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Originally Published: June 18, 2009

Citizens Union Foundation is pleased to announce that its publication Gotham Gazette will receive a 2009 Knight News Challenge Grant of $250,000 to create Councilpedia — an online crowd sourcing wiki that will focus on following the influence of campaign contributions on the actions of elected officials. Gotham Gazette is the only two-time Knight grantee.

“Gotham Gazette pioneered the use of the web to cover local politics in 2001. Now through Councilpedia and new tools of engaging an increasingly web savvy public, Gotham Gazette will be able to tap the knowledge of New Yorkers to improve that coverage,” said Gail Robinson, editor-in-chief of Gotham Gazette.

At its core, Councilpedia will be a wiki devoted to local elected officials. It will focus on the relationships between the 51 New York City Council members, borough presidents and citywide office holders, and their campaign donations and donors.

Gotham Gazette will prime Councilpedia with a page of comprehensive information about each council member and district, expanding on what is already available on Gotham Gazette. We also will provide data from city campaign finance records on who has donated to each official’s recent campaigns.

With that groundwork laid, New Yorkers will be invited to tell us what they know about each contributor and Gotham Gazette staff will fact check information on donor affiliations, business and family relationships. Councilpedia will adhere to high standards of verified reporting.

Councilpedia will allow everyone to collaborate with Gotham Gazette as we identify relationships between campaign donors and explore connections between money and political power in New York City,” said Amanda Hickman, Technical Director of Gotham Gazette.

As a journalism site, Gotham Gazette will use the information from readers as a valuable and innovative new source for our reporting on New York City policy and politics. We expect the information collected in Councilpedia will be a valuable resource for other Journalists and civic groups as well. Gotham Gazette sees this project as a valuable test of whether crowd sourcing techniques can inform, enrich and expand coverage of local political issues. Councilpedia is scheduled to launch in the first half of 2010.

In addition, Gotham Gazette is a founding member with The New York Times, ProPublica, Talking Points Memo, and The National Security Archive on another 2009 News Challenge Grant for Document Cloud. This project will create an online database managed as an independent nonprofit where the media, watchdog groups and the public can find, share and analyze source documents.

The first News Challenge grant to Gotham Gazette in 2007 funds a series of five online news games and simulations. The fourth game in this series, Ballot Access, will launch at the end of this month.

“We thank the Knight Foundation for its support of Gotham Gazettess innovative work. Councilpedia will advance Citizens Union Foundation’s mission of civic engagement and serve as an important step in fulfilling the promise of New York City’s strong campaign finance and public disclosure laws,” said Dick Dadey, Executive Director of Citizens Union Foundation.

Additional coverage of the 2009 Knight News Challege can be found on the Neiman Journalism Lab site.

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