Selected Free Online Sources of Government Information for Journalists
Do you need to know . . .
- how much Valdosta’s population changed between 2000 and 2010?
- who contributed how much to which candidates this year?
- which hurricanes caused the most economic damage?
Whatever information you need, start with a few basic questions:
- Who might be interested in having this information?
- Is this information most likely to be of concern to the federal, state, or local government?
- Will the Executive branch (the President or Governor), the Legislative branch (Congress), or the Judicial Branch (the court system) be concerned with this information? In other words, does your question involve making a law (the Legislature), enforcing a law (Executive branch, probably the White House or a federal agency), or interpreting a law (Judicial branch)?
- Is there a particular government agency that collects and provides this information?
Search and/or Browse Free Government Sites
- USA.gov Search millions of Web pages from the governments federal, state, District of Columbia, tribal, and U.S. territories.
- State Government Web Sites Visit each state's main government web site.
- Catalog of US. Government Publications Search for information about electronic and print publications from the U.S. government.
- FDsys From the Government Printing Office (GPO), search or browse for permanent digitized government publications, including the Code of Federal Regulations, the Federal Register, the U.S. Government Manual, and more.
In addition, the government provides many sites for specific information that you can easily find by adding the .gov domain to the subject. For example:
Another way to locate data collected by federal agencies is to consult a list of federal agencies:
Once you have a sense of which agencies are likely to handle which information (for instance, the Commerce department contains the Census department, and the Transportation department oversees bridges, roads, airline safety), browsing this list can lead you to useful data. Look especially for links to statistics, reports, research, publications, and data. Most government agencies have a site devoted to statistics on topics of interest.
Legislative and Law Resources
- THOMAS From the Library of Congress, locate current and past bills, public laws, roll call votes, appropriations, historical documents, contact information for U.S. legislators, floor proceedings, the Congressional Record, and more.
- State Legislatures Websites Directory Locate information about laws, legislators, constitutions, press releases, and more from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, provided by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
- Guide to Law Online Prepared by the Law Library of Congress, use this guide for access to government and law information online.
Voting, Elections, and Campaign Finance
- Federal Election Commission Find campaign finance information, including disclosures of individual and corporate contributions to candidates' campaigns.
- Federal Election Statistics See the official vote counts for all federal elections since 1920, published by the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives.
- Georgia Secretary of State Elections
Site Discover voter registration deadlines, dates for elections, historical elections results, and more.
- My Voter Page lets Georgia residents check their voter registrations, polling locations, etc.
Population, Education, Community, and Economic Resources (United States)
- American Factfinder Search for demographic information from the decennial and economic censuses and the American Community Survey in the latest incarnation of the U.S. Census Bureau's major search tool.
- Using FactFinder Guide to basic searching within American FactFinder.
- U.S. Census Bureau The starting point for statistics and analysis of how people live in the United States: national, regional, state, and local information about population, income, housing, employment, business, and more.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics State Resources Browse links to each state's employment and labor information sites.
- National Center for Education Statistics Be sure to look at the data tools, especially the searches for public school districts, for a rich supply of data on schools down to the local level.
Science, Health, and the Environment
- Science.gov Search more than 50 databases and thousands of web sites that provide government-funded scientific research, including the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Geologic Survey, National Agricultural Library, NASA, Food and Drug Administration, and National Institutes of Health.
- NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) oversees Weather.gov (the National Weather Service), including the National Hurricane Center.
- Environmental Protection Agency provides its Envirofacts site for easy searching of water, air, land, radiation, and other environmental topics.
- Centers for Disease Control
- National Institutes of Health site offers A-Z health guides, reports on clinical trials, stem cell research, and much more. It also oversees the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which hosts the National Center for Health Statistics.
For more assistance answering your questions about the government and government information sources, check your nearest Federal Depository Library and/or the government documents specialist at your nearest college or public library. Odum Library is a selective Federal Depository Library and a comprehensive Georgia State Publications library. Electronic access to many federal and state government resources is available simply by browsing the VSU government documents subject pages. The government information guide from the Georgia Tech library is another source for government information web pages; see especially the tab for Hot Topics.
Last Updated: January 24, 2012