Christina Turner
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Christina Turner

   Christina Santiago is a Radio/TV journalism major at the University of Missouri-Columbia. She also works at mid-Missouri's NBC affiliate KOMU-TV8 News station in Columbia, Mo. as a production assistant and VO patroller. Christina expects to graduate in the spring of 2015. She hopes to ultimately work as an international or political reporter. She is also pursuing a minor in political science.

Christina graduated from Visitation Academy in 2011 in St. Louis, Mo.

Stories by Christina Turner in 2014 include:
Stories by Christina Turner in 2013 include:
Christina Turner's Tweets @MDNnews in 2014

  • 01/22/2014: Abortion bills hearing in progress. MO Family Network supports HB 1192 to notify parents prior to abortion on their minor. MO ACLU opposes.
  • 01/22/2014: HB 1193 to establish core blood collection sites throughout MO finding no opposition. All medical testimony favorable.
  • 01/22/2014: "It's our call to take care of these people"Rep. Anne Zerr, R-St. Charles, on HB 1223 to raise asset limits for MO Healthnet benefits
  • 01/22/2014: HB 1223 gets unanimous support. Health Care Policy Comm. wondering if increase to $5,000 for single & $10,000 for married couple is enough.
  • 01/22/2014: HB 1223 gets unanimous support. Health Care Policy Comm. wondering if increase to $5,000 for single & $10,000 for married couple is enough.
  • 01/22/2014: HB 1223 100% supported. House Health Care Policy Comm. asks if fiscal note of $5,000 for single & $10,000 for married couple is enough.
  • 01/22/2014: HB 1223 supported in hearing. H. Health Care Policy Comm. asks if $5,000 for single & $10,000 for married couple is enough of an increase.
  • 01/22/2014: HB 1307 and HB 1313 would extend mandatory delay for abortion from 24 hours to 72 hours. Several testimonies for and against.
  • 01/22/2014: Proposed bill would restrict abortion rights
  • 01/22/2014: Abortion bills proposed on Roe v. Wade anniversary
  • 01/22/2014: Mo. legislators propose abortion restrictions on 41st Roe v. Wade anniversary
  • 01/27/2014: Bill proposes criminalizing sexual exploitation by clergy
  • 01/27/2014: House committee reviews bill criminalizing sexual exploitation by clergy
  • 01/27/2014: Bill proposes criminalizing clergy sexual exploitation
  • 01/29/2014: "There's a need and this is the way to do it."-OA Comm. Doug Nelson on Nixon's plan to fund Fulton State Hospital repairs #MoLeg @CSTurner1
  • 01/29/2014: "If the state defaulted on a debt like this, the credit rating of Missouri would drop like a rock."-Rep. Chris Kelly on Fulton funding
  • 01/29/2014: "Fulton is so critical it ought to stand on it's own."-Budget Dir. Linda Luebering on Nixon's supplemental bond proposal #MoLeg @CSTurner1
  • 01/29/2014: "$50 million in revenue is potentially at risk if we don't get this fixed."-Budget Director Linda Luebbering on loss without construction
  • 01/29/2014: "If we do this, we are binding the hands of General Assemblies to come w/out the vote of the people."-Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick
  • 01/29/2014: "We've been talking about Fulton for years and I see saving supplemental bonds for emergencies and unforeseen expenses."-Rep. Marsha Haefner
  • 01/29/2014: "Long-term investments shouldn't be made with short-term cash."-Rep. Marsha Haefner on hesitance to support supplemental funding for Fulton
  • 01/29/2014: House budget committee reviews Fulton State Hospital funding
  • 01/29/2014: House budget committee reviews repairs funding for Fulton State Hospital
  • 01/29/2014: State representatives question governor's budget for Fulton State Hospital construction
  • 02/03/2014: "There's only so much you can do when someone hits you in the head with a brick"-Rep. Pace on bill criminalizing assaults on bus drivers
  • 02/03/2014: "There's only so much you can do when someone hits you in the head with a brick"-Rep. Pace on bill criminalizing assaults on bus drivers
  • 02/03/2014: Senate considers whistle blower, impeachment bills
  • 02/03/2014: The Senate Judiciary Committee considered changing Missouri's whistle blower protections and impeachment laws.
  • 02/10/2014: Sen. Brian Nieves, R-Washington (26) brings gun bill to floor for adoption #MoLeg
  • 02/10/2014: Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis County, says bill does nothing to reduce gun violence & will be found unconstitutional in court @CSTurner1
  • 02/10/2014: Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis County, says bill does nothing to reduce gun violence & will be found unconstitutional in court
  • 02/10/2014: Sen. Scott Sifton, D-St. Louis County, proposes amendment protecting state/local police cooperating w/ federal agents on legitimate causes
  • 02/10/2014: Sen. Holsman, D-Kansas City, proposes amendment 2, that self-defense spray is nonlethal solution to halt violent threat #moleg @CSTurner1
  • 02/10/2014: Senate debates controversial gun bill
