Let's start by being transparent. This site is just starting -- it's the beta version, if you like, and I'm hoping that you will help me build it, that you will determine what it becomes.
My plan is to create a place where knowledgeable and interested people can come to get a quick, useful read on what's happening in Washington every day, where they can trust that the information is real, accurate and usable, and where they can offer their own insights and guidance to shape the reporting.
Starting off, it will mostly be a newsletter-like post in the morning that offers an informed lay of the land, with some fuller stories along the way, and links to useful information. Here's the first one: the new office and phone numbers of the 116th Congress.
Eventually, there will be much more. Certain to be here are news stories, and photos, audio and video, available to download. For much of the rest, I want you to help decide. What do you need to know about Capitol Hill and Washington? What would be useful to you? Some elements I've been kicking around include tools to make it easy to act on the information presented, perhaps by letting readers contact the sources of information or the lawmakers, lobbyists and activists involved. There could be all sorts of repositories of data. I'm open to ideas.
One element that is certain to be included -- it's in the name, after all -- is a forum. Exactly what sort is an open question, but I want a debate space where people can become members and be involved in the site and the process. I want to hear from knowledgeable readers so that they can influence what gets coverage, what gets investigated, and what sorts of stories get the greatest focus. I want the readers to be the co-assignment editors and the quality control.
This gets me back to the idea of transparency that I started with. I realize that launching an endeavor without a fully formed product presented on day one might not impress everyone, to say the least. But I believe that perhaps the greatest challenge facing the news business, and by extension our democratic system, is the disregard that so many people hold for the media, and the lack of trust they feel for so many practitioners who must draw eyeballs and win clicks by dangling the latest shiny object. I believe the most important factor to counter the cries of "fake news" that ring everywhere these days is building trust.
I want a site where people not only see the process, but can be part of it. There's a lot that I've considered and researched that I have not made part of this site yet because I want anyone who looks to see it from the beginning. A fully formed -- and opaque -- news operation is not being dropped fully formed from the venture capitalist skies. It's being dropped now, unmolded clay, with the most basic design I could find, and placeholder functions. It's fully open to suggestion.
So please join me, and help build something vital.
Memberships will be offered at some point, and I'll probably add some sort of advertising to fund the work. But for now, just reach out to me the semi-old-fashioned way through email, at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can chat that way, or I can invite you to a Slack channel. If you require anonymity, make sure you use personal email, not work, and I can guide you through a pretty good process.