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As part of the renovation, the Capitol press bureaus where I had been became part of the governor’s office, plus an equipment room. Most newspapers moved their bureaus south across 11th Street to 1005 N. Congress Ave. Although the renovation also put in a pressroom on the first floor of the underground extension, news organizations leased only a handful of the desks in the dungeon-like quarters, as a temporary jumpspace. Most of the bureaus which represented out-of-town newspapers found it more efficient to consolidate their working offices in one place and walk the two blocks to the Capitol, than to be closer but in an underground space with no windows, some distance from the House and Senate floors, and away from the flow of lawmakers, staff, and lobbyists that used to provide convenient walk-up traffic. Most bureaus used their Capitol space only as an outpost to write when they were covering hearings or on a deadline. The Capitol renovation returned the main Capitol building to a majestic, high-ceilinged set of offices for senior legislators. And the new underground extension, with two floors of offices and meeting rooms, plus two floors of parking below that, gave even the most junior legislators offices with at least three rooms each. The downside was that the natural flow and friendliness that resulted from the crammed office suites of the 1960s and 1970s and the press outside the House chamber was much harder to find. Although the new underground cafeteria provides a good place to run across a variety of governmental sources, from legislators to staff to lobbyists to Supreme Court justices, the overall closeness of the earlier days declined measurably. A growing partisanshipexemplified by the current House Speaker Tom Craddickhas further rained on the camaraderie. Smash-mouth partisanship has also affected the journalism. Substance is often not as important as perception and spin-doctoring in the service of a particular ideological agenda. Reporters for the larger newspapers are conditioned to try to balance their reporting with at least two sides, and so often find themselves used as tools for the partisan combat that is more and more prevalent in the Texas Capitol. There was a period in the 1970s, and particularly the 1980s, when Texas television stations were well represented in the Capitol news coverage. The leader was Belo Broadcasting, owner of stations in Dallas and Houston at the time. It had an active staff in Austin in the 1980s, headed by Carole Kneeland, until she left in 1989 to be news director at KVUE, the Austin ABC outlet. \(Carole was also my wife for 15 years until her death of breast cancer in 1998. Her reporting and management skills were so good that a training program for news directors, The Carole Kneeland Project for Responsive Television was started as she was ed. Today, there are no non-Austin TV stations that regularly cover the Legislature. Although dozens of cameras will show up on opening day of the session or periodically for other big events, the day-in, day-out attention that produces the experience and wisdom to provide meaningful analysis of events is largely missing from the medium from which most Texans get their news. One by one, major cities saw their second-place newspapers fold, as they were bought out by their competitorsThe Dallas Times-Herald in 1991, The San Antonio Light in 1993, The Houston Post in 1995. Some reporters, like the Post’s bureau chief Ken Herman, moved to other papers like The Austin American-Statesman. In 1984, Texas Weekly started as an attempt by Sam Kinch Jr., George Phenix, and John Rogers to pick up the slack from the newspaper consolidation, covering the political gossip and inner workings of state government. Ross Ramsey, a veteran newsman for The Dallas Times-Herald and then The Houston Chronicle, who worked briefly for Comptroller John Sharp in the 1990s, bought out Kinch in 1998. The Quorum Report, which was taken over by Harvey Kronberg in the early 1990s, has become a daily gossipmonger for on-line subscribers and others, even before the days of what are called “blogs” \(short Lone Star Report, a publication largely financed by Austin banker David Hartman, a Republican who unsuccessfully ran for state treasurer in 1994. It provides a conservative take on news from the Capitol. The newest addition to the reporting mix is the blogs themselves. Several people have joined the reporting ranks simply by, in the computer age, honoring A.J. Leibling’s time-honored adage that “Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one.” In the e-mail and weblog era, virtually anyone can. It’s a fairly simple matter to get on the Internet and put up your own take on what’s going on and what it meansat least to those writing the blogs. Most of the blogs are from the left, though some are from the right. But in Texas, as well as nationally, sometimes the bloggers are first on the scene. As newspaper circulations decline, several major papers that once largely abandoned the scuttlebutt niche Kinch filled with Texas Weekly, are rapidly pushing their web pages. Some have started their own blogs to compete with the freelancing bloggers and newsletters. How well that will work is another question, since the newspapers’ blogs are in essence competing with themselves. But in a time when newspaper publishers realize they have to do something besides toss a wad of newsprint on your doorstep, they’ll do anything they can to try to keep people paying them to gather the news. So now, 42 years after covering my first session of the Texas Legislature, I’m back covering another one, though at a lesser pace. I still find the Texas Legislature eternally interesting, if somewhat repetitive in its subjects. To keep up, I may even have to think about blogging. Dave McNeely retired at the end of December from The Austin American-Statesman. He writes one column a week for 30 Texas newspapers and is co-writing a book on the late Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock with Jim Henderson. McNeely is happily married to the former Kathryn Longley. He can be contacted at [email protected] corn or 512-458-2963. MAY 27, 2005 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11