World Wide Wonks

By Puchalla, Debra | American Journalism Review, May 2000 | Go to article overview

World Wide Wonks


Puchalla, Debra, American Journalism Review


In the old days, say, back in 1996 when Bill Clinton beat Bob Dole, only the most high-tech political junkies sat, transfixed, trolling the Net for the latest poll data or for the newest round of mudslinging.

But then came Matt Drudge and that intern, and every wonk in every cubicle from the Capitol steps to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue became glued to CNN.com. Or MSNBC.com. Or InsertMajorMediaOutlet.com. Not solely for the dirt, but for breaking news and insightful analysis, too. And that was just the beginning.

Old media and new have spawned a host of political sites beyond the usual suspects. Ranging from the upstanding to the outstanding and, of course, the grandstanding, they provide all kinds of campaign 411. Here are a few for the experimenter, the social user and even the political news addict.

POLITICAL PRIMERS

www.govote.com

Perfect for the political newbie, this site, which calls itself "America's Political Portal," rounds up the issues and contact information for senators and representatives. You can also register to vote through the site. Highlight: Visitors who don't know whether they lean left, right or somewhere on the waffle iron can take a 20-question quiz and get matched up with the candidates whose views most closely mirror theirs. Part of speakout.com, the nonpartisan site is supported by venture capital companies, and has partnerships with media outlets such as Salon and activist groups from the Air Force Association to the Young Hispanic Republican Association.

www.freedomchannel.com

Like govote.com, much of this site is about public awareness (e.g., voter registration). But it's tailored more to the TV generation, boasting an extensive video vault--video on demand--of the candidates on the issues, the candidates going head-to-head, the candidates in their campaign spots. All for you to view whenever you want. The nonprofit, nonpartisan site is sponsored by a slew of foundations--including the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Freedom Forum, Century Foundation, Markle Foundation, Carnegie Corp. of New York.

www.vote-smart.org

A virtual library of political info about more than 10,000 politicians, from members of Congress to governors and state legislators. Look for voting records, campaign-finance information, positions on issues. This site's supported by the Ford Foundation, Carnegie Corp., Pew Charitable Trusts, Revson, more than 3,000 libraries and news outlets including CNN.

COVERAGE, COVERAGE, COVERAGE

For headlines, chats, op/ed pieces, audio and worthwhile basic coverage click on:

abcnews.go.com/sections/politics cnn.com/allpolitics www.npr.org/news/national/election2000 www.msnbc.com/news/politics

FOR THE DIEHARDS

politicalinsider.com

This site's worth frequent visits for its "Daily Briefing" (which can be e-mailed to you) as well as its roundup of political news, culled from more than 1,500 sites "every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day," as the site claims. The sources? The Associated Press, naturally, and Reuters and CNN. Less predictably: Salon, Newsweek and the Hindustan Times in New Delhi. Not exactly three news outlets oft mentioned in the same breath. Run by two Harvard grads, the site's a sort of outlet mall of political news: links to columnists, links to jokes, links to gossip and the somewhat less compelling doses of "this day in political history."

hotlinescoop.com

Brought to you free from the folks at the pricey but in-the-know National Journal, the tantalizing bits here will whet any political reporter's appetite. Basically a rundown of the wonk-world news. But more--Hotline seems to get the interesting, the buzz-worthy, the notable and indeed the quotable. Two dispatches daily, a.m. and p.m. Check out both. The site's partnered with AOL.

politics.com

Smart, informative, thorough. Describes candidates (current and all those dropouts) and their poll positions and fundraising tallies. …

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