State government news down the memory hole?

Jan 8, 2015

 

Critics say legislative term limits and declining interest by established media in covering state government have produced a loss of institutional memory that is crippling collaboration and coverage on important issues. Former MissouriNet news director Bob Priddy joins Missouri School of Journalism professors Earnest Perry and Mike McKean to discuss the issue on KBIA-FM's media criticism program, "Views of the News."

  

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Priddy described a decline in the number of reporters covering the state capital as "devastating" saying state government is the part of government with the greatest impact on the lives of those within a state. The recently-retired news director remembered a time when many papers such as those in Joplin and Cape Girardeau had reporters in Jefferson City.    

"The newspapers in the state of Missouri and the news media, including television stations, simply don't think that what goes on in the capital is important news."

According to Priddy, the memory hole in Jefferson City is also the result of the state's 1992 constitutional amendment which placed a term limits of eight years for both the House and Senate. Priddy said it has destroyed institutional memory and has reduced cooperation among the legislature. 

"I think term limits is the worst thing that has happened to Missouri politics since reconstruction."

Looking ahead to the 2015 legislative session, Perry said there are many representatives from the St. Louis area who he expects will push for investigations into the actions of law enforcement, as well as those of Gov. Jay Nixon. Priddy joined in, saying he believes special prosecutors for grand juries in cases of police shootings are the issue most likely to receive support. 

"This year, unlike last year, the legislature and the Governor agree on how much money is going to be available."

Priddy expects budget issues to remain front and center as the state attempts to address funding issues. It is still unclear what role Constitutional Amendment 10, which allows the legislature to override the governors' withholdings, will play.