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POLI 304: Congress: Important issues

Course guide for POLI 304: Congress taught by Renee Van Vechten, Fall 2021

Finding political analysis of your Representative

Journalists are well positioned to address the question, "what issues are key to your Representative running and winning in your district." Well-trained journalists are adept at identifying and exploring the various perspectives on a topic, and explaining what they have found through a concise and well-balanced story.

Sources listed earlier in this guide, such as lists of sponsored legislation, can give you a sense of issues important to your Representative. Try searching regional news outlets, including daily newspapers, news blogs, and public media, to get evidence of how these issues are viewed in the district. What are the perspectives mentioned in these stories and who are the sources being quoted?

Remember to use library databases to access the full text of paywalled news stories that you come across in your searching.

Finding video and audio statements by your Representative

Like any public figure, video coverage of your Representative in action is easy to find - perhaps a little too easy. When a YouTube search on your Representative turns up thousands of hits, how do you know what to spend your time watching?

Consider what kind of event you're watching and where the footage originally comes from. Floor debates, committee hearings and other Congressional business are recorded for the House and Senate websites and broadcast on the C-SPAN cable networks. If you know your Representative is about to speak on an important current piece of legislation (because you checked the Majority Leader's Calendar or read a news article alerting you to the floor debate) you can tune in live - or look for the video in these sites' archives.

 

News outlets often incorporate key moments of Congress members' statements as part of their own reporting. Clips of this coverage may be available on YouTube and other social media, allowing you to get a taste of your Representative's speaking style and issues of interest.

While many commercial media companies have reduced their coverage of politics, public media has retained its mission to support an informed electorate. Try identifying the local PBS and NPR stations serving your district and see how they have covered your Representative.

For example, searching for KVCR's coverage of Rep. Aguilar turned up a tag of archived recordings and interviews featuring our Representative.

Our example

Representative Pete Aguilar of California

Rep. Pete Aguilar of the California 31st Congressional District - University of Redlands' home district - is our example Representative for the sample searches throughout this guide.

Practice finding information on Rep. Aguilar so that you can apply similar strategies to learn about your member once you've received the assignment.

Activity: Find a news article

Try using web searching and the Access World News database to find an article on how Rep. Pete Aguilar has risen in the ranks of the US Congress, published in the San Bernardino Sun in July 2021.

How could this article help you portray Rep. Aguilar?