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Today's Tip for the Reporting Network: Use Google Alerts to Track Your Stimulus Project

Shortly after Carol Nichols, a member of ProPublica's Reporting Network (our citizen journalism initiative), volunteered to monitor a stimulus project in her area, she set up a Google alert for the project -- the Fort Duquesne Bridge in Pittsburgh, Pa. The bridge is one of the more trafficked bridges in the Pittsburgh area, and Carol crosses it on her way to the city's sports stadiums.

On Tuesday two e-mails arrived in her inbox. The first led her to a breaking news article on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Web site, reporting that a $24 million contract had been awarded for the project. The second went straight to a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review piece, letting her know that "motorists should brace for lane and ramp closures ... starting this summer." She has since filed a report with us stating the project's start date, the winning bid amount and the company awarded the contract.

What's next? Carol is on the lookout for any pre-construction activity and will check to see if the project starts on time. As for the stimulus's impact on Pittsburgh in general, Carol tells me: "The thing I've noticed most is politicians and other groups talking about the stimulus money. For example, the University of Pittsburgh, my alma mater, has been talking about how it and the other universities in the state aren't getting as much help from the stimulus as the state schools are, and that if they don't get some of the stimulus funds, they'll have to raise tuition again." (The Post-Gazette has more on that story here.)

Here's how you can set up a Google news alert.

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