Posted 05/04/2012: My second to last week at the Capitol, for this semester at least!
Unfortunately, once again, nothing much happened that I covered. Of course, the story of the week was Representative Wyatt coming out, and protesting Representative Cookson's bill banning talking about people's sexuality in schools.
However, I covered Sketch Day at the Capitol. While it may not have been a hard-hitting news story, it was fun to cover. Several kids from the area dioceses gathered together to sketch parts of the Capitol and they were judged on their artwork at the end of the day.
I got to interview two 12 year old students on the artwork. It was great to do a lighter news piece.
Also, I stayed in the House on Wednesday, but nothing really happened.
Last week next week!
It's been quite a while since I've covered a hearing. This hearing was all about a bill which would make training in CPR a graduation requirement for high schoolers.
I was nervous I wouldn't even have a story; however, the debate was great and the witnesses were even better.
Rep. Rick Stream, R-St. Louis, sponsored the bill, and had several witnesses to speak in favor of it. One woman testified about how her son almost died when he collapsed at school, but was saved by another child. She also mentioned how her daughter, who also attended the hearing, was already certified in CPR.
Another woman, Sally Sharp, is a second grade teacher who went into cardiac arrest at work one day. She nearly died, but a co-worker came in to resuscitate her.
While there were some witnesses in opposition, they only expressed concerns about the mandate being a graduation requirement. They only wanted to strongly suggest the training, not require it.
Both Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-St. Louis County and Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-St. Louis County, asked Stream about the costs to the state and if it could be changed to be "strongly suggested" instead of required.
Stream said the only real cost would be buying kits to use to teach the high schoolers. He also provided flexibility to the requirement, saying it could be taught in any class and would only last about half an hour.
Only two more weeks left at the Capitol. Can't believe how the semester flew by!
The House and Senate covered several important pieces of legislation on Monday and Wednesday. In particular, I covered the debate over Sam Pratt's Law, and a controversial amendment to a health insurance bill.
Sam Pratt's Law is basically the exact same legislation as Nathan's Law, which I've written stories on in the past. Sam Pratt's Law would further restrict unlicensed child care providers. As the laws currently stand, a child care provider doesn't face many repercussions if a child dies in their care. Such was the case with 3-month-old Sam Pratt. His child care provider barely faced any repercussions and is still allowed to be a child care provider. Sam Pratt's Law would up the fines for anyone who is unlicensed and does not disclose the fact they are unlicensed to a child's guardian.
The most interesting part of this debate was that at the same time as Sam Pratt's Law was going through the house, Nathan's Law was passing through the Senate. They both received much support.
The other story I covered dealt with a controversial amendment tacked on to a health care insurance bill. The bill itself would provide for studies on how much providing insurance for eating disorders, infertility treatments, and chemotherapy would cost the state. However, one representative added an amendment that would raise the cost for malpractice insurance for doctors who provide abortions. It would go from $500,000 to $1-$3 million.
This amendment created a mild chaos on the House floor as representatives debated back and forth. One representative even attempted to call a point of order to challenge the amendment's relevance to the bill. However, the amendment and bill were given first round approval.
Once again, can't wait for the excitement of next week!
While I came in for a full day on Monday, I came in for half the day on Wednesday. Even without working a completely full week, I still managed to cover quite a bit on Monday and get my feature story worked out.
On Monday, I covered the texting while driving bill along with another reporter. The bill would ban texting while driving for all ages, not just under 21 year olds. The current law only allows the use of hands-free devices for people 21 and older. The bill would change this law to encompass all drivers.
It was extremely interesting to hear both sides of the issue. While it may seem cut and dry, many of the representatives brought up the point of enforcement. How would one make sure the driver had been using the phone? Would privacy be violated?
All were good points. However, most seemed to agree that it is a valid piece of legislation.
On Wednesday, I sat in the Senate for a while and worked on my feature story on SB 727. It's nearly finished! Just one more interview...which is the best part of the week.
Turns out the one person I want to interview is somewhat press-shy. Hence the title of this post. Hopefully, I can finally get an interview with him next week or, find another source who can give me some information.
Tune in next week! I'll only be working one day, however, since session is cancelled on Monday.
Unfortunately, once again, I missed a Monday at the Capitol. Even so, I had a busy week on Wednesday when I arrived.
Once I got to the Capitol on Wednesday, I immediately went to the House floor. I stayed in the House for nearly two hours, most of which was spent listening to a debate on HB 1326. The debate was over whether or not business owners should be prohibited from banning firearms on their properties. It awaits just one more vote in the House before moving on.
This was one of my first times truly covering the House. One would think it wouldn't be much different from covering anything else at the Capitol, but it is a completely different story.
I've learned that with the House, you always have to be on your toes. The dialogue is fast-paced and constant, and the representatives are only called out by their district, so you have to learn faces and voices in order to identify the representatives quickly. Even so, I enjoyed covering the House, it was a good change of pace from covering hearings.
I can't wait to come back from spring break to cover the rest of the legislative session.
This was a great week. I managed to get a lot of work done, and it was great to be back in the office after being out sick the entirety of the past week. My feature story is looking great, and I only have to get a few more sound bites and it will be finished!
Be on the lookout for my feature. I'm covering a bill proposed by Sen. Robert Schaaf which would help wean single parents off of welfare that they receive for child care. I succeeded in reaching several people that greatly helped my story. I look forward to publishing it!
On Monday, I got the opportunity to sit in on the Supreme Court hearing for the Senate redistricting. What we thought would be a short, half hour hearing on the issues of Sunshine Laws and contiguity ended up being a two hour hearing where neither of these issues was discussed. Even though it wasn't what I expected, it was still an excellent learning opportunity!