  • 02/10/2014: Mo. Senate debates controversial gun bill
  • 02/10/2014: Mo. Senate debates controversial gun bill
  • 02/10/2014: Missouri Senate debates controversial gun bill
  • 02/12/2014: Bill requiring school board member charged w/ sex offense w/ minor be suspended from board until charge settled #MoHouse #moleg
  • 02/12/2014: "If we can put out a fire before it gets too big, it's best to do that."-Rep. Mike Lair, R-Chillicothe, on bill protecting student data
  • 02/12/2014: "We've been focusing on getting students college ready, instead of career ready."-Rep. David Wood on bill changing graduation requirements
  • 02/12/2014: Bill proposes career courses substitute academic graduation requirements
  • 02/12/2014: Is a college degree needed to succeed? Proposed bill gets Mo. reps talking
  • 02/12/2014: Should the state push all high schoolers toward college? Mo. reps debate
  • 02/17/2014: OK pharmacy won't sell MO execution drug:
  • 02/24/2014: "I was put in prison for 16 years. That means her killer was left on the streets."-Murder Exonoree Joshua Kezer speaking on SB 732 @CSTurner
  • 02/24/2014: "6% of convictions are wrongful"-MU Law Professor testifying on Senate bill to change eye witness ID procedures #moleg @CSTurner1
  • 02/24/2014: @CSTurner1 "We really can't afford not to do this."-Osage County resident on Senate eyewitness ID bill #moleg
  • 02/24/2014: @CSTurner1"It's not beneficial to have rigid rules when technology is constantly evolving"-Prosecuting attorney opposing SB 732 #moleg
  • 02/24/2014: @CSTUrner1"Prosecutors don't want innocent people convicted, but want to ensure guilty people don't go free."-Prosectuing attorney on SB 732
  • 02/24/2014: @CSTurner1 Missouri Sheriffs Association opposes SB 732 proposing changes to eye witness ID procedures #moleg
  • 02/24/2014: "We can't convince judge b/c DNA evidence no longer exists"-Lawyer says client wrongly convicted, supports SB732 preserving evidence longer
  • 02/24/2014: @CSTurner1"There's no rigidity in this particular bill."-Attorney critiquing SB 732 opponent testimony #moleg
  • 02/24/2014: @CSTurner1"Police & proescutors feel it strengthens their ability to prosecute"-Lawyer on recording interrogations, speaking on SB732 #moleg
  • 02/24/2014: @CSTurner1"Police & prosecutors feel it strengthens their ability to convict"-Lawyer on recording interrogations, speaking on SB732 #moleg
  • 02/24/2014: Exonorees, rape survivors & attorneys debate eye witness ID procedures
  • 02/25/2014: Democrats continue the fight against Missouri becoming a right-to-work state
  • 02/26/2014: Attorney General releases statement on Michael Taylor execution
  • 02/26/2014: Elementary/secondary ed bill up for informal perfection in Senate, would modify laws for unaccredited school districts #moleg
  • 02/26/2014: Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, gets his Amendment 4 to SB 493 passed #moleg
  • 02/26/2014: Missouri senators vote to give state power to eliminate failing school districts
  • 02/26/2014: Failing school districts could get eliminated by the State Board of Education
  • 03/05/2014: @CSTurner1 A House bill would raise teacher minimum salary for 2015-2016 school year, subject to appropriation #moleg
  • 03/05/2014: "Perception is Normandy is failing all their students. But common thread b/w unaccredited districts is poverty."-Rep. Montecillo
  • 03/05/2014: @CSTurner1 Rep. Stream says his education bill aims to help struggling school districts w/out bankrupting them #moleg
  • 03/05/2014: State lawmakers discuss unaccredited school transfer solutions
  • 03/05/2014: State lawmakers spend day talking unaccredited school transfers
  • 03/05/2014: Gov. Nixon announces $3.2 billion trade agreement with Quebec
  • 03/05/2014: Attorney General announces $39,000 donation for Joplin rebuilding efforts
  • 03/10/2014: @CSTurner1 Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, says marijuana would raise $100 million in tax revenue for Missouri if legalized/regulated #MoLeg
  • 03/10/2014: @CSTurner1 Attorney Dan Viet says second-hand smoke/drug addiction will not increase if marijuana regulation adopted #MoLeg
  • 03/10/2014: "Nobody has ever died from a THC overdose. You can't say that about Tylenol, Advil any cold medicine on the drugstore aisle"-Dr. Gil Mobley
  • 03/10/2014: @CSTurner1 Dr. Gil Mobley says THC protects against cancer when supporting HB 1659 to decriminalize/regulate marijuana in Missouri #MoLeg
  • 03/10/2014: "This isn't just for stoners. This is for kids & others out there with no other options. This is our last hope."-Mother with dying son
  • 03/10/2014: "It's not just stoners. This is for kids & others out there w/ no other options. This is our last hope."-Mother w/ terminally ill child
  • 03/10/2014: "This God-given therapy can save lives."-Heidi Rail, mother of 4-year-old son w/ intractable epilepsy, supporting HB1659
  • 03/10/2014: @CSTurner1 "Any bill that modifies current marijuana standards in Missouri, we support"-John Payne, Exec Director of Show Me Cannabis #MoLeg
