It’s a sacred responsibility and one that I’m reminded of on the way to Springfield. If you’re a regular reader you know my political affiliation is aligned with the interests of my daughter and the kind of world I want her to live in.
After extensive research I’ve found common denominators among good reporters – exceptional instincts and a love for the truth. Integrity is our certification – honesty our credentials.
It’s the Ramzan Festival which means little to anyone that doesn’t have employees working overseas. To me it means a night without sleep before an action packed day of reporting local news.
First stop –Taney County Courthouse to see Honorable Judge Williams – I’m scheduling a video interview believing a quick stop is on the agenda – but the judge opts to speak with me. I wait in the lobby with anxiety as only a half hour for the scheduled political lynching of Rockaway Beach’s Mayor – which constitutes the death of gambling in the Branson area only to be resurrected when local leaders decide civility trumps personal gain when it comes to managing the city government. Perhaps, they have no idea what’s really at stake.
The judge summons me into his office. He’s preparing to leave for Missouri Judge’s college with the Honorable Larry Luna who will serve the circuit in Ozark as Judge Orr moves into the presiding position. Many judges will choose a summer session at the Lake but Luna and Williams will be attending the Kansas City Session an advantage as they’ll have the complete summary of the last legislative session to study.
Williams is signing warrants and wants to speak about the sacred responsibility of the press; particularly investigative reporting and its importance to society our culture and as a combatant against corruption. It provides a well needed burst of energy as I’m on 30 hours without sleep. A couple notes here – Williams became an attorney at 39 years old – views marriage and raising children as a man’s most sacred oath and became a judge himself after seeing flaws in the judicial system. More to come on this topic.
Next Stop – Rockaway Beach – A Beautiful city in great need of economic opportunity. I fill out a sunshine request to explore specific city counsel meetings. I know the answer to what I’m looking for – instinct – but need to prove it before I can report on it. I receive a copy of the fourteen point allegations against the Mayor which I’ve promised to post and offer equipment to the depressed city. Part of my job is to help government organizations serve the public by disseminating information vital to the citizens. Before I leave I offer to donate equipment that will assist the city in communicating with the public. By donating communications equipment I lower the cost of doing business for myself. Three weeks of gas prices alone will cover the cost. Regardless, I receive confirmation that my instincts are intact – speaking with the judge was a good use of time – an 80 year old Rockaway Beach Alderman with severe diabetes is too ill to make it to the meeting. Impeachment hearings for the mayor are put off indefinitely and so is the fate of gambling in the Branson area.
I have a lunch engagement with Gregory Mathews of Gannet’s Springfield – News-Leader. Greg is unique for a journalist/editor – he can write code and is part of helping bring the Springfield Newsleader into the 21st century. Greg acknowledges the changing face and challenges of the newspaper and the movement from Newspaper to news organization. A couple of weeks ago KY3 and the Newsleader hosted the Talent – McKaskill debates both hosted the video on their websites. The Internet is a common ground where communication forms are blurred.
Exhaustion overwhelms me as we enter the last half hour of our two hour discussion. I’m slaphappy and struggle to keep my eyes open – feels like a brick just hit my head – I can’t complain though – these guys work hard – I’m on my 34th hour without sleep.
The Newsleader has moved to a 19 hour production cycle . With RSS feeds reporters can leak news while it’s breaking which has advantages and disadvantages – without confirmation of all the facts the early reports have errors which are unacceptable for final columns. As we’re eating lunch my RSS reader rings like a doorbell….It’s the Newsleader calling – The Branson office has just reported that the Rockaway Beach meeting has been cancelled. Like I’ve been trying to tell you – instinct will prove to be superior technology to any creation the Internet will bring us. Greg was part of a three person team the paper flew out to attend training on creating and publishing new media. It’s been a challenge for them to put new technology in the hands of reporters as the skill sets are specialized – great writers – great reporters doesn’t necessarily make a great web author. What is exciting is that the paper was able to publish third party candidates that weren’t televised on the aforementioned debates. They’re coming alongin the digital front and new hiring will reflect the diversity needed as the paper evolves – the editor’s are committed to building great online content with the perspective that the money will follow. One particular challenge the paper is having is something called reverse publishing. Let’s say you have an abundance of great content – community reporting and data posted on/ your website ….How can you do the reverse and turn in into print content before deadline…the newspaper’s of the future need good code. Greg and I part ways before I head to area political headquarters but not before one final detour… 417 Magazine
I stopped by to get coffee on my way to the judges office where this story begins. I came across Colette Streasak a former salesperson for the Taney County Times. She’s in the process of starting a magazine called “Both Sides of The Bridge “. What’s important here is how she’s pitching it…”like 417”. This is local lingo for – you should pay me well because my publication quality is unbeatable. It’s unlikely they’ll be seeing competition of this caliber in our area. I say this because of something I recognized while at 417 headquarters– discipline. Everyone was working hard – not the glamour of other publication headquarters I’ve been to but the ethic was apparent. They’ll beat you because they work harder – It’s the American way.
Last stop of the day in Springfield….Republican Headquarter’s are empty. They have three offices and I’m told the office on Sunshine isn’t where the action is.In fact, when I’m there Rublican Headquarters are empty. Democratic headquarter’s prove to be more interesting and after my 6th visit they’re warming up to me a little more. I’m pulled to the side for one of the most interesting discussions of the day. An intern explains the real political process in Jefferson City. Forget what they told you in Political Science class - Here’s how it really goes down. First of all, no one hangs out in Jefferson City unless you’re getting an award, are a member of the press or a lobbyist. Lobbyist’s are everywhere and represent a massive diversity of interests. Some from corporations – some from schools – you name it a lobbyist probably represents it. They spend time seducing politicians both Democrat and Republican regardless of what candidates may want you to think. If you’re convinced as a state rep of a good idea it’s passed over to a panel of attorneys who create the draft of legislation to be approved. It’s somewhat of a cakewalk and the first month consists of little more than two hour daily sessions. This changes towards the end of the session and the last month is hectic. Democrats and Republicans work together and are less of enemies than campaign ads suggest. Support staff is important and one specific candidate Norma Champion is noted by “her enemy” as having some of the best staff in Jefferson City. (Complements from your political foes carry heavy weight in my book). Who I really want to speak to is an analyst and MSU professor who predicted outcomes of the last election by 1/10t of 1%. I don’t know if he’s a political analyst or a fortune teller – doesn’t matter it’s who I want to meet and will have to follow up because I won’t be satisfied until I get to the bottom of this story.
After my my 40th hour without sleep I head home thinking about something a publisher asked me last week. I have an answer for him now …I have great instincts, love the truth and write with integrity. I consider myself a journalist and couldn’t be more proud.