Wednesday was also an experience. While it helped me learn, it was not a happy learning experience.
A few weeks ago, I covered a hearing for Nathan's Law, a bill that would crack down on unlicensed child care providers. The bill is named after a three month old who died at the hands of an unlicensed child care provider.
On Wednesday, the bill was being heard again in a different House committee. This time, the baby's mother was in attendance, and I interviewed her for my story.
It was then that I experienced one of the toughest things I will have to go through as a journalist. No matter the topic, as a journalist, you have to get the story. If that means interviewing someone who is going through some tough times...then so be it.
I felt horrible interviewing the mother. Considering she cried throughout the entirety of her testimony in the hearing, the wounds inflicted by her son's death were still very raw, years later. Even though I was not asking her any difficult or insensitive questions, I still felt invasive by interviewing her and asking her to relive what would be some of the worst memories of her entire life.
I realize not every story will be easy. I can only hope I do every story justice, and that I am kind to every source along the way.
This week, I learned a tough lesson. Sometimes, when you go to cover something seemingly important, it doesn’t always turn out to be newsworthy.
This week, I covered the Senate’s discussion of additions to
the no-call list for Missouri.
While I thought it would be a controversial topic, it was lightly
discussed with no decision made. What we at MDN thought would be one of the most heavily-discussed issues of the week turned out to be nothing.
Even while it wasn’t the most important thing discussed that day, I still did some radio wraps on the issue. However, even though my story wasn’t newsworthy, I still earned the amazing opportunity to Skype in to KOMU 8 News in Columbia to discuss the debate over birth control legislation in the House. I was able to film footage for KOMU for the first time and Skype in live.
This job has taught me to never be complacent. Just when you think you have nothing to do, something will inevitably come up. That’s the charm of journalism – news is always happening somewhere in the world, even if your world is just the state Capitol building.
However, Wednesday, albeit a slow news day, still provided me with a great learning experience. I ended up covering a story that...wasn't exactly a story. I was stuck in a weird limbo between events pertaining to the story, and wasn't sure what to write.
I did a few radio wraps on the letters written by Mizzou students, to the Governor, to protest the higher education budget cuts. Since I work on Wednesdays, it was a day after the letters were delivered, and as it turns out, a day before more budget cut legislation was proposed.
There's a reason why there is a "new" in "news." News is new, not old. So while my story had some good data in it, it wasn't completely relevant.
So for next time, I learned to "advance" the story a little bit, and put it a bit more into the future.
I can't believe I've been working at MDN for three weeks now. I feel as though just yesterday I was walking up the steps to the Capitol for the first time, not knowing what to expect.
However, I think I'm finally beginning to learn the "lay of the land," so to speak. Even with my chronically awful sense of direction, I've managed to learn where the House and Senate are, and the location of certain offices.
This is not the most important part however- what is important, is that I am finally starting to have a little faith in my work. I have to admit, I've never truly had faith in my newswriting. I love writing creatively, so writing in a news style has always been a struggle. Thus, I've never been truly confident in my print work.
This week however, the Missourian and KMOX picked up some of my work, and I couldn't have been any happier. I'm finally starting to have some faith in my print stories. Also, it makes me feel so much better that I'm working on my weaknesses as a journalist. As a broadcaster, I'll be writing wraps for the rest of my life, but who know's when I'll be able to write print stories again? Even if I don't write print stories later on, I'll at least know the techniques, just in case.
On another note, I have found it fascinating to see how exactly the government works. You can watch all the government dramas you want to on TV, but nothing compares to watching a real live hearing on a real piece of legislation. I'm getting the incredible opportunity to meet and interview the people who will shape the state of Missouri, and then relay that information to the public. I couldn't be happier.
As a wrap-up of the week, here's what I've learned in list form:
1. Filibustering happens more than one would think...I heard another filibuster on Wednesday.
2. Everything important happens on Wednesday.
3. Persistence is key for getting an interview.
4. Apparently, kids don't think being in a print story is just as cool as being on TV. The highlight of my week was interviewing a woman with her small daughter in tow. When the daughter excitedly asked if her mommy was going to be on TV, I told her that she would be in a newspaper story instead. The little girl sighed, turned to her mom, and said, "Eh, well, you can't win 'em all, Mom." Kids do say the darndest things.
Even though I knew what a filibuster was, it was something else getting to see one in action. I couldn't help but chuckle while I sat in the Senate watching the filibuster. The Senator talked on and on, telling stories about her dog, reading old court cases, anything she could think of.
Also, it was interesting to be at a hearing for something that would actually affect me. I listened in fascination as the Interim President of the UM Campuses, Steve Owens, discussed the possible tuition hike. Being an out-of-state student at Mizzou, I would be greatly affected by the hike.
This week was also very different because I jumped around a bit from story to story on Wednesday. I started out doing a bit of research on a possible feature story, went to the House of Representatives to hear about a bill being discussed, then went to the hearing and wrote a print story for that, and then visited the Senate to see the filibuster.
All in all, I would say this week went successfully.
Here's what I learned...
1. The parking garage behind the Governor's Mansion is very far. Also, their directions for paying aren't very specific...definitely have to look into the specifics of that when I go back on Monday.
2. Be prepared to do a lot of running around in the Capitol. Literally. Those elevators are really slow and in my opinion, not worth the wait. To the stairs we go!
3. Grab equipment early, and hang on to it until you've dubbed audio.
4. The new version of Skype is really awesome. Better get that update.
5. The cafeteria DOES have a microwave. Clearly, I should have looked into that better.
Can't wait for next week!
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