  • 03/10/2014: @CSTurner1 Reps. McCaherty, Colona & Black poke holes in Show Me Cannabis exec director's argument for full legalization of marijuana #MoLeg
  • 03/10/2014: @CSTurner1"Why make criminals out of people making one drg choice over another, like tobacco or alcohol?"-Mo. Police Chief Larry Kirk#MoLeg
  • 03/10/2014: "I'm not a criminal. Cannabis not being legal is not stopping people who need it from getting it."-Epileptic man w/ marijuana conviction
  • 03/10/2014: @CSTurner1 Show Me Cannabis board member Amber Langston argues for hemp usage in Missouri #MoLeg
  • 03/10/2014: @CSTurner1 STL police officer supports HB1659 due to racial disparity in marijuana arrests #MoLeg
  • 03/10/2014: Missouri legislators heard a bill that would legalize marijuana and regulate the cannabis market.
  • 03/31/2014: House expands EBT use, tightens eligibility for food stamps
  • 03/31/2014: Republican supports welfare expansion while Democrat disapproves
  • 03/31/2014: Republican supports expanding welfare purchasing power while Democrat disapproves
  • 04/07/2014: No jail time for first-time marijuana offenders under Senate bill
  • 04/07/2014: First-time pot offenders escape jail time under Senate bill
  • 04/09/2014: "The earlier we intervene w/ students, the better we see our outcomes get. That applies to schools"-Rep. Montecillo, D-St. Louis County
  • 04/09/2014: "We got too many kids turned off in school b/c someone didn't understand their culture"-Rep. Tommie Pierson, St. Louis County
  • 04/09/2014: "House Bill 2037 is a wellness plan instead of a hospice plan" -Mike Lodewegen, Missouri Council of School Administrators #moleg
  • 04/09/2014: Mo. Council of School Administrators supports SB 2037, which would send review teams to intervene at provisionally accredited schools #moleg
  • 04/09/2014: Mo. Students 1st rep Kit Crancer opposes HB 2037 #moleg
  • 04/09/2014: Children's Education Council of Missouri Director Kate Casas opposes HB 2037 w/ its current language #moleg
  • 04/09/2014: Sen. Chappelle-Nadal, D-St. Louis County, says DESE has dropped the ball in her school district, in which she serves on the board
  • 04/09/2014: School board member & Sen. Chappelle-Nadal, D-St. Louis County, says DESE has dropped the ball in her provisionally accredited district
  • 04/09/2014: Lawmakers attack state education department while discussing failing schools
  • 04/09/2014: Lawmakers attack DESE while discussing unaccredited schools bill
  • 04/16/2014: Hearing on House & Senate joint resolutions for transportation taxes in full swing #moleg
  • 04/16/2014: "We just keep moving money around to plug holes, & they don't even plug those holes."-Rep. Dave Hinson on funding transportation fixes
  • 04/16/2014: @MDNews "We can't afford to maintain what we already have."-Testimony from MoDot on potential transportation tax
  • 04/16/2014: "Without this funding, safety is going to be compromised."-MoDot Director Dave Nichols supporting transportation tax bill #moleg
  • 04/16/2014: "It's illogical that we would simultaneously push for tax cuts & tax hikes"-Sen. Lamping on how to fund transportation projects #moleg
  • 04/16/2014: Mo. Municipal League opposes HJR 68 due to concern about funding local infrastructure concerns #moleg
  • 04/16/2014: MSAW rep Jeanette Mott Oxford says sales tax burdens Missourians struggling to afford necessities, recommends revised gas tax #moleg
  • 04/16/2014: Lawmakers discuss sales tax to fund transportation projects
  • 04/16/2014: Lawmakers are discussing putting a state sales tax on November ballots
  • 04/23/2014: @CSTurner1 STL County Rep. McNeil wants to limit school choices parents/students have in transferring to private schools #moleg
  • 04/23/2014: @CSTurner1 STL County Rep. McNeil amendment to limit parents/students private school options fails #moleg
  • 04/23/2014: @CSTurner1 Amendments .14H and .24H regarding charter schools passed by House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education #moleg
  • 04/23/2014: @CSTurner1 House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education passes amendments .33H & .34H on school hours & graduation rates #moleg
  • 04/23/2014: @CSTurner1 House Education Committee passes House amendments 3, 7 & 8 regarding schools bill #moleg
  • 04/23/2014: @CSTurner1 Current transfer students could stay in receiving district even if sending district gets accredited under House committee vote
  • 04/23/2014: @CSTurner1 House amendment 9 passed by House Education Committee; allows students w/ good outcomes to stay in receiving district #moleg
  • 04/23/2014: House Education committee amends Senate school transfer bill
  • 04/23/2014: Transfer students could stay in receiving districts under an amendment passed by the House education committee
  • 04/30/2014: House committee passes school transfer bill
  • 05/05/2014: Mo. Senate overrides governor's tax cut veto
  • 09/03/2014: Gov. Nixon lifts State of Emergency in Ferguson

