The regular session of the West Virginia Legislature begins Wednesday at the State Capitol and, unfortunately, I will not be broadcasting on location this year. This will make the second year in a row that I’ve not been present.
For many years, I have broadcast Talkline from underneath the Capitol dome, initially from the upper rotunda, then from the Senate end of the building while repairs to the dome were underway.
Covid kept me away last year and Covid is one of the reasons I won’t be back this year. In the interest of full disclosure, I also have a family issue that requires me to be home in Morgantown.
I will continue to cover the goings on of the Legislature every day on Talkline, but there is no substitute for being at the Capitol. That physical presence means incredible access to the men and women who are developing policy for our state.
My most frequent question to lawmakers as they passed by was, “What are you hearing?” That’s because everybody is hearing something. Information is the most valuable currency under the dome.
Doing Talkline from inside the Capitol also gave listeners a better sense of the atmosphere. The impact of the 2018 teachers strike was epitomized by the thousands of teachers and service workers crowded into the Capitol, singing and chanting. You heard all that on the radio.
The in-person shows also benefited from contact with individuals from groups and organizations who exercise their right to be present where legislation affecting their interests was being crafted. And then there is the occasional person who walks by who happens to have an interesting story to tell.
But enough about me not being there.
MetroNews will still cover the Legislature—closely. Brad McElhinny’s first, second and third responsibilities will be keeping up with the news of the day. He is committed to covering much of the session in person.
Jeff Jenkins is a legislative junky and he and the rest of the MetroNews staff will monitor floor sessions and committee meetings on-line. Jenkins will again produce a twice-daily Capitol Report with legislative news of the day.
Our coverage, and the coverage of other news organizations, benefits from the accessibility provided by the House of Delegates and the Senate. As McElhinny told me, that access is critical to gathering information and relaying it to the public
“By allowing reporters on-the-floor access over the years, the Legislature has helped citizens and communities better understand the public process. Not only can reporters watch debate as it unfolds, they can discern reaction and, in many cases, ask relevant follow-up questions of individual legislators once the floor session has concluded,” McElhinny said.
He points out that the access works both ways. “Legislators who see reporters in the room with them develop a respect that journalists have ‘skin in the game’—that they are interested enough to be right there.”
I am going to miss being at the session because I love state politics and believe some of the best Talkline shows ever have been from the frequently chaotic halls of the State Capitol. However, I’ll do my best from afar.
I hope our efforts will ensure that West Virginians know what is going on under the Capitol Dome.