Sometimes, however, I am not thrilled with the brief description that is given of what I have written. That was the case today when the Star linked to last night's post about former Speaker of the House Steve Tilley's newly found vocation as a lobbyist.
I have been checking the Missouri Ethics Commission filings each day, waiting for the official notification that Tilley had joined the merry-go-round of elected officials who go directly from representing their constituents (hopefully) to peddling influence with their former colleagues.
With Tilley, it was a bigger story and that story was missed entirely by the reporters at the state's largest media outlets, including the Star. Not only was Steve Tilley moving from being speaker of the house, an extremely powerful position in Missouri state government to being a lobbyist, but he was the sponsor of a bill filed just two years ago that would have prohibited such a move.
That was what I reported about. It was a news story, plain and simple, the kind I have been writing about for 35 years. This was how Jonathan Bender at the Kansas City Star described it today:
The Turner Report is frustrated that only three years after sponsoring ethics reform, former Missouri House Speaker Steve Tilley registered as a lobbyist.No, I was not frustrated. I had an exclusive story, as far as I can tell, about a politician who went from promoting a highly-publicized, but ultimately unsuccessful ethics reform bill, to doing the very things he said he considered to be wrong in the first place.
I was not frustrated with Tilley, I was doing what the Kansas City Star should have been doing- reporting the news.
The Star's Jason Hancock, a reporter whom I am sure is overworked considering all of the budget cuts McClatchy has made in what was once a gold standard newspaper, had a by-the-numbers report in which he capably noted all of the developments from this calendar year in the Tilley saga. The problem for Hancock, is that he has only been at the Star since late 2011 and has only covered Missouri politics for about two years. In other words, he was not at the Star when Tilley was pushing his ethics legislation.
In the past, the Star might have had someone with the institutional memory to recall the omnibus ethics bill. Through a series of firings and buyouts, that institutional memory has nearly vanished.
I have no quarrel with Hancock's reporting or his coverage of the Tilley story. He does solid work.And I am not frustrated with Steve Tilley, no matter what it says on the Star website. What I am frustrated with is the condescending attitude the Star and some other newspapers, takes toward bloggers. If a blogger breaks a story, the newspaper maintains a haughty distance from it, as if a story broken by a blog is not a story at all, but some biased hit job. If it is mentioned at all, it is treated as so much gossip or it is ignored for a while until the newspaper's reporters figure the public has forgotten who initially broke the story and then it is treated like it was the newspaper's story all along with the blog's role left unsaid.
Or the story is treated like the Springfield News-Leader recently treated the stories The Turner Report broke about Seventh District Congressman Billy Long's repeated trips, financed by his campaign contributors, to Las Vegas. The News-Leader, instead of doing its own reporting (and all of my information came from FEC documents) simply quoted from my blog and from the Bus Plunge blog in Springfield, got a response from the politician and considered that to be a story. Apparently, it was a tainted story because it came from bloggers.
I am frustrated with the attitude some reporters have toward bloggers. I was breaking stories before many of the reporters who exhibit holier-than-thou attitudes toward blogs were even born. And I do not think I am anything special because of my lengthy background as a newspaper reporter.
Some of the best reporting going on in this state and across the country is being done by bloggers, including some in the Kansas City Star's home territory. Quite frankly, Tony's Kansas City covers a sizable portion of Kansas City news territory that rarely, if ever, sees a Star reporter.
I am frustrated that the newspapers that I grew up with have been neutered by chain ownership to the point where they can no longer provide an investigative function, but are limited to stenography and get a quote from both sides and call it a day journalism.
I am frustrated, but not with Steve Tilley. What Steve Tilley did, I have been expecting for a long time. That's just a politician catching a ride on the old merry go round. As someone who grew up reading newspapers and loving them and had the joy of working for newspapers for 22 years, I am disappointed with what they have become.
That is the source of my frustration.