Two weeks ago, a social media-minded C-SPAN employee saw a suggestion on Twitter that someone should blog about all the charts on the Senate floor. William Gray, a producer at the network, waited for someone to bite. When no one did, he birthed Senate Floor Charts, a log of the visual aids used by members of Congress, culled from the C-SPAN archives.
Now rechristened "Floor Charts" to include charts shown on the House floor as well as the Senate, the Tumblr is going strong and has attracted attention from the media (Rachel Maddow's a fan) and chart-obsessives. Charts range from slick, corporate-looking visual aids to some downright hackneyed posters. Gray, who never comments or editorializes about the charts on his blog, diplomatically calls the handmade posters "a little more rugged."
Gray has learned a few things already from his project (which is outside of his work as a C-SPAN employee).
"It you attach Chuck Grassley's name to the post, it gets noticeably more feedback," he told Yeas & Nays. Sen. Grassley's poster of a "debt and deficit dragon" has garnered the most page views of all Gray's posts so far. Another Grassley gem, involving a Shetland pony, also got buzz.
Another lesson learned: The faces in Congress might change, but the posters stay the same. Not only do members literally re-use each other's charts, but the topics remain the same throughout decades in Congress.
"You'll see a lot of gas prices, taxes, health care," Gray said. "It struck me that these issues are very cyclical."
Sen. Grassley, R-Iowa, former Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, and Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., are heavy or distinctive chart-users, though most members have used them at some point. Gray has no shortage of material.
"I post what kind of tickles me, so to speak," he said. "I have the entirety of the C-SPAN archives. This is not going away anytime soon."