Friday, July 04, 2003

Government Undercover Uncovered

I don't ordinarily use my postings to announce links to specific websites, but I'll make an exception today.

MIT just opened its Open Government Information Awareness site. The site offers a remarkable amount of information about all three branches of the federal government. The amount of information now at your fingertips is simply daunting. By way of example (and certainly not in limitation), the site gives a list of contributors to the campaigns of members of Congress, a detailed listing of the expenditures of those members, and their financial disclosure filings.

Well designed sites such as this raise any number of questions. For instance, given the proliferation of bloggers of all stripes (both in topic choice and political viewpoint) and the ready accessibility of information, the market for commercial alternatives, newspapers for instance, would seem to be seriously eroding. The implications are huge.

In Baltimore, I grew up with three daily newspapers, The Sun (often known to residents as The Morning Sun), The Evening Sun, and The News American. We're now down to just The Sun. Since you can get The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal delivered to your home or office, The Sun becomes a secondary (or, given the web, a tertiary) source of national and international news. It is thus limited to being a primary source only of local news. And, even here, is challenged by The Washinton Post with respect to statewide coverage. Give The Sun the competition of a few good local bloggers and it's out of business. I suspect that the knowledge of its tenuous position by its reporters was one of the reasons they made significant concessions in their most recent contract negotiations with the paper.

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