Citizen Journalists and the California 11th

Dan Gillmor outlines an exciting project he’s spearheading in California’s most competitive race this year, for the 11th Congressional District seat held by Republican Richard Pombo.

First: Working with citizens in the district, we hope to create an online repository of every scrap of information about the candidates, issues and campaign. This will include videos of their public appearances, as well as all advertising they and their supporters or opponents produce. Then we’ll post everything on the Web in an easy-to-use format.

Second: We will pick an element of this data collection — the advertising — and add value through further reporting and analysis. We will further create conversation spaces on our site so the district’s residents can talk about the issues and other matters.

Third, and most important: We will use what we learn to create a template for the 2008 election and beyond.

It’s an interesting idea and one that offers promise for the future of citizen journalism. I’m less optimistic about it becoming an exemplar for other races, though, given that so few seats are actually competitive because of extreme Gerrymandering and the ability of incumbents to buy their re-election through constituent service and pork barrel projects on our dame.

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James Joyner
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James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Triumph says:

    It’s an interesting idea and one that offers promise for the future of citizen journalism.

    How is this different from what Josh Marshall has been doing at for the past several years?

  2. James Joyner says:

    I’m not familiar with Josh’s project beyond his blog writings and his sponsorship of the Muckraker site. This is a university-backed project with substantial funding and a non-partisan, comprehensive approach, though. I can’t imagine that Marshall would be unbiased: He’s a progressive activist.

  3. Dan Gillmor says:

    Triumph, the work Josh Marshall has been doing to involve citizen journalists in the reporting process is one of the inspirations for this and several other projects now in the works. The basic notion is that the community collectively knows — and can learn — much more than any news organization.

  4. I could think of at least one thing to add to this, voting record. And some added value would be to see the impact of the voting record.

    Take the new spending report website, tie the spending to the bills and then tie the candidates votes to the spending. To be fair, it should probably be done on at least three levels (congressional average, party average and candidate) so incumbents (who have a record) aren’t unduly penalized. Is your candidate above or below the averages for congress and their party. At least for financial conservative voters, this would be useful information. Note also that this would not just be the “pork for the district” (probably another useful data point), but also the logrolling for other’s pork.