Posted December 17, 2008: I have now officially called every possible democrat that could contribute in anyway to my story. And finally, FINALLY I have finished my forever long feature about Peter Kinder as the only Republican elected in the state. I am so tired of talking and writing about it, that I can barely write about it in my blog.
This officially marks my last day at the Capitol. Although I am relieved, I know I will miss it. I've really enjoyed doing my job and working with everyone here. I appreciate the opportunities I have been given and am excited to continue working as a journalist.
I have learned a lot about journalism and politics by working here. Everything I have learned are things and information I will use for the rest of my life.
Posted December 12, 2008: I continued to work on the most frustrating story I have ever had. There is not much to say except I wish people would return phone calls!
Posted November 17, 2008: I am working on my latest feature today about Lt. Governor Peter Kinder as the only Republican elected statewide.
I am looking to find how Kinder will bridge the gap between the two parties and how Missouri's government will be affected with the dominant Democratic party.
So far I have not been able to get a hold of anyone, which remains to be my biggest problem as a journalist.
Posted November 10, 2008: Earlier in the week I covered the number of provisional ballots in Missouri during the presidential election. The story is important to Missouri and it's residents for a number of reason. The state's impressive bellwether record is at stake and voters want to know who their state elected.
John McCain won the state of Missouri by about five or six thousands votes, but there were seven thousand votes that remain uncounted. Local officials have two weeks to sift through the ballots and determine which ones are valid and should be counted. The Secretary of State's office then has another two weeks to officially count and name the winner.
I don't understand why local officials and governments have so much power that it can delay the state's presidential decision. Although the election is over and Barack Obama is president-elect, Missouri residents have the right to know who their state elected.
The Secretary of State's office refused to return several of my phone calls and never gave me a comment. My story was eventually killed for a lack of sources (secretary of state was the only one who could answer my questions).
I find it interesting that our public officials have and pay communication directors who refuse to communicate or give comments to the press. They are denying the public answers that they deserve.
Posted October 24, 2008: I've started my second feature this week on charter schools in Missouri, and it has been a little frustrating finishing up this story.
Charter schools are public schools that are offered exclusively in Kansas City and St. Louis. The schools are separate from district schools, not having to abide by all of the same rules and regulations, but are still funded by the government. The schools are setup by parents, teachers, and community groups and must meet certain academic requirements in order to stay open. There is no tuition fee and anyone can attend.
In recent presidential debates both candidates support the expansion of charter schools throughout the country. Both have stated the public school system needs competition to better itself. So it seems that no matter how the election plays out charter schools will be a part of the future school systems.
Charter schools show higher test scores and are quickly passing the district schools' scores throughout the country. Charter schools seem to be a positive option for parents and students, but are negatively impacting district schools. With enrollment dropping in the district schools, their funding is dropping as well.
I really liked researching and talking to people about this issue. On both sides, people were passionate and concerned with the future of our school systems. And it was an issue that I haven't been able to fully take a stance on. There are many pros and cons to both sides of the issues, that I can't decide what I would hope for in the years to come.
I look forward to talking to more people next week and finally being able to finish up this story. Hopefully more insight from different people will give me a better understanding.
Either way it will be interesting to watch the direction of public education system with the election of the next president.
Posted October 10, 2008: I finished my first feature story today. My featured covered the future immigration laws after Governor Blunt leaves office.
Governor Blunt signed several bills into laws to cut down on the number of illegal immigrants currently in and coming into the state of Missouri. Blunt made it illegal for illegal immigrants to enroll in higher education, vote, and get a drivers license. All of which were already illegal under federal laws. But Blunt seemed to take credit for adding those to state laws.
As Blunt's term comes to an end, like many others, I was interested to see what the next governor would do with immigration laws. Nothing? Continue the crusade? Or fall back?
The issue became even more interesting, because neither gubernatorial candidates had really commented on the issue. The issue was left untouched during debates, and virtually uncommented on.