Christina Turner's Tweets @MDNnews in 2013

  • 08/29/2013: Tx. Governor tells Missouri legislators to override vetoed tax bill
  • 09/03/2013: Missouri Supreme Court ruling on retrospective laws regarding sex offenders and firearm possessors
  • 09/03/2013: The Missouri Supreme Court convened Tuesday to hear arguments on penalties for convicted sex and drug offenders
  • 09/03/2013: Attorneys argue sex, drugs and guns in the Missouri Supreme Court
  • 09/05/2013: Leader of Syrian-American advocacy group wants U.S. intervention now:
  • 09/05/2013: A leader of St. Louis Syrian-American advocacy group wants U.S. intervention now.
  • 09/05/2013: A leader of a St. Louis Syrian-American advocacy group wants U.S. intervention now.
  • 09/10/2013: Committee hears arguments on legislation to combat deer and elk disease
  • 09/10/2013: DESE General Counsel Mark Van Zandt giving lawmakers details on MO teacher tenure statutes at Joint Committee on Education Hearing. #moleg
  • 09/10/2013: Van Zandt says current tenure law dates back to 1970. Says issues of evaluating law are in the details. #moleg
  • 09/10/2013: Van Zandt on teacher tenure: "If process becomes so complicated and criteria become so specific it's almost impossible to implement." #moleg
  • 09/10/2013: DESE General Counsel Mark Van Zandt says teacher tenure law dates back to 1970.
  • 09/10/2013: DESE General Counsel Mark Van Zandt: "Tenure law is kind of like a mirror. People see what they want to see." #moleg
  • 09/10/2013: Rep. Mike Thomson, R-Maryville: "Tenure is there to protect the credibility of the teacher... not to never hold them accountable." #moleg
  • 09/10/2013: A legislative committee spent Monday afternoon hunting for solutions to a deer and elk disease problem
  • 09/12/2013: Veto session makes governor most overridden in almost two centuries
  • 09/12/2013: Governor releases withheld funds after tax veto sustained
  • 09/12/2013: The Mo. General Assembly overrode 10 vetoes Wednesday, the highest one-year total in 180 years
  • 09/17/2013: Missouri food banks warn of consequences from food stamp cuts
  • 09/17/2013: Mo. food banks warn national food stamp cuts could leave millions of Missourians hungry
  • 09/17/2013: Missouri food banks warn of consequences from food stamp cuts
  • 09/19/2013: Missouri National Guard provides married same-sex couples benefits
  • 09/19/2013: Missouri National Guard provides married same-sex couples benefits
  • 09/24/2013: Mo. lawmakers weighing options in school district bailout
  • 09/24/2013: Mo. legislators leaning toward giving failing school districts state aid
  • 09/24/2013: Bailout for failing schools wins Republican favor
  • 10/01/2013: Lawmakers say failing schools need "outside talent"
  • 10/01/2013: Lawmakers say failing schools need outside talent
  • 10/01/2013: Two Republican state lawmakers say failing districts need new teachers
  • 10/03/2013: Audit finds Lieutenant Governor creating unauthorized website
  • 10/03/2013: A state audit found Lt. Gov. using thousands from state funds for a website w/out legal authority
  • 10/03/2013: Lt. Gov.'s office audit found plans to illegally collect government whistle-blower reports
  • 10/03/2013: Audit reports Office of Administration failed to cancel former employees' purchasing card accounts
  • 10/03/2013: Audit reports Office of Administration failed to cancel former employees' purchasing card accounts
  • 10/08/2013: Expiring waiver could cut food stamps for thousands
  • 10/08/2013: Thousands of Missourians could go without food stamps if waiver expires
  • 10/08/2013: Tens of thousands of Missourians will get kicked off food stamps in a state administrating proposal passes
  • 10/10/2013: Attorney says Missouri Dept. of Corrections still has enough Propofol for lethal execution
  • 10/15/2013: State Rep. from Maryville says sexual assault case "blown out of proportion"
  • 10/17/2013: Rep. Chris Kelly not seeking another House term
  • 10/24/2013: Gov. Nixon shuts down proposed changes to food stamp program
  • 10/29/2013: Missouri's Medicaid Transformation chairman recommended privatizing Medicaid
  • 11/05/2013: Governor asks lawmakers to sit down and talk Medicaid
  • 11/14/2013: Secretary of State creates group to monitor voting complaints
  • 11/14/2013: Mo. Secretary of State establishes group to address voting complaints
  • 11/14/2013: Mo. state secretary establishes group addressing voting complaints
  • 12/05/2013: House committee votes for Boeing incentive bill
  • 12/05/2013: Governor Nixon's Boeing incentive bill expected to pass this week

