Statement of Purpose
Ours is a time of great disillusionment. Public support for institutions of all types is at abysmal levels, and there is a widespread sense throughout Main Streets all across the nation that America is in danger of losing its way. A major reason is that average citizens have become frustrated with the excessive influence of wealthy and entrenched interests in Washington. Those who do wish to participate in the political process often feel that nobody is listening inside the Beltway, and they lack the information sources with which to compete on a level playing field with the K Street professionals and cocktail party circuit. Working at such a disadvantage, they are largely marginalized from the policymaking process during the most important stages of formation and deliberation.
There are currently two prevailing formats for insider political coverage. The first, exemplified by outlets such as National Journal, CQ, The Hill and others, is designed for paid advocates and other Beltway professionals, people who are deeply immersed in the political world. The information from these sources is comprehensive, timely....and far too expensive for the average citizen to access. It also generally fails to provide introductory explanations and definitions for those less familiar with the minutiae of policy and legislative process. The second format, that of traditional network news, approaches political coverage as if talking to a fifth-grade audience. Due to biases stemming mostly from the profit motive, these entities focus almost exclusively on partisan talking points, fail to cover basic policy details and perform simply fact-checking, draw false equivalence between various viewpoints regardless of merit, and rarely offer a platform to those deemed a threat to the economic interests of the network's parent corporation.
Clearly, if an engaged citizen wishes to obtain reliable plain-language information on the everyday happenings of Congress, neither of these formats will adequately suit his or her needs. Main Street Insider plans to serve this unjustly ignored constituency with a new type of insider coverage. It will provide a combination of policy basics, exclusive reports and hard-hitting interviews directly from the corridors of power, background information on legislators and the legislative process, and concrete avenues for citizens to engage with their government.
Our mission is based on one fundamental premise: more robust participation in the legislative process by informed and engaged citizens will directly lead to outcomes that enhance the common good.
By consistently focusing on the bigger picture, tying themes together when warranted and asking the often common-sense "next question", we cover matters of the day in both a more contextual and more accessible style than other insider news outlets. Furthermore, we harness the interactive power of the internet to shape our coverage and questions for political leaders around the needs and interests of our audience. Most Capitol Hill coverage features one-way communication and allows very little room for interactive participation by the audience, save the screaming matches that ensue in the comments section of some websites. We will use cutting-edge, interactive online tools that allow our audience to take the conversation further, to ask the "next question" themselves. Main Street Insider should foster a sense of community, a place where viewers can look to each other for answers and advice. Evidence of the power of crowdsourcing has been seen in tools such as the "citizen whip count", allowing grassroots advocates to emulate the process used by congressional leadership and lobbyists to gauge support for a proposed measure. We plan to build upon that framework and leverage the wisdom of crowds in a way that maximizes our readers' collective impact upon the debate.
Who We Serve
Ultimately, we operate in service of the larger causes of participatory democracy and the overall health of the American polity. That said, we aim to create a product of use to engaged citizens, policy professionals, grassroots advocacy organizations and Capitol Hill staffers. We plan to work with representatives from each of these communities to maximize the value-added of Main Street Insider to our customers. We also will build a diverse Board of Directors that incorporates viewpoints from each aforementioned demographic group.
Leadership Bios (alphabetical order by last name)
Jeremy Koulish, President
In addition to his function as President of Main Street Insider, Jeremy Koulish coordinates coverage of committee events and policy content. Most recently, he was the Founder and Executive Director of the Carrots and Sticks Project, a nonprofit grassroots action tank established following the 2008 elections with the goal of rebuilding America's physical, economic and democratic infrastructure in a model of 21st-century style sustainable prosperity. Prior to running Carrots and Sticks, he was a Research Assistant at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities focusing on state fiscal policy. Jeremy is also an accomplished activist, having worked on a number of issue referendum and electoral campaigns. Jeremy holds a B.A. in Political Economy from Williams College, and is currently pursuing an M.P.P. from the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration at George Washington University.
Mitch Malasky, Director of Operations
Will Urquhart, Communications and New Media Director
Will Urquhart was born and raised in the Washington, DC area. In College, Will took a job as a community organizer for the Working Families Party (WFP), and helped elect numerous candidates to office in addition to fighting for health care reform, living wage jobs, affordable housing, and good public schools. With Mitch Malasky, Will formed Sum of Change Productions, LLC (SoC) in May of 2009 with an intent to create socially, politically, and culturally conscious films.
David Waldman, Public Affairs Director
Widely considered to be the foremost Netroots guru on congressional process, David Waldman is editor of Congress Matters and a Contributing Editor at Daily Kos. David has made a specialty of blogging about the dynamics and intricacies of Congressional procedure, dating back to the 2005 “nuclear option” showdown over judicial nominations. His writing has helped focus campaigns challenging the continuance of Joe Lieberman’s committee assignments, raise awareness of the limitations of Congressional subpoena and contempt processes, broker a more favorable deal on Senate committee ratios, keep the “public option” debate alive beyond all expectations, and inform both activists and the media about the reconciliation process that salvaged the administration’s health insurance reform legislation. David is currently a fellow with ProgressiveCongress.org, and undertaking a campaign for filibuster reform. With Main Street Insider, David contributes content in his area of expertise in addition to general outreach and development activities.