Until recently, there had been no written transcripts of North Carolina General Assembly sessions. I got involved with the Reese News Lab at the UNC Journalism School in order to change that, taking a 2 month-long internship in Chapel Hill, NC. I was one of three individuals who launched the webapp, adding features and also selling subscriptions to the service.
Months before May 2014, a group of student journalists in Reese News had worked to created a searchable audio archive and alert system for N.C. General Assembly floor sessions and committee meetings. Using transcription services, Capitol Hound makes hours of audio recordings from the General Assembly searchable by quote, allowing users to search for any phrase that may have been spoken in a General Assembly session. Capitol Hound sends user-identified keyword alerts when a user’s selected subject is mentioned in the legislature.
What does this mean? Something like the Motorcycle Abortion Bill probably would have been detected as a heavily earmarked bill, far before it was actually passed. This searchable database is key for moving powerful state governments into the 21st century in terms of transparency and freedom of information.
Written materials on the internship, Capitol Hound and government transparency:
An Open Letter to the General Assembly – collaborative labor of love between myself, Kris Kroi, and Sam Harrington.