Christina Turner's Blog in 2014
State reps question governor's Fulton State Hospital plan

Posted 01/29/2014: 

Three shifts in, my love for the legislative session has far exceeded my affection for the off-season.

Today I covered the House Budget Committee hearing on the governor's proposed budget to fund a new Fulton State Hospital. The hospital has been falling apart for decades, but Governor Nixon is suddenly trying expedite construction for a new facility. He wants to use supplemental bonds to pay for the project because such bonds are funded by taxes.

Several representatives on the committee took issue with this plan. Some cited a constitutional grey area, others took issue with using taxpayer money without voter approval, and several shared concern with the timing of a mechanism that is usually saved for emergency and unforseen expenses. Consensus seemed clear: the question was not whether the hospital needed the money, but when, where and how they should get that money.

Something I appreciate about the legislative session is the rigid schedule. Hearings can only last so long because there are half a dozen hearings every day. The House and Senate respectively need to meet, which also forces hearings to stay brief. I'm also working more efficiently and feeling more confident about my writing and reporting. Working here last semester prepared me to handle the craziness and business of this semester.

This particular issue of Fulton State Hospital falling apart is one that needs to be addressed. Having visited the site, it's disturbing the conditions patients live in, and Nixon's representatives said getting and keeping good employees is extremely difficult. Both patients and employees deserve better - now it's up to the state to determine the best way to fix what's broken.

Christina Turner's Blog in 2013
House passes Boeing incentive bill

Posted 12/06/2013: 

This week marked the most eventful week of the "off season" at the Capitol.

Governor Nixon called a special session of the state legislature in hopes of passing a Boeing incentive bill in an attempt to lure the company to build a new aircraft project in the Show-Me State.

Missouri is one of twelve states courting Boeing to manufacture the plane here. Missouri's incentive would give up to $1.7 billion dollars in tax breaks to the company over 23 years if it creates 8,000 jobs. The project is expected to bring in $2.9 billion dollars, according to the bill sponsor Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-St. Louis County.

If Boeing bases this project in Missouri, it could potentially create thousands of jobs within the state. But instead of writing a Newsbook about it as soon as I got back to the newsroom, I answered a phone call from an enterprise source and conducted a thirty-minute interview.

John Butler at KMOX in St. Louis called asking why nothing was up on the House's Economic Development Committee vote to pass the incentive. I was late on a Newsbook, a radio wrap and a print story because I put my long-term enterprise first.

I got the work done in time, and KMOX was able to use my material on-air and online. But I learned the importance of prioritization and efficiency Thursday. When I was sitting in the House Economic Development Committee hearing, I should have been writing my story, not just time codes for good quotes. Instead of taking a call that could wait until later, I should have gotten a Newsbook out as soon as possible and started on my radio and print stories.

It's easy to lose some sense of urgency when the legislature isn't here. But dayturns, especially important dayturns like this, come first. I'll need to pick up the pace during the legislative session when the Capitol is buzzing with busy-ness.

Mo. accept joint tax returns from same sex couples
Posted 11/15/2013:  While I was interviewing members from the Department of Mental Health about civil commitment for sexually violent predators, Governor Nixon was announcing in a press conference at the Capitol that he is directing Missouri tax officials to accept joint tax returns for same sex couples.

Thursday was also the first time Nixon said he supports gay marriage. "I think if folks want to get married they should get married," he said. A year ago, Nixon said he was against gay marriage.

