By Ed Wallace, Publisher at UtahStandardNews.com / January 21, 2021
With over 1,000 bills introduced during a 45 day session of the Utah state legislature, the state’s major media outlets are only able to cover a small fraction of those bills. And the bills that they do cover tend to be the highest profile and/or most controversial. This results in hundreds of important bills moving through the legislature with only limited public awareness or input. This is where you and the Utah Standard News (USN) come in.
Become a citizen journalist
The idea is for you to report on a bill or a group of similar bills that the rest of the media is not giving a great deal of coverage to. You will become thoroughly familiar with the bill(s) you are covering and we will post your reports in the Utah Standard News’ online site. You will be responsible for submitting your reporting in ready-to-post format and ensuring that it is continuously updated as the session progresses.
Reports must be written as objectively as possible (no opinions) and provide the public with key information about the bill. A special category for these reports will be placed on the Utah Standard News’ front page and your reports will carry your name. This is a great opportunity for you and others to take an active role as citizen journalists.
A template to help you write your reports
To help you write your reports, we will provide you with a template that is designed to ensure that all of our legislative reporting is consistent. It will also make it easy for you to draft your report(s) and for those following the bill to get the information they need right up front. The template lets readers know the origins of the bill, who is sponsoring it and who is supporting/opposing it since this tells everyone a great deal about the bill along with what is in the bill. It makes sure that readers have the contact information of both the House and Senate sponsors of the bill being reported on and it helps readers find and contact their own legislators.
How to sign up as a citizen journalist
If you are interested in submitting reports, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with your contact information and let us know if you have a specific area that you will be following. We will then contact you and make sure you have the template so you can get started immediately.
If you want to watch any meeting via Zoom, live streaming is available on each committee’s webpage by clicking on “Virtual Meeting Access.” You’ll have to sign-in by entering your first and last name, and your email, and raise your hand if you want to speak.
This session is heralded as an opportunity for better public access, although there will be social distancing rules and “Mask ambassadors,” who will be enforcing the mask requirement by asking people to leave if they refuse.
One lawmaker stated: “I’ve decided that I, as an elected lawmaker, will never take advantage of having greater access to the Capitol building than the people I represent. So long as the people I represent can not go inside the Capitol to speak to me, then I will also not go inside the Capitol. Instead, I will participate virtually or remotely in every meeting of the Session, exactly like ALL citizens can “attend” and even make public comments at these meetings. I won’t miss a beat of my official duties, and this way I will remain 100% available to the people I represent, to guarantee that all our First Amendment Rights are intact this Session.”
BILL TRACKING OPTIONS
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