[Air-L] Just launched: The "Ask Your Lawmaker" widget

Deborah Elizabeth Finn deborah_elizabeth_finn at post.harvard.edu
Sun Jan 11 12:23:19 PST 2009

Dear AIR Colleagues,

Before I start bubbling over with enthusiasm, I need to make a full
disclosure:  I serve as a paid consultant to Capitol News Connection
(CNC).  Urging people to use the Ask Your Lawmaker widget
<http://askyourlawmaker.org/widget> is part of what I'm paid to do.

That said, I thought that some of you would be interested in tracking
or studying this geeky yet populist approach to strengthening
participatory democracy.

Capitol News Connection is a nonpartisan, nonprofit journalism
organization that is based in Washington, DC.  Ask Your Lawmaker (AYL)
is one of their online initiatives; constituents from any district in
the U.S. can pose questions to their senators and representatives by
posting them to the web site, and then anyone who is interested in
legislation and policy can go to the site and vote for the questions
that he or she deems most crucial.  The CNC reporters are conveniently
headquartered on Capitol Hill, and when a question garners enough
votes, they go out and ask the legislator(s) to which it is addressed.
The responses are recorded in broadcast-quality audio, and posted to
the web.  They are also made available to local public radio stations,
which are often in need of quotes they can use back in the home
district when they report on national issues.

Ask Your Lawmaker is now making a laudable move into Web 2.0 territory
by offering nonprofit advocacy groups and individual activists a free
widget that they can use on their own web sites or Facebook pages.
It's a way for advocates to voice their concerns, and to engage their
stakeholders in pressing legislators to address an issue,

This widget is only the beginning. Capitol News Connection is working
on many more ideas for making national news coverage more
participatory and holding legislators more accountable to their
constituents.  In a time when every community activist can also be a
citizen journalist, and RSS feeds are making it easy to syndicate news
selectively, Ask Your Lawmaker is poised to become a provider of
tailor-made news streams for any advocacy group.

Best regards from Deborah

P.S.  This post to AIR-L is based on a blog article that I wrote.  You
can see the article (and the AYL widget that I created for myself) at

Deborah Elizabeth Finn
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
deborah_elizabeth_finn at post.harvard.edu
Skype:  Deborah909
Twitter: Deborah909
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/deborah909

"Nothing softeneth the Arrogance of our Nature
like a Mixture of some Frailties. It is by them
that we are best told, that we must not strike
too hard upon others....They pull our Rage by
the sleeve and whisper Gentleness to us in our
-George Savile (1633 - 1695)

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