I personally did not expect Missouri's Democratic governor to make this announcement with a Republican super-majority in the General Assembly. If anything, I thought he'd address Medicaid, upcoming executions, or rumors of a gag order on his administration keeping them from talking to the media. This particular announcement took me and my colleagues a little by surprise.

What followed in our newsroom is part of the reason I love journalism. Different people started working on different mediums - print stories, radio wraps, TV packages, online Newsbooks - and discussing what language to use. My peers debated between the words "support" and "endorse", "gay marriage" and "same sex marriage", scouring AP style books to confirm accuracy. Reporters, editors and our bureau chief all discussed the specifics of Nixon's comments, the implications of his announcement, and brainstormed who to talk to about it all. Phones rang off the hook as potential sources called people back, and everybody talked over each other, double checking appropriate phrasing and word choice.

The combination of concern for preciseness and urgency in production gives me a rush. Watching multiple people cover this in different ways just made the day all the more exciting and interesting.

Journalists are held to a higher standard. We are expected to get things right the first time, and to share information efficiently. Days like Thursday are examples of just that. We got the job done well and we got in done for drive time. Days like Thursday help me look forward to the legislative session, when every day will be busy and full of news to cover.

Medicaid hearing trumped by Governor's announcement
Posted 11/08/2013:  I attended an interim House committee on Medicaid transformation and reformation hearing Tuesday. But the most eventful thing about Medicaid happened outside the four walls of House Hearing Room 3.

Governor Nixon announced a Medicaid discussion Tuesday, inviting House and Senate Medicaid committee members to talk healthcare reform two days before Thanksgiving. The timing seems strange, and after speaking with several representatives, I'm not sure how many legislators will be in attendance. I'm going to keep following this - I'm curious to see what ends up happening.

Nothing particularly new took place during the hearing Tuesday. But if Nixon's meeting does happen and legislators go, it will be the first time the governor is publicly discussing Medicaid reform with members of the House or Senate. His announcement also displayed a change in language, from "Medicaid expansion" to "healthcare reform". To me, that says the governor is acknowledging the reality of a General Assembly Republican majority.

The decisions made during the legislative session on this issue will impact thousands of Missourians. I plan to continue following this story, especially when the real story is the thing attracting less attention.

Rep. Jay Barnes proposes privatizing Medicaid
Posted 10/31/2013:  The Medicaid Transformation chairman recommended privatizing Medicaid.

I spent hours at a Medicaid Transformation hearing Tuesday listening to state representatives and constituents propose solutions to Missouri's Medicaid problem. Missouri rejected the federal government's program after the Supreme Court deemed it unconstitutional to force states to apply the Affordable Care Act as written. Missouri has to create a version the federal government will accept in order to qualify for federal funds.

The biggest thing I learned this week was not to get distracted or confused by political jargin. The language used to describe complex issues like healthcare and health insurance for low-income residents can over-complicate the actual issues. It can be difficult to translate legislative talk into English.

Once I brought back what I thought was most important, my editor helped me realize the most newsworthy of my three radio wraps. He helped me see the most substantial part of the hearing, and helped me see past the unsupported sensationalism. Going into future hearings, I know I'll be better equipped to sift through the muck and the "new" in the news.

Gov. Nixon reverses plans to limit food stamp eligibility
Posted 10/25/2013:  On Thursday, Governor Nixon released a statement that he'd directed the state Department of Social Services to withdraw a proposal to let a waiver expire that feeds 58,000 Missourians.

In the state of Missouri, a 17-year-old waiver has allowed able-bodied, unemployed adults without dependents to receive food stamps. Nixon's administration was going to let that waiver expire November 1.

Supporters said the economy is turning around and the waiver was never intended to be permanent. Opponents said the state was still struggling financially and that taking people off of food stamps at this time would do more harm to the economy.

Nixon's statement said his decision came after gaining more certainty about federal food program funding. Media scrutiny and pressure from within his own party also brought attention to the issue before this reversal.

I spoke with several people, and while general consensus seems to be positive after this backtrack, this may just be a battle won, and not a war. The more the economy improves, the more unemployed Missourians can find jobs, and the more financial stability the state can enjoy, the more food insecurity will shrink.

Only time will tell on this issue. I look forward to seeing what steps legislators take towards creating a more permanent solution to this problem.

State Rep. says Maryville sexual assault case
Posted 10/17/2013:  This week, I learned how to switch gears on a dime.

I was preparing for a Medicaid hearing Tuesday when my boss's boss called and said he wanted all reporters on deck working on the now-viral Maryville case. My editor reassigned me halfway through the morning.

