I'm coming to you live tonight from the Missouri Senate floor where I sit among a handful of other state capitol reporters riding out what's looking like a looooong filibuster. Here are the four Republican players in tonight's filibuster: Jim Lembke (St. Louis), Brian Nieves (Washington), Will Kraus (Lee's Summit) and Rob Schaaf (St. Joseph). They are "talking to death" the House bill that would authorize the spending of federal stimulus money. If the filibuster lasts until Friday, the bill won't meet the deadline for passing budget bills. I'll explain more as the night progresses.
6:07 p.m. -- My news director just left for his dinner break and instructed me to hold down the fort in case anything big happens while he's away. That shouldn't be a problem seeing as Kraus shows no signs of slowing down his discussion of the national debt.
6:27 p.m. -- Staying up until 3:00 a.m. studying last night was probably a poor decision on my part considering these circumstances...
6:28 p.m. -- "Enough is enough," says Kraus on federal spending. The discussion has now reverted back to the bill. He says this filibuster is "in good faith."
7:03 p.m. -- Schaaf has left the chambers and says he'll return after midnight. Lembke begins his solo shift with reading an excerpt from Frederic Bastiat's book "The Law."
7:21 p.m. -- If nothing else, this has given me an opportunity to admire the artwork on the walls of this chamber. I'm really struck by the quote inscribed on the wall right behind the press table: "Nothing is politically right that is morally wrong."
7:44 p.m. -- Just in: Lembke announces that the Ralph Macchio, of the "Karate Kid" fame, received all high scores on tonight's episode of "Dancing with the Stars." Thank you for the update, Senator.
8:38 p.m. -- Nievcs is now on the floor and he's announced he will read "The Law" cover to cover. Maybe this can take the place of studying for my political science final.
12:59 a.m. -- I clearly got distracted and abandoned this blog thing. I'm listening to the Senate debate online from the comforts of my own home now.
This week, Missouri Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder did something we’ve all probably done before – he left his keys in the car. The result? His car was stolen, crashed into a local store building, and then torched to the ground. After getting assigned to cover this story, I made a call to AAA and learned that Kinder’s mistake would have violated some county ordinances. In some places, it's actually illegal to leave your keys in the car. Who knew?
I decided to have a little fun with this week's post and share with you some little known, somewhat bizarre Missouri laws evidently still on
the books. Did you know...
- It’s illegal for a man to shave without a permit.
- In St. Louis, a milkman may not run while on duty.
- Bathtubs in Kansas City with legs resembling animal paws are prohibited.
- Clotheslines are banned in Columbia, but draping one’s clothes over a fence is permitted.
- Any city can create a tax to fund a band, however the mayor must play piccolo and each band member must eat peas with a knife.
This week I sat in on a House debate on a bill to limit the use of foreign law in state courts. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Paul Curtman (R-Pacific) said the intent of the bill was to keep the rights of citizens from being violated. As I sat there listening, I thought to myself: So this is keeping the courts from say ruling that government dissent is illegal and citing South Korean law? This example may seem a little absurd and far-fetched, but I think it illustrates my point. Doesn’t the U.S. constitution already trump foreign law? But to be fair, on the House floor, Curtman said there have been increasing cases of foreign law being cited in Missouri courts. Since Curtman couldn’t provide examples of this at the time, I decided to find some for myself.
Naturally, I began my investigation with a Google search. I found a few recent examples of the Supreme Court citing foreign law to interpret a case. In Abbott v. Abbott (2010), a case involving an international treaty on child abduction, both the majority and the dissent cited international law. In Graham v. Florida (2010), the Supreme Court cited foreign law in its decision that juvenile offenders can not be held for life imprisonment for offenses other than murder. In Bodum USA, Inc. v. La Cafetière, Inc. (2009), the Seventh Circuit Court debated at length whether a U.S. court could consider foreign law. I was unable to find any Missouri cases where judges cited foreign law, although that doesn’t mean they aren’t out there.
The Supreme Court judges themselves have had a few things to say on this issue. When speaking at the Johns Hopkins University, Justice Steven Breyer said he believed that judges should be able to consider foreign law. U.S. judges should be able to turn to another country for enlightenment if there was a similar case he said. Justice Antonin Scalia, on the other hand, has said that using foreign laws to interpret the Constitution is straying from what the Founding Fathers wanted for this country. Rather than being used to interpret the Constitution, he said he fears it will be used to rewrite it.
It's definitely an interesting debate, but opponents of the bill felt it wasn't one worth spending time on during the last several weeks of the legislative session. The bill did pass in the House and was sent to the Senate where it was referred to a committee. We'll know in the next few weeks if Missouri, as well as about a dozen other states considering similar legislation, will join the state of Oklahoma in banning court consideration of foreign law.
Every 9 seconds a woman is assaulted or beaten in the US. That statistic, compiled by the Department of Justice, is haunting. I’d heard it before, but like so many statistics, I had dismissed it as another sad, unfortunate reality. But Thursday, when I had the chance to put a face to one the millions of women who are domestically abused, I was overwhelmed with emotion.
