SourceWatch:About Congresspedia

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Congresspedia is a collaboratively written "citizens' encyclopedia on Congress," designed to shine more light on the workings of the U.S. Congress. Congresspedia is part of SourceWatch, a similarly collaborative, wiki-based website documenting the people, organizations and issues shaping the public agenda. Congresspedia is a wiki, meaning that anyone, including you, can edit any article right now by clicking on the edit this page link that appears in every article in Congresspedia. As more and more people contribute to Congresspedia, the articles improve in quality and quantity.

If you're new to Congresspedia, a good place to start may be looking up your own members of Congress and reading up on them. You can also check out the Editor's Blog to find out what's new or, once you're comfortable with the format, begin contributing. You can also click on Congresspedia Help at any time on the navigation bar to your left or use the handy Congresspedia Help box on the right to explore deeper.

All of our articles are covered by the GNU Free Documentation License, to ensure that they can remain freely available forever. (More...)

Contents

Congresspedia's Owner/Operator

Congresspedia is a collaborative project of the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) and the Sunlight Foundation, which also own the server and domain names.

CMD is a non-profit, public interest organization that strengthens particpatory democracy by investigating and exposing spin and propaganda by promoting media literacy and citizen journalism and by sponsoring "open content" media that enable citizens from all walks of life to "be the media" and to participate in creating media content. Its projects include PR Watch, a quarterly investigative journal; and SourceWatch, a wiki-based investigative journalism resource that is the mother-wiki for Congresspedia.

The Sunlight Foundation is dedicated to promoting greater examination and awareness of the inner workings of Congress through a combination of grant-making and programs that will stimulate more investigative attention to the institution and its members. It does so by producing analyses, studies, and information about lawmakers, legislation and lobbyists; providing new tools and training to make essential data more easily accessible to reporters and citizen activists; creating an interactive conversation with the public about how Congress does its work; providing grants to writers, media outlets, bloggers and software developers; and establishing awards and incentive grants for investigative reporting on Congress. Sunlight's goal is to change the relationship between representatives and voters, producing greater transparency in how elected officials go about their business and allowing voters to hold their lawmakers accountable for what they do in Washington.

However, the articles in Congresspedia are released by their authors under the GNU Free Documentation License, so the articles are open content. Therefore, it cannot be said that Congresspedia is "owned" by Sunlight and CMD. See the SourceWatch articles on Copyrights and the Readers' FAQ for information on how you can use SourceWatch content. (Please note, however, that other sections of the PR Watch and Sunlight web sites remain copyrighted property of CMD and Sunlight, respectively, and should not be used without permission.)

Purpose

The purpose of Congresspedia is to give citizens and media the ability to root out corruption and bring transparency to the system. It is based on a set of basic ideas:

  • A well-informed public is an essential ingredient of a healthy democracy.
  • Most people feel they’re not being well represented in Washington, while “special interests” are. But few people could name the interest groups that support and lobby their own representatives.
  • The cost of winning election to Congress has become so expensive that most members raise funds year-round and work hard to maintain good relations not just with their constituents back home, but also with the “cash constituents” who supply the money for their campaigns. We all need to know who those cash constituents are.
  • Despite the constant flow of news from Washington, much of what happens in the halls of Congress is not widely known outside the Washington beltway – and plenty of insiders like it that way.

Congresspedia is designed to be a place where you can get a closer look at representatives in Congress and a better understanding of the environment in which they work. Because this site is a wiki, it’s open for anyone to edit or add new information, so you can share what you know with everyone else. To help ensure fairness and accuracy, Congresspedia is overseen by a paid editor.

How Congresspedia Works

Congresspedia is an Edited Wiki

A wiki <wick-ee> is a type of website that allows anyone visiting the site to add, to remove, or otherwise to edit all content, very quickly and easily. This ease of interaction and operation makes a wiki an effective tool for collaborative writing.

Congresspedia started in April 2006 with articles on each senator and representative, but this was intended to be only the foundation upon which citizens would build a vast knowledge base on Congress. Visitors to Congresspedia are encouraged to contribute to existing articles, create new ones, and - if they think something that appears here is unfair or inaccurate - edit the contributions of others.

Congresspedia is a subset of the SourceWatch wiki, which both operate similarly to Wikipedia, the best-known wiki (More...). Congresspedia and Sourcewatch are different, however, in that they have paid editors. The editors' job is not to monitor and control all of the daily progress on the wiki, but to be a resource to the users, an arbiter of disputes and serve as one of the many fact-checkers and editors on the site (the users are the others).

SourceWatch can be seen as complementary to Wikipedia. Since both use the Free Documentation License for articles, parts of them can be easily exchanged, when beneficial.

Fair, Non-Partisan and Accurate

Congresspedia is intended to be a resource for the general public, regardless of their political affiliation. Wikis that deal with political content inevitably run into problems with users trying to manipulate them to fit their point of view (Congressional staffers deleting offensive statements their bosses made from Wikipedia being the memorable example).

Hosting such propaganda for or against a public official is in contravention of the purpose of Congresspedia and, in order to keep this a resource for the general public, CMD and Sunlight will stick to a policy of "fairness and accuracy" as well as non-partisanship. Articles written for the Congresspedia should strive for a high standard, by summarizing all evidence and points of view on a subject accurately and thoroughly. Above all, contributions should consist solely of documented facts that are well referenced. Details on this policy can be found in the official Congresspedia Article Guidelines and SourceWatch Policies pages.

Congresspedia is also not the place to air opinions on the merits of the candidacy of any officeholder running for reelection or the candidacy of any challenger (in part because that would violate the non-profit tax status of CMD and Sunlight). Therefore, neither CMD nor Sunlight endorse any candidates for office. (General disclaimer) All contributions from CMD and Sunlight staff, as well as any editing done by them, will follow this philosophy. Expect your contributions to be edited or deleted if they are not in line with these policies. (More on the Congresspedia/Sourcewatch Editorial Policy...)

Congresspedia Requires Registration to Contribute

As part of the effort to combat vandalism, Congresspedia and SourceWatch require users to register before they contribute (but not to read!). We wish it could be otherwise, but the content of Congresspedia is too prone to controversy and partisans have a record of vandalizing wikis for their own ends. You can register here.

Congresspedia's Relationship to SourceWatch

Congresspedia is a subset of SourceWatch, but each has its own editor. The policies and guidelines of SourceWatch generally apply to Congresspedia, with the most substantive differences found in the respective Congresspedia Article Guidelines and SourceWatch Article Guidelines pages. Congresspedia is a joint project of CMD and Sunlight, but SourceWatch is operated exclusively by CMD.

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Complaints can be sent to the Congresspedia editor at Conor AT Congresspedia.org. But why not try to fix inaccurate or partisan content yourself? Start here: SourceWatch: How Fix An Error

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