Journalism in the Public Interest


ChangeTracker Wins Innovation Award

ChangeTrackerWe're proud to accept a Special Distinction Award from the Knight-Batten Award for Innovations in Journalism for our ChangeTracker application. The awards were created to honor creative uses of new technologies that would showcase compelling models for the future of news and help engage citizens in public issues. "The Knight-Batten Award honors excellent, innovative journalism, news and information -- not just excellent journalism," said Gary Kebbel, journalism program director for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The award comes with $1,000.

ProPublica created the ChangeTracker tool to allow people to monitor changes made to the Web site by showing exactly what was removed, edited or updated, with side-by-side comparisons before and after changes were made. With ChangeTracker, anybody can create a tracker to follow any Web site. So a City Hall reporter who wants to watch for updates on the local mayor or city council member's Web site can follow our recipe to build a ChangeTracker and point it at the site to be notified of updates.

Congratulations to Scott Klein, Brian Boyer and the entire ChangeTracker team.

Disappearance of Privacy Board From White House Web Site Raises Questions page before and after  deletion of the reference to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. 9/11 Commission chairman Thomas Kean called the administration’s lack of progress  on the board 'extremely disappointing.' (Versionista/Getty Images)

The White House has erased all mention of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board from its Web site. The removal, which was done wth no public notice, has underlined questions about the Obama administration's commitment to the board, which was created on the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission to oversee the federal government's actions on civil liberties and privacy.

ProPublica’s ChangeTracker, which monitors changes to, detected the deletion on the page that lists the entities encompassed within the Executive Office of the President. (Here's the page in question, before and after the change.)

The board has always existed in a kind of bureaucratic purgatory. In December 2004, Congress passed a law on intelligence reform that created the board. However, President Bush waited six months before nominating anyone to sit on the board, and it wasn't until March 2006 that the board first met. A year later, one of the board's members, Lanny Davis, a former Clinton official, resigned, saying other members saw the board as "wholly part of the White House staff and political structure, rather than an independent oversight entity."


ChangeTracker: What Else Should We Track?

 Last week, we launched ChangeTracker, an application that flags changes to, and

Since then, we’ve spotted a few interesting updates, but so far most changes have been relatively unsurprising. It’s time to widen the net and track Web sites that are more than just public relations vehicles for the administration.

So, we’d like your help! Where else ought the watchful eye of the tracker look?

Would you like to be informed when Facebook’s or Google’s license agreements change? Maybe a regulatory agency or an NGO would be of interest?

Please comment, e-mail or tweet your ideas!

(Also, have you copied ChangeTracker? The plumbing is freely available and dead-easy to use. If you’re using it, we’d love to know what you’re tracking.)

ChangeTracker Improved: Fine-Tuning the Feeds for Interestingness

ProPublica's ChangeTracker catches a dramatically shortened Civil Rights page. (Versionista)

This week, we rolled out a few updates to ChangeTracker, our tool that watches White House Web sites for changes.

First, we're no longer tracking changes at and The two have grown from fledgling introductory sites into full-sized government, but, honestly, the changes they're making now just aren't that interesting. Of course, if you'd still like to track those sites, you can build your own ChangeTracker by following our easy how-to.

We're continuing to track Which brings us to our second tweak: we've added frequency markers to the feeds. In each change notification, you'll now see "rare," "medium rare," "frequent," or "very frequent" to indicate how often the changed page gets updated.

Find out what else we changed... Reinserts Call to ‘Repeal’ Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

Yesterday afternoon, we noted our handy Changetracker tool had spotted some interesting changes on In particular, the call to “repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” had been replaced with softer language saying, President Obama "supports changing Don't Ask Don't Tell in a sensible way that strengthens our armed forces and our national security."

Well, last night the White House reinserted language saying President Obama supports the “repeal” of Don't Ask Don't Tell. The new phrasing: "He supports repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell in a sensible way that strengthens our armed forces and national security."

White House Site Un-Slams Bush on Katrina

Direct criticism of the Bush Administration's handling of Hurricane Katrina was deleted from whitehouse.govChangeTracker, our vigilant and all-seeing widget, is barely a day old, and already it’s netted a revealing tweak to the White House Web site.

If you’d dialed up the "Additional Issues" portion of the Web site’s "Agenda" section earlier this week, the entry on Hurricane Katrina would have left you with zero doubt about who was to blame for the governmental failure to respond to the storm: the Bush administration. "President Obama will keep the broken promises made by President Bush to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast," the section read, continuing:

"President Obama swiftly responded to Hurricane Katrina. Citing the Bush Administration's ‘unconscionable ineptitude’ in responding to Hurricane Katrina, then-Senator Obama introduced legislation requiring disaster planners to take into account the specific needs of low-income hurricane victims." (Emphasis mine.)


Make Your Own

Want to track changes somewhere else? We’ve put together instructions on how you can build your very own tracker to watch any web site.

Who We Are

ProPublica is an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. We strive to foster change through exposing exploitation of the weak by the strong and the failures of those with power to vindicate the trust placed in them. More...


Special thanks to Cayusa for taking the original photograph for our Twitter icon! Thanks also to the Tango Project for creating the email icon used above.

Photo by flickr user sparkieblues


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