Tracking Congress with an Afternoon Fax
Chang, Elizabeth, Washington Journalism Review
Word now spreads faster through the Capitol Hill grapevine thanks to CongressDaily, a weekday fax that tracks legislation and gossip for infomaniacal politicians and lobbyists. Launched 18 months ago, the newsletter has attracted 642 subscribers with its up-to-the-minute, inside details that can affect strategy on and off the Hill.
A staff of four correspondents, two editors and as many as 40 stringers produce 250- to 400-word items about the day's events, often unsourced, for each five-page issue. Brooks Boliek, who until recently covered congressional leaders, likened his job to a daily race that begins when the press gallery opens at 9 a.m. and runs until the newsletter's 2:45 p.m. deadline. He says he spent much of his time "running from a lot of hallways to a lot of hallways, waiting outside closed doors for people to finish cutting deals."
CongressDaily has proven more popular than expected with members of the House and Senate, who account for 40 percent of subscribers. (Other readers include lobbyists and special interest groups.)
Jeff Biggs, press secretary for House Speaker Thomas Foley, says his office subscribes not only because his boss is mentioned often but because the newsletter offers a quick update on the day's issues. In the office of Wyoming Republican Alan Simpson, CongressDaily ends up on the senator's desk after being passed around. "It gives us a chance to focus," says press secretary Stan Cannon. "On any given day there can be as many as five press conferences and numerous committee hearings and then floor action--it's a real three-ring circus. …