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Introducing Stimulus Spot Check

July 20, 2009: This post has been corrected.

(flickr user kylemay)

It's the middle of July and we're all wondering whether the stimulus is working. If we do as the administration has advised, we should remain patient — and let the administration measure its own success. (Those measurements aren’t going to be coming quickly either: Detailed information about projects, including the number of jobs each project created, will be released starting in October.)

Or we can take matters into our own hands.

We at ProPublica have designed a public reporting assignment to gauge the stimulus' progress to date. It is an ambitious -- but doable -- undertaking. All it requires is about 30 minutes of your time. Bloggers, news organizations, citizens are all free to participate.

Check out “Stimulus Spot Check,” our collaborative assignment.

Here's the idea: We have assembled a random sample of about 500 road and bridge construction projects nationwide. The stimulus depends (PDF) on the transportation projects to create a large chunk of stimulus jobs. Using the sample, we’ll be able to get an overall picture of just how much progress the stimulus projects are making.

We need to figure out only three things about each project: Whether a project has started, what company has been awarded the contract, and how many jobs have been created or saved by this project so far. When we're done, we'll have a detailed look at a good sample of transportation projects nationwide.

You don't have to live in the same state as the project you investigate -- folks in Minnesota can research a project in Florida or California. When we publish a story based on your research, you’ll get generous credit.

All you need to do is rummage around on the state's Department of Transportation Web site and make several follow up-calls over the next week. We have put together guidelines to walk you through the process. We also have an online chart where we'll publish our findings in real time. Everything will be documented and discussed on the ProPublica Reporting Network blog

There's no good reason to leave it up to politicians to tell us the truth about the stimulus. Besides, how good will it feel when your friends and neighbors read our stimulus progress report and you can say, "Let me tell you how we did this"?

Go straight to "Stimulus Spot Check."

Correction, July 19, 2009: This post originally said ProPublica is looking at a random sample of about 500 bridge construction projects nationwide. We’re actually looking at a sample of about 500 road and bridge projects.

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