Even after working intensely on this story, I still do not know what Hulshof or Nixon plans to do with immigration. I never got call backs from Hulshof or Nixon's campaigns on their stances.
I really enjoyed working on this story, I found it interesting and important.
I also learned a valuable lesson while working on this piece. A press secretary let me have it when I made a fact error. In all honestly, I was prepared, I just slipped up while talking to her. I corrected myself, but she still made it very clear she was displeased with my mistake. I guess I learned no mistake is a small one, and I need to be totally prepared all the time, no matter what the circumstances.
Posted September 29, 2008: The week started off well with an interesting and controversial story. Lt. Governor Peter Kinder was accused of giving "bonuses" to his staff.
Under Missouri law it is illegal for politicians to give staff members bonuses. Kinder claimed the boosts in salaries were merely "temporary increases of pay," and not bonuses.
I learned quickly that I would have to choose my words wisely as I wrote my scripts. Even Kinder's secretary snapped at me for using the word "bonus" over the phone.
This was the first time I was nervous about the repercussions of my story. This was a topic that really angered a lot of people, and it was my job to make sure everyone was getting the correct facts. I had to do my best to present both sides of the argument and allow people to decide for themselves.
It was difficult to remain objective throughout this story, in my mind temporary increases of pay are bonuses. But with the sense of being objective, I alternated using both terms "bonuses" and "temporary increases of pay."
I learned a lot from working on this story. I had to work at it, but I was able to present a fair and honest story.
Posted September 22, 2008: Today was one of the slower days at the Capitol. Mondays usually have a lot of uncovered stories from the weekend, but today we had more reporter than stories.
Upon arriving I was rushed back out the door at to a court hearing for Representative Scott Muschany. I quickly grabbed gear and walked a few blocks to the Cole County court house. I was nervous and excited to see what kind of story I could get. Muschany has recently been involved in a scandal at the Capitol and resigned a few weeks ago. These are the kind of stories I wait and hope to cover.
I arrived at the court house and was surrounded by people in handcuffs and orange jumpsuits, I clearly stuck out. Realizing this could not be the right place, I started to ask where Muschany was. I was then informed that he was not on the doctrine for the day, his court hearing had been rescheduled to late October.
Disappointed in my lost story, I returned to the office to find something to cover
We came up with the idea of getting the responses of legislators if the opposite party won the governor's seat. Although it seemed to be an interesting story, and one that should not be too difficult, it is almost five and I don't have a story.
I called dozens are legislators and not one would talk to me about the issue. I presented noncontroversial and straight forward question and got nothing.
Days like these seem to be the longest. I researched and called all day, and got nothing by the end of the day. No story to present and nothing to be stratified with.
I am now focusing all of my attention to my feature story on Missouri's gambling laws. This is a story I look forward to researching and covering. I just hope I can find some sources for this one.
Posted September 19, 2008: This will be my first full week reporting at the Capitol in Jefferson City. Although it was long and stressful, I feel as if I have learned more in these past few days than the past two years of college.
Getting hands on experience is worth more than any class or test I will ever take in college. I am lucky enough to have this kind of opportunity to be doing the job that I eventually want to make my career. I hear so many students question their major and their career goals, since starting here I have no doubt that this is what I would like to do.
Although the first few days were intimidating, I learned a lot of valuable lesson. And after this week I feel like I have finally gotten my feet underneath me, and I can actually do this.
My boss Phil said you need to do two of three things to have a successful day at work.
I am encouraged by the fact that I actually have accomplished all three of those things each day I have been at work.
I am proud to say that despite many doubts, I have completed every story that I have begun by the end of the day. I have also learned many new and interesting things each day. It is hard to have fun when you are working with great people and doing what you love. Days and tiring and stressful, but never without fun.
I look forward to spending many more nights here at MDN, and to continue on my path of becoming a excellent journalist.
Missouri Digital News is produced by Missouri Digital News, Inc. -- a non profit organization of current and former journalists.