Tweeting the legislature and state government

There are several reasons why a reporter covering the state legislature wouldn’t use Twitter to complement their MSM work:

  • Don’t have time
  • Don’t have access to net
  • Against the House/Senate rules
  • Don’t see value
  • Don’t have laptop or text-enabled phone

…and I’m sure there are others. But with state legislatures coming back into session, I believe this is the year we’ll see Twitter used to cover floor debate, committee hearings, and general under-the-dome gossip.

And I’d look for a flood of Twitter feeds from special interest groups, putting their own 140 character spin on legislation and state government.

Our company has provided live audio feeds of floor debate from the Missouri House and Senate since 2001 (2000?). What we have NOT been able to provide was audio from the committee hearings which, I’m told, is where all the action takes place.

We’ve made repeated attempts to get a live audio stream out of those committee hearing rooms but could never get past the technical/political obstacles. (Translation: the folks in charge would rather NOT have live coverage of the hearings)

But this year there will be folks sitting in the back with iPhones and Twitter pages, clicking away. Initially, these will be savvy folks on one or both sides of the legislation being discussed. And, yes, they’ll be putting their own spin on what’s being said.

With-it news organizations will be using Twitter to cover state legislatures. I did a real quick search and came up with @matt_stiles, a reporter for the Houston Chronicle bureau in Austin, TX. The political parties are all over Twitter: @colosengop is the Twitter page for the Colorado Republican Caucus and @iahousedemocrat promises “short updates on what’s going on inside the caucus and with action on the floor.” @nebraskagov is the “official Twitter feed” for the state of Nebraska.

If you’re aware of others, hit the comment link because I’d like to see what others are doing with Twitter in this space.

UPDATE: In January and February of 2010 we began experimenting with streaming video from committee hearings.

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