I'd already read the Kansas City Star article published Sunday. After a seven-month investigation, the Star produced an inflammatory piece suggesting a dismissed sexual assault case was being swept under the rug because the alleged assailant is related to a retired politician.

On my third phone call, I reached Rep. Mike Thomson, who represents Maryville. Below are the quotes from his interview that I used for my radio wraps:

"When a legislator says something unexpected, something newsworthy, you abandon the small, less important story for another that just appeared."

" I don't know the facts of this case, if things should have gone differently, I don't know. But to be depicted the way we're being depicted across the nation right now is a shame."

"I guess I'm going to be a little closed on this matter. I don't want it to spread. I want it to die."

I added my radio wraps to the KMOX lineup before noon and went back to prepping for the 1pm medicaid hearing.

While I sat in said hearing for four hours (a hearing where nothing new was introduced), my stories and quotes spread like wildfire over the Twitterverse. People following the story online started attacking Representative Thomson for his comments. Bloggers, politicians and fellow journalists started referencing and re-tweeting my story as well, some even basing their stories around the quotes I got, crediting me with the central focus of their stories.

This is the point when I started feeling a little sorry for Thomson. At this stage in the story, Maryville looks pretty bad, and anyone saying something different from the dominant message looks bad, too. Thomson isn't a villain, but he's being made out to be one online. I knew his comments were inflammatory within the current tone and framework story and used them anyway.

After talking to my editor, I realized I needn't feel guilty for how other people react to what my interviewees say. I asked Thomson if I could record our interview for future rebroadcast, so he knew I was recording him and gave me permission to use his interview for radio stories. I presented his quotes within their accurate, appropriate contexts. My stories were clear, factual and informative.

If I'd suppressed or withheld information from the public, that would have gone against journalistic ethics. As a young journalist, developing those ethics is one of the most important things I can do. At the end of the day, abandoning my original story when a legislator said something unexpected was the best thing I could do.

Attorney says state kept enough propofol to carry out scheduled executions
Posted 10/10/2013:  Today, I followed up on the Missouri Department of Correction's announcement on returning foreign-produced Propofol to manufacturers.

I called the department every hour on the hour between 9am and 6pm. I got no response.

I spoke with an attorney for the man scheduled to be executed in less than two weeks, and the attorney for Missouri's ACLU. Missouri's courts have not explicitly decided the constitutionality of using Propofol specifically for lethal injection. The attorneys shared potential consequences of the use of Propofol for executions. The attorney for plaintiffs facing the death penalty said he knew the department had enough of the drug left over to carry out scheduled executions, including one scheduled Oct. 23. 

My editor pointed out I did not ask an unaffiliated physician about intended uses and potential side effects to Propofol. I may pursue this story further and get that aspect. I want to understand how, when and why Propofol was chosen for lethal injection in Missouri, and who made that decision. I spent my day trying to find out how much the state still has, how much they sent back, and attempted to confirm that it will still be used for scheduled executions. I got answers for some questions, but the more I learn, the more questions I have.

One thing I did learn that I'll use for future stories is the slippery slope one can fall down when attributing words to others. Unless an interviewee explicitly uses specific words on-the-record, you cannot describe their words or actions with anything besides "says" or "does". Journalists can't leave any room for misleading, misunderstanding or insinuation. I thought I was expressing my interviewees' conversation accurately, but I was creating a tone based on personal interpretation.

Journalism isn't creative. We're not supposed to make things up, and one word can make the difference. My job is to communicate reality as effectively and accurately as I can. In the end, I think I did that with this story.

Joint Education Committee Hearing
Posted 10/04/2013:  This week, my most important story was the joint education committee hearing regarding transfer programs for failing school districts.

This was the last of a series of education hearings in recent weeks. It was the first with both state senate and house members in attendance. It was also the first based in the Capitol building, and the longest of the hearings.

Sitting in a crowded rumors for more than four hours can be exhausting. When an issue like this has been rehashed so many times, it can be exhausting to pick out what's new. But being from St. Louis, I'm familiar with the issue, and that helped me identify what hasn't been beaten like a dead horse.

Hearing legislators grill a DESE commissioner is entertaining. Hearing specific ideas on how to solve the problem adds some detail. But hearing the new superintendent of a failing school district tell the committee he doesn't need their money is unexpected and new, therefore newsworthy. Hearing leaders in the committee recommend staffing unaccredited schools with teachers from nearby accredited districts is also new, and says something about what they consider the root of the problem.

