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Distracted delegates exposed

Al Harris April 13, 2009 3

And you think you have a productivity problem.

A video by a Virginia Commonwealth University journalism student Tracy Kennedy shows how state delegates make use of official time—they check Facebook and shop online using the Capitol’s wireless network.

Kennedy photographed legislators surfing the Internet on their Dell laptops during a formal session of the General Assembly. While covering one day’s session in the hallowed halls of state government, she noticed about 20 delegates browsing various websites. None of which had any bearing on the business of the commonwealth.

Delegate Chris Peace (R-Mechanicsville), along with several others, was checking Facebook. Delegate Bob Brink (D-Arlington) was shopping for furniture at Crate & Barrell while Delegate David Albo (R-Springfield) was looking at the real estate listing for a $3.5 million house in Mason Neck,Va.  Other delegates were found shopping for guns, Civil War memorabilia, and items on eBay.  Below is a video presentation of the legislator’s “on-the-clock” activites on the world wide web.

Kennedy was one of the many reporters contributing to the Capital News Service, a student-staffed news service that covers state government during each year’s General Assembly session. Their stories appear in more than 70 papers through out the state, as well as Richmond BizSense.

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  1. David Bailey April 15, 2009 at 8:08 am - Reply

    Entertaining story, but due to the absence of sound, there is no evidence that the people’s business was being conducted during the time that some legislators were online. Was this filmed before the session convened? Was it filmed while there was a break in business, a recess? This U-Tube gotcha reporting can be entertaining and also quite misleading.

  2. Tracy Kennedy April 15, 2009 at 1:41 pm - Reply

    Information regarding the video.

    “-The House was not in recess- these pictures were taken during the Ash Wednesday session while pieces of legislation from the Senate were being presented to the Delegates for them to vote on. That was the third from last day for the regular session and they had a lot of work to do, it wasn’t a slow work day by any means.

    -Delegate Englin was on his Facebook talking about a bill he voted against. However, he was on Facebook while another legislator was giving a speech, so I don’t see how he could have been paying attention and Facebooking at the same time.

    -When we contacted the Delegates for a comment, but only one of them responded, so as far as I know those websites were not related to any pieces of active legislation (besides Englin’s). “

  3. Alice Lynch April 15, 2009 at 7:13 pm - Reply

    The reporter only presented part of the story – and that is not good journalism. Knowing that this was Ash Wednesday, then it was the Reconveniened Session – known by some as the veto session – when legislators consider the governor’s amendments and attempt to override his vetos. Did the reporter have a clue about the actual work going on? This legislation is well known to the delegates and while there are, at times, heated debates, most of the legislation passes rather quickly (in my observations). The legislators, committees, and the whole body know what’s coming from the governor and they discuss prior to the Session. Also, the party caucuses give advice to the members of their respective parties. Basically, this isn’t as demanding an exercise as say a graduate school class at VCU in statistics – in which I, as a student myself, watched almost everyone in the computer lab playing on the internet while the professor lectured. If grad students can multitask, why can’t others? It doesn’t make sense and it’s not fair to present only part of the story just to win points with those who like to disparage our elected officials – who by the way are citizen legislators in that they try to have full-time jobs while they work, supposedly part time as senators and delegates. And I don’t blame the legislators for not responding given the unbalanced, irresponsible job on this story – especially given the response that the ‘reporter’ provided above.
    Too bad that “the horse is already out of the barn” and no one will really know what was going on that day in the chamber. Sloppy “journalism.”

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