I think that too often we get wrapped up in the numbers, the people in suits, and the legislation they write that it’s easy to forget each story we cover has a human face. When I was covering a ceremony honoring crime victims, we heard from Carol Cromer. She shared with the crowd gathered outside on the Capitol lawn her incredible story of emotional abuse she endured from her husband. She says her husband stalked her, threatened to kill her, set fire to her car and then to her house. For years he made her life a living nightmare, she said. I got chills during her speech, and next thing I knew I was fighting back tears. I was caught off guard and surprised by this rush of emotion. I shook it off and went back to furiously scribbling down notes.
I haven't been able to shake that exact moment out of my mind for several days now. Does being that emotionally involved in a story
keeps one from reporting objectively? Shouldn't journalists always be cool, calm, and collected? On the other hand, I do think there's something to be said for compassion-based journalism. Sometimes
our most powerful stories are the ones where we let our impressions influence
what we write. The idea that a journalist has to be some emotionless robot is absurd, especially when trying to cover the oppressed and often under-represented victims in society. To evoke emotion in our stories, we must have empathy. Keep the biased opinion out of the story of course, but where appropriate, we can't be afraid to let our reactions enhance our storytelling.
Filibuster. The contentious word echoed through the halls of the Missouri Capitol this week. What is a filibuster you ask? Commonly referred to as "talking a bill to death," a filibuster occurs when a senator delivers a long speech that can only be stopped by a two-thirds majority vote known as cloture. Filibusters happen for various reasons, but mostly when a senator wants to keep a bill from being passed. Missouri senators on both sides of the aisle employed filibuster tactics this week, and I was there to witness it firsthand.
All this filibuster talk had me thinking... what's the story behind them? I did a little research and here's what I found:
I came across an interesting statistic today I thought I'd share. A recent Quinnipiac University survey found that for 18-29 year olds Facebook statuses are the second biggest source of news about the 2012 presidential race. Granted, newspapers were the leading source of news among this group, but thirty-six percent said they primarily rely on Facebook. I'll admit I'm a little stunned by this statistic. If this survey had told us Twitter was being used as the second biggest news source, I'd understand. But Facebook?
"how about them Cardinals!," "Ahh Britney's new album is out!!!," "just ate three big macs"
These are the first few statuses appearing on my Facebook News Feed and serve as reminders of why I don't tend to look to Facebook first as a source of credible news. Call me old-fashioned, but whatever happened to reading the morning paper or watching the morning news? I don't want to undermine the value in news gathering on the internet because I do believe social media like Twitter and Facebook do have an important role in the dissemination of information. But all that aside, it's kind of a scary thought to think that so many young people are using Facebook statuses as their primary news source. Most of our Facebook "friends" aren't journalists, so should why should we consider the information they post like journalism?
This week could best be characterized as disappointing. On both of my days
working at the capitol this week, my stories fell through and I wasn’t able to
produce anything. As frustrated as I was by this, I realize this unpredictability is something I'll have to get used to. Stories can change at any moment. While this is exciting, the
uncertainty is hard to get used to for someone who enjoys making schedules and
to-do lists in her free time (but who doesn’t?). But the fact is, life
isn’t on a schedule. Journalists have to be ready to pack up and go at any
moment when news breaks. They have to be ready to scrap a story and start from
scratch when things don’t work out. Luck may not have been on my side this
week, but it is what it is. Hopefully next week, I can produce some great
story. Although the legislators will be on spring break next week, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I'll find something really exciting to cover.
This week I spent some time in the Senate Lounge listening to a spirited debate over capping the damages in workplace lawsuits. II found the debate really interesting and rushed back to the newsroom to produce my stories. Yet I made one fatal mistake – I didn’t look at the Senate’s docket for that day. As it turns out the Senate had been debating an almost identical bill while I was busy writing my stories. Upon realizing this, I had to scramble to incorporate this new information into my story. It wasn’t an ideal situation, but I learned something important. Stay on top of things! A good journalist is must be aware of everything that’s going on at all times. It may seem like a tall order, but that comes with the job.
This kind of goes along with something I’ve been thinking about lately. In the Twitter age, most of us pick and choose our news. I know I do. When I’m in between classes scanning my Twitter for news, I have the unfortunate habit of choosing what I want to read, not what I need to read. I tend to ignore sports stories in favor of more provocative news and that’s a mistake. What one might brush off as an insignificant story, might turn out to be much more. But, I digress. It’s been a long week with classes and work at MDN. In honor of this blog post, I think I’ll relax and turn on some ESPN.
This week I learned another valuable lesson – find a reason
for your listeners to care. I went to the House Appropriations
Committee Tuesday to write a print story. Despite all of the budgetary issues being discussed, I
thought I had come away with a story or two. Or so I thought. When I came back
to the newsroom, our news director told me I needed to find a story that
readers would care about. He was right. So my partner and I headed back out the
door, tracked down some lawmakers, and asked how the proposed budget cut of
seven percent for state universities would affect MU. Unfortunately a similar
story had been covered in the Missourian, so I ended up producing radio stories
on another issue discussed in committee. Still, I learned an important lesson.
From now on, I won’t come back to the newsroom until I have a good answer to
the question: “why should I care?”
Missouri Digital News is produced by Missouri Digital News, Inc. -- a non profit organization of current and former journalists.