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Phill Brooks

Hello and welcome to Missouri Digital News (MDN) -- one of the world's first news Web sites.

I'm the Webmaster of MDN, a service of the State Government Reporting Program of the University of Missouri School of Journalism. In addition to serving on the Missouri School of Journalism faculty, I am the Statehouse Correspondent for KMOX Radio in St. Louis and the Senior Executive Editor for Missouri Public TV statehouse affairs program Jeff City Journal.

I've been on the school's faculty since 1972 when I established our statehouse program -- making me the longest serving active member of the faculty.

For a long-time and dedicated government reporter, I have an eclectic background in computing, convergence, new media and international activities -- all areas in which I have served as a leader for innovation at my school. It's such a diverse and seemingly contradictory alignment of interests that I suspect it continues to baffle some of my colleagues and, I'll confess, myself.

Along with my colleague Brian Brooks (no relation except for dear friendship), I led the school into the digital era in the 1980s -- by designing, installing and managing the school's first microcomputer networks. For those of you who are old-time programmers, you might be interested to know that I had programmed much of it in assembly language, by golly!

Those efforts later led to the launch of MDN in January of 1995, just months after the Palo Alto Weekly put online in 1994 what has been described as the world's first news Web site. I since have established the school's first WiFi accessible newsroom.

My digital efforts began when I developed the first newspaper pre-production computer system for a daily, general circulation newspaper. A few years later, I authored a research and development project with IBM that led to the largest research grant awarded the University of Missouri system at the time. As part of that project, I spent several years consulting with IBM, newspapers and newspaper system vendors on network and system design in the U.S. and Europe.

It was from IBM's training support that I truly developed as a professional programmer and network systems manager. As a result, I have become one of the few working journalists on this planet who knows how to design, install, program and manage a fully-functional network system. I actually run one at home with its own DC and mail server, as well as in our newsroom.

My current digital design focus is on development of NW2 (Newsroom without Walls). It's a completely Web-based system for news-story production and newsroom management (maybe the world's first such system).

On the international level, countries in which I have worked include Bosnia, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Hungary, India, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Mongolia, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sri Lanka and Uzbekistan. I have held dual faculty appointments with the University of Navarra School of Public Communication in Pamplona, Spain, and the International School of Media and Entertainment Studies in Delhi, India (where I chaired the school's international advisory board). I also am coordinator with my school's exchange program with the Communication School of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome.

My international interests began when I was asked to design and install the first journalism network system at the University of Navarra's Public Communication School under a grant from IBM Spain that I co-authored in collaboration with IBM Europe. From that effort, I established and managed for more than a decade my school's first student exchange program with a foreign university.

Almost immediately after the collapse of the Iron Curtain, I realized that the technology expertise I was providing to Spain (along with the IBM partnership assistance) might be of value to nations liberated from the old Soviet empire.

As a result, along with my colleague Brian, I became the first member of the school's faculty to travel to Central Europe after the collapse of the Iron Curtain. In the ensuing years. I pursued a number of efforts to assist development of journalism and journalism training in emerging and re-emerging democracies. I co-developed my school's first formal course in international reporting.

From these activities, I founded an international consortium of journalism schools to provide assistance to journalists and journalism educators in Central Europe. For several years, I worked with the journalism unions in southern Poland to develop the journalism support and training center in Krakow.

Finally, I have been the lead pioneer for journalism convergence at the journalism school. Journalism convergence actually began for my school with the Jefferson City reporting program. Soon after I established the program in 1972, I combined newspaper, radio and TV student-reporters together as teams to produce news stories for a variety of media outlets across the state. The emergence of the World Wide Web added a fourth medium (for which we produced the world's first MP3 public affairs streaming newscast).

Using some of the techniques I developed for my statehouse program, I developed the school's first converged Web site that integrated into a single Web page the daily headlines of the school's various newsrooms. And, at the urging of my students, I used our MDN approach to news-convergence in establishing a coverage partnership between the Missourian and KBIA.

I'll confess that until my students mentioned it to me, I had not realized that these activities were so special. I didn't even think of it as "convergence." Maybe it's because I have spent my professional career focused more on journalism (what I am covering), than on the medium (the outlet for which I am reporting).

That may be an attitude more common among government/political reporters. We tend to be more focused on our beat. And "jumping ship" from one medium to another is more common among those of us who cover government and politics.

My convergence background goes even further back. When I was in journalism school, I was a newspaper stringer for the St. Louis Post Dispatch and the St. Louis Globe Democrat while, at the same time, working at a Columbia radio station and anchoring newscasts on the university's TV station.

And today, I suspect I am the only faculty member to have worked in all of the school's daily newsrooms -- my own statehouse news bureau (MDN), the Columbia Missourian, KOMU-TV, KBIA, KFRU (where the school once operated a newsroom) and the Washington news bureau.

As for my journalistic career, for most of my professional life I have been the statehouse correspondent for KMOX Radio in St. Louis. Having covered Missouri government since 1969, I am dean of the statehouse press corps. I founded the state's press corps organization, the Missouri Capitol News Association, which allocates statehouse resources available to the news media.

I started my career as a broadcast journalist and have worked for KFRU Radio in Columbia, KLZ Radio/TV (now KMGH) in Denver and NPR in Washington, D.C. where I covered Congress during the early stages of Watergate before moving to Missouri's statehouse.

My statehouse reporting efforts have won a number of national investigative and documentary reporting awards. Topics have included prison system abuses, the corporate threats to family farming, exposing what constituted Missouri's most serious environmental pollution hazard and the failings of rural law enforcement.

The state's mental health hospital system underwent a major reorganization after I uncovered a series of abuses in care -- some just awful. My exposure of loopholes in the state's enforcement of drunken driving laws led to the first significant update of Missouri's DWI laws in more than a generation.

Missouri Digital News -- the Journalism School's State Government Reporting Program -- teaches journalism students public policy journalism. My students daily cover legislators, statewide elected officials, agency heads, the judiciary and lobbyists producing stories for a wide array of print and broadcast outlets in Missouri.

Phill


Missouri Digital News is produced by Missouri Digital News, Inc. -- a non profit organization of current and former journalists.