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What is Progressive Congress News?

December 8, 2010

Update: Our recent trip to D.C. has proven very fruitful. PCN’s product is already reaching Senate Progressives as well as the House, and will soon be in the hands of the entire Democratic side of the aisle, both House and Senate. We will soon be rolling out new feeds including Science/Technology, Women’s Issue, Veterans’ Issues, Seniors, Agriculture & Food…and more. It’s an exciting time for us and I am recruiting both for these new policy areas, and for additional depth in our existing feeds. Read on…

For those who do not know, one of the projects with which I’m involved is Progressive Congress News. We are a fledgling part of Progressive Congress, a non-profit organization which exists to connect the progressive movement, ideas and Congress, specifically the House Congressional Progressive Caucus.  I act as Lead Economy Editor, web advisor, Volunteer Coordinator, and Managing Director.

We’re ramping up to solidify our operation and expand our reach and influence. I am recruiting for editors and curators, and we are also on the look-out for developers. If interested, please contact me via my Twitter account: @SandiBehrns, rather than through this blog.

Still asking “what is Progressive Congress News”? Here’s a quick rundown from a recent grant application:

Progressive Congress News utilizes existing online tools, as well as internally-developed software, to create an aggregated news feed for Congressional staff, activists, and politically-engaged citizens.

Designed as a means of filtering the dizzying array of daily media, we aim to deliver only relevant, reliable and, most importantly, useful policy news. Information overload wastes our time and attention; this is especially true for typically overwhelmed Congressional staffers. Too often, this leads to “echo chambers” which make it difficult to get unbiased news and analysis. Progressive Congress News delivers much needed policy content, without the fluff. The project also allows experienced citizen journalists to affect the information flowing to Congressional staff.

The core of our system is a team of two dozen editors and curators who monitor & parse online sources for reputable, insightful content in ten policy areas:   EnergyEnvironmentEconomyEducationImmigrationLGBT issuesHealthcareTransportationLabor, and National Security.  Using ProgressivePST’s perl based Twitter software, this content is posted via public Twitter accounts, accessible to all. Each policy area has a separate account, so users get only the news relevant to their interests and needs. These feeds are used to generate digital daily “newspapers ” through the tool.

In addition to the curated policy news feeds, NetVibes custom dashboards have been purposed as “news rooms” with modules for news, opinion, “buzz” and opposition views. Finally, each day’s content is reviewed for top stories and email blasts are sent to subscribers every morning via SalsaLabs.

We’ve recently completed an agreement with VisibleVote, a mobile application which provides an easy means for subscribers to track their representatives’ votes and legislative progress. This agreement puts our news feeds for the ten policy domains into the hands of their 200,000 mobile subscribers. The range of methods used for dissemination of Progressive Congress News offers users the ability to get as much or as little information as they prefer, as well as opportunity for engagement.

The daily email blasts are filtered down to only the most important stories of the day, and are specifically tailored for busy Congressional staff.  The PCN news rooms display the sources of all news, views, opposition and buzz, as well as listing all of those involved in the news selection process. This transparent newsroom reacts quickly to emerging stories and invites participation of anyone with a Twitter account.

Through contacts with Congressional chiefs of staff and communications directors, as well as online surveys of all subscribers, we continually solicit feedback to improve our content and process.

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