d examine a bill themselves. From their deadline-driven perspective there’s not a lot of reason to provide this kind of citation. I hope the prospect of more attention via links from the Richmond Sunlight will be enough but I’m skeptical.

  3. As an added bonus reporters this will help you get higher hit counts and that’s a good thing for most of you. Such an easy way to help drive traffic to your site and the early adopters will have a chance grab a very influential group of readers that many advertisers prize.

    Oh and what Waldo said

  4. Agreed. I knew it was only a matter of time before I saw a bill about the VA:OOS ratio at public universities. When the first peep about one showed up on Twitter, I couldn’t find the bill until I went to the Richmond Sunlight page of the representative who was the likely sponsor.

  5. I always try to include the bill number, for the reasons cited. Editors have a tendency to take this information out because they don’t think it’s important to the general reader.

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