I focused my radio stories on those two moments, and I summarized all of the above in my print story. Of everything that was said in my hearing, I'm confident I noted the most important parts of the hearing. Identifying what part of an event is newsworthy is half the battle, and I think I'm gaining a better grasp on how to do so. The better I get at examining the big picture and picking out the crucial details, the better my stories will be, and the better journalist I'll become.

Bailout for failing schools wins Republican favor
Posted 09/25/2013:  Yesterday, I realized just how important it is to learn everything you can about the people you interview.

The House Education Committee is taking a three-day, statewide tour to get feedback on education policy. I spent my morning calling committee members and school administrators, hoping to get opinions from people with sway in this matter.

I ended up hearing from the House Budget Chair and House Education Vice-Chair, who both support giving state aid to failing school districts in the St. Louis suburbs. This is newsworthy because both representatives are Republicans, and both have the power to make things happen. Their opinions on how to change education policy actually matter, because their opinions weigh heavily in the decision-making process.

Yet in my first draft, I failed to mention their political persuasions or positions. The news was not that school committee members were traveling throughout the state discussing school law, but that Republicans who can effect change think the state should pour millions of dollars into failing school districts. This is an unexpected position for them to take, and says something about the gravity of the issue.

My editors alerted me to the newsworthy aspect of my story. I hadn't thought through the importance of a person's status, and how that impacts a story. Now I appreciate why thoroughly researching your interviewees and taking notes is the first thing you should do.

Missouri National Guard providing married same-sex couples military benefits
Posted 09/20/2013:  This week, I took a national story that Phil wanted covered and I localized it. I ultimately learned a lot about a system I was unfamiliar with, but at the end of the day, still had some unanswered questions.

The US Supreme Court decided in June that it's unconstitutional to deny military benefits to same-sex spouses of military personnel. The US Department of Defense responded by ordering state National Guards to provide those benefits to same-sex military couples with valid marriage licenses. Four states have directed their National Guards to stop processing such requests. So I started looking into Missouri's policy.

According to the Missouri National Guard spokesperson I spoke with, the Missouri National Guard has issued IDs and benefits for one same-sex couple since the order began September 3rd. That spokesman said the program is completely federally funded; because the US Supreme Court rules on federal law, the Missouri National Guard is complying with the US Supreme Court and the US DOD. That is why, he said, that providing benefits doesn't go against Missouri's ban on gay marriage.

By the end of the day, I had three radio stories and a print story. I talked to half a dozen people and felt confident that I understood how and why Missouri was handling this subject. I called the governor's office five times and never got a response, but I had spoken to several knowledgeable people on the subject so I wasn't overly concerned.

Right before the day's end, I called the the press secretary for a Missouri Congresswoman to try to get another perspective that differed from those I'd collected earlier. After asking him my questions, he spoke with a military contact in D.C. and said that his military contact said state governors had to decide whether the National Guard could provide military benefits to same-sex couples. The Missouri National Guard spokesperson I talked to said Governor Nixon hadn't reached out to them with any explicit command, one way or another.

I tried calling more people to clear up this confusion, but people had already left work for the day. I forwarded an email explanation from the National Guard Bureau in DC to the reporters working in the newsroom today. Despite the last minute questions, I feel confident that I handled this story well. I enjoyed researching this topic, pursuing sources and putting together the pieces of the puzzle.

Government restrictions on private property
Posted 09/12/2013:  This week I worked on a story that started out as a hearing on how to combat an elk and deer disease. By the end of the day, it developed into a story about when and how the government could or should restrict private property.

Not knowing anything about Missouri's captive-cervid industry (cervids include deer, caribou, elk and moose), I did a lot of research. I found numerous conflicting opinions on the danger of Chronic Wasting Disease, a disease found in deer and elk that degenerates brains. CWD has been found in 11 deer in Missouri and the committee is attempting to answer several questions. Some of those include: determining whether CWD actually kills deer and elk, how it entered Missouri, how to prevent it from spreading, whether it's a big enough problem that the government should intervene, and if so, what restrictions the state should put in place to combat the disease.

Possible restrictions the state could enforce include requiring deer and elk herders to pay for double fencing around their property and/or more testing to ensure deer and elk brought into/born into Missouri are not infected with CWD. The deer and elk herders I spoke to at the hearing said such restrictions would bankrupt them. They also said such restrictions wouldn't make a dent in CWD, and that other diseases are far more dangerous than CWD. On the other hand, members of the Missouri Department of Conservation said 

In the end, I wrote both sides. I tried to explain that this was about government interference in private property, and how the decision on this case could potentially cost taxpayers money and impact state revenue. That's my goal in political reporting: to show the average person how decisions made at the Capitol impact their everyday lives, to show them why they should care and stay informed and involved. I'm not sure if I achieved that with this article, but that's what I'm working towards.