Live From the Press Corpse 0 n the eve of the 2004 election, The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart got semi-serious for a second and pleaded with his fans: “Tomorrow when you go to the polls, make my life difficult.” It took four years, but American voters finally made Stewart’s lifeor his satire, at leastconsiderably more challenging. Here at the Observer, we can relate. We don’t do much comedy, but for reporters who specialize in unearthing and exposing the atrocities of Texas politics, the political era of Bush, Rove, DeLay and Craddickthe Four Stooges of the Apocalypsecould hardly have been beaten with a stick. It was hog heaven for reporters. And pure slop, of course, for just about everyone else. Except that “hog heaven” hasn’t existed for print reporters, however juicy the material on offer, for quite some time now Texans desperately needed some major Fourth Estate vigilance during Tom Craddick’s reign as House early ’90s, the ol’ estate’s walls have been crumbling. Texas Monthly’s Paul Burka recently calculated in a column about “The Capitol Press Corpse” \(thanks journalists working the 1991 legislative session. That’s more than one for every three legislatorsalmost enough to keep proper tabs on the slippery characters who slither those marble halls. Nowadays you could probably squeeze the lot of us into a VW Bug with some heavy-duty lubricant. Not that I’m recommending it. Recession a la W. has dealt more blows to serious media scrutiny. Just since Craddick’s last Lege finished boisterously ignoring the public good in May 2007, three more of the state’s major dailies have axed experienced legislative reporters. The one-person “bureau” that used to inform folks in the Rio Grande Valley about goings-on in Austin was shuttered. With more cuts, no doubt, to come. If the Observer’s job was already getting more difficult, the shrinking Capitol corps only makes it more so. “Somebody’s got to do it” is the stalest of clichs, but when it comes to telling the people what their legislators are fixing to do to them, it’s profoundest truth. Particularly when the shrinking of the Capitol press so often results in a “homogenization of news:’ in the words of John Moritz, the Star -Telegram reporter who took a buyout last year, but found a safe landing at Harvey Kronberg’s online Quorum Report. “When there were multiple, robust bureaus and newspapers in the same town competing with each other, and with others across the state, you could expect five or six takes on a story:’ Moritz notes. Not now With fewer reporters, \(\(one paper will take the lead on a story and the wire will turn it around for the other papers. Or the wire takes the lead, and vice versa.” Moritz, now covering his eighth Legislature, also points out that the remaining reporters “are having to wear more than one hat. You’re blogging; you’re doing multimedia. I would worry that you don’t do your strongest work if you’re having to multitask. There are still only forty hours in the work weekor fifty, or sixty.” We cannot plead purity on that score. The six editors, reporters and interns we send to the Lege also happen to be the folks who edit and report the bulk of our news section. And we will all be doing plenty of blogging this sessionmore than ever, in fact, on the Observer’s new daily Lege blog \(see wwwtexasobserver.org Even with our combination of daily blasts and old-fashioned watchdogging, we cannot hope to fill in every blank. All we can promisedo promiseis to dig in and do our damndest. Somebody’s got to. Bob Moser THE TEXAS OBSERVER I VOLUME 101, NO. 2 I A Journal of Free Voices Since 1954 Founding Editor Ronnie Dugger CEO/Publisher Carlton Carl Editor Bob Moser Managing Editor Brad Tyer Associate Editor Dave Mann Associate Publisher Julia Austin Circulation/Office Manager Sharon Sparlin Art Director Leah Ball Webmaster Shane Pearson Investigative Reporter Melissa del Bosque Poetry Editor Naomi Shihab Nye Copy Editor Brian Baresch Staff Writer Forrest Wilder Editorial Interns Jaime Kilpatrick Nation Magazine Legislative Intern Reeve Hamilton Legislative Intern Susan Peterson Contributing Writers Nate Blakeslee, Robert Bryce, Emily DePrang, Michael Erard, James K. Galbraith, Steven G. Kellman, James McWilliams, Char Miller, Debbie Nathan, Karen Olsson, John Ross, Andrew Wheat Staff Photographers Alan Pogue, Jana Birchum, Steve Satterwhite Contributing Artists Sam Hurt, Kevin Kreneck, Michael Krone, Gary Oliver, Doug Potter Editorial Advisory Board David Anderson, Chandler Davidson, Dave Denison, Sissy Farenthold, Lawrence Goodwyn, Jim Hightower, Kaye Northcott, Susan Reid, Rusty Todd Texas Democracy Foundation Board Lisa Blue, Melissa Jones, Susan Longley, Jim Marston, Mary Nell Mathis, Gilberto Ocanas, Jesse Oliver, Bernard Rapoport, Geoffrey Rips, Geronimo Rodriguez, Sharron Rush, Kelly White, In Memoriam Molly Ivins,1944-2007 Bob Eckhardt, 1913-2001 Cliff Olofson,1931-1995 Frankie Carter Randolph, 1894-1972 The Texas Observer \(ISSN 0040-4519/ righted 2008, is published biweekly except during January and August when there is a 4 week break by the Texas Democracy Foundation, West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701. E-mail [email protected] World Wide Web DownHome page www.texasobserverorg. Periodicals Postage paid at Austin, TX and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER Send address changes to: The Texas Observer, 307 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701. Subscriptions One year $32, two years $59, three years $84. Full-time students $18 per year; add $13 per year for foreign subs. Back issues $3 prepaid. Airmail, foreign, group, and bulk rates on request. Microfilm available from University Microfilms Intl., 300 N. Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Indexes The Texas Observer is indexed in Access: The Supplementary Index to Periodicals; Texas Index and, for the years 1954 through 1981, The Texas Observer Index. