Reporting in the State Capitol building in Jefferson City is a little stressful; I can’t lie about that. Two years ago — or even nine months ago — I didn’t expect to be reporting in the statehouse, much less returning for a second semester. But here I am, well into my second semester and first legislative session in the capital.
When I first started out, the following truly intimidated me:
- Who is everyone? Thanks to my experiences at The Maneater student newspaper, I knew the names and faces of Columbia/Boone County legislators, the governor, the lieutenant governor and the House speaker. But I knew I had to become familiar with the names, faces, polices and other affiliations of many more legislators and elected officials.
- What is everyone saying? Political jargon can be a little confusing. I’m somewhat embarrassed now to admit it, but because I swore off political reporting as an option back when I was applying to colleges, I never really kept up with politics until the 2006 midterm election season. (Thank you, Maneater, for introducing me to the wonderful world of Missouri state politics.)
- What is the political process? Everything — from how a bill becomes law to how all the offices and committees are connected and interact — was so foreign to me. I’ll admit that I’m still no expert on the political system/process, but I’ve certainly been learning as fast as I can, as well as enjoying it.
Last semester, I covered Chris Koster’s successful campaign for attorney general. That experience and my reporting on the state economy and budget compelled me to return for a second semester, so I could report on legislative session and follow up on all the issues I’d been covering. At the end of the semester, I told my editor I would cover the budget/revenue beat.
As such, I flew from Texas to Missouri two weeks early. School didn’t start until right after Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, but I wanted to come back early to cover the start of legislative session, as well as the inauguration of Gov. Jay Nixon. I have no regrets associated with this decision. I’m excited to have a head start on getting to know the various legislative leaders, as well as a handle on the top issues that will dictate the flow of this legislative session.
Since I’ve already been reporting for about three weeks in 2009, this may be a little late in coming — but here are my goals for this semester/legislative session:
- Enterprise — I want to find stories, not just wait for them to come to me. In the statehouse, this often requires a fairly good understanding and familiarity with a dozen hot issues, several dozen government agencies and state committees and about a decade of Missouri political history. I will certainly do my best, though.
- In-depth analysis — Spot stories are nice, and fun for the adrenaline rush. But I’m hoping to dig a little deeper into policy and implications, to go beyond the “he said, she said” of daily political reporting and determine exactly what the repercussions, consequences and impacts of any given bill, act, etc. are.
- Connecting to the reader — This may be the hardest goal to accomplish. At least in my (limited) experience, it’s hard to clarify exactly how the story impacts the reader. Certain stories lend themselves better to this element of journalism, but I don’t believe I’ve had many of those kinds of stories since session began. But again — I will do my best.
I have yet to discuss these goals and other matters/issues with my assigned editor for my Advanced Reporting class. But I feel pretty confident that these are goals worth striving for and that I could accomplish if I work hard enough.
On a separate note, the following developments happened today:
- I am the only print reporter in the bureau on Mondays and Wednesdays. Unless someone in the Missourian newsroom can change his/her schedule and has the desire to do so, in order to report here on Mondays and Wednesdays.
- We have broadcast reporters now! Abby Grimmett, with whom I worked last semester, will be their TA and was in the bureau with me last week. But now we finally have broadcast reporters. Alas for no more print reporters, but it’s good to have more people in the office.
Tomorrow evening — or, should I say, tonight — Gov. Nixon will give his State of the State address at 7 p.m. Even though I am not officially on shift, I will be coming into the bureau in the afternoon to cover the address, since the state budget is my beat. I’m excited. And intimidated. But mostly excited.
And to think, three years ago, I told my mother I would never do political coverage.