SourceWatch:Congresspedia article guidelines
Policies and Guidelines
Research and referencing
The purpose of Congresspedia is to give citizens and media the ability to root out corruption and bring transparency to the system. It is intended to be a non-partisan, fair and accurate resource for the general public.
The guidelines below indicate the types of information that are appropriate for inclusion in Congresspedia articles. Congresspedia started in April 2006 with articles on each Senator and Representative, but this was intended to only be the foundation upon which citizens would build a vast knowledge base on Congress. Visitors to Congresspedia are encouraged to contribute to existing articles, create new ones, and - if they think something that appears here is unfair or inaccurate - edit the contributions of others. That's the beauty of collaborative research!
- 1 Types of Congresspedia articles
- 2 Which kinds of material are appropriate for Congresspedia
- 2.1 Opinion vs. documented facts
- 2.2 Not appropriate: opinions on the merits of candidacies
- 2.3 Documenting commentary on members of Congress: when to add material to SourceWatch instead of Congresspedia
- 2.4 Referencing partisan or biased sources
- 2.5 Report only material relevant to the public lives of political figures
Types of Congresspedia articles
Virtually any subject related to Congress is appropriate for a Congresspedia article. For tips on how to build quality Congresspedia articles, see the guideline article "How to build a good Congresspedia page".
Which kinds of material are appropriate for Congresspedia
All material contributed to Congresspedia should follow the guideline of being "fair, non-partisan and accurate." As a "citizen's encyclopedia of Congress," contributors should think of their additions as being reports of facts, preferably written in news style. (See our Manual of Style for more...) Try to present all sides of an argument, be accurate and give no special treatment to members of Congress because of their political affiliation.
Opinion vs. documented facts
All material should also be documented, referenced facts, not opinions. Characterizations should be avoided unless the evidence for such a characterization is basically beyond argument and even in that case should be narrowly restricted - no sweeping judgments, please. Please try to keep rhetoric to a minimum, avoid speculation, and focus on providing verifiable facts. Each factual assertion should be accompanied by a link to an external source (or an already-sourced Congresspedia or SourceWatch article). Assertions that are not referenced (and thus verifiable by other users) will be deleted by the editors or other users. For a more detailed discussion of referencing in Congresspedia and SourceWatch, see SourceWatch:References for specific guidance on how to reference material.
If you hit on an idea that you'd like to try and come back later to document, put it on your personal user's page and then put it up on a Congresspedia article when you're ready.
Not appropriate: opinions on the merits of candidacies
Because the Sunlight Foundation and the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) are non-profit organizations, we do not support or endorse candidates for public office and, to the extent that users contribute material that appears to support or oppose a candidate, those are their words and not those of Sunlight and CMD. That said, the Congresspedia editors will edit any such content when they run across it and users are encouraged to, as well. Preferably the material can be edited to leave the facts in but take the rhetoric out, but in cases of pure rhetoric the material may be deleted.
Congresspedia is not a place to discuss the relative merits or qualifications of candidates for public office, nor to solicit support or opposition to such candidates. Likewise, do not mention political campaigns or candidacies of members of Congress unless they are tied in an important way to an issue of corruption or an official act. Do not suggest a preferred electroal outcome or speculate on a person's chances of reelection or compare incumbents with their challengers. In order for Congresspedia to function as a resource for the general public, partisan bias must be kept out of it. If users repeatedly engage in partisan rhetoric on Congresspedia they may be banned. See our general disclaimer and policy pages for more information.
Documenting commentary on members of Congress: when to add material to SourceWatch instead of Congresspedia
It is sometimes informative to document attacks on or support for a member of Congress and the groups and individuals that offer it (for example, see the SourceWatch article on Swift Boat Veterans for Truth). However, because this is material not on the actions of a member of Congress but rather on a group commenting on a member of Congress, it belongs on SourceWatch, which is an encyclopedia of people, organizations and issues shaping the public agenda. If a group is notorious enough (like the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth) or engages in PR on several different members of Congress, add the content to their article or create an article for them if it does not exist. If you are documenting a specific attack on or support for a member of Congress, contribute that content to the SourceWatch pages labeled (member's name)/Commentary (for example, see Thomas D. DeLay/Commentary. We're still getting this sytem worked out, so be patient if not all the commentary pages fit this format yet.
Referencing partisan or biased sources
It may sometimes be necessary to link to partisan or biased sources. In the case of sources with an obvious partisan agenda (such as an officeholder's website or a party's blog), referencing material found there should be limited to documenting the fact that the source said what it did and not reporting what the source said as fact. In the case of less obviously partisan sources, keep a sharp eye out for bias and account for it in your contributions. For more details and guidance see SourceWatch:References.
Report only material relevant to the public lives of political figures
Congresspedia should be used to document the official actions and statements of political figures, not details about their personal lives that have little to do with the public sphere responsibilities. It is, however, considered a part of a public figure's public sphere activities when they are being investigated or are convicted of a crime.
The one exception to this is rank hypocrisy—when there are confirmed details about a public figure's personal life that directly contradict statements or positions they have taken. Under this rubric, for example, allegations of an extramarital affair by a member of Congress are only appropriate on Congresspedia if that member of Congress has used their position to lecture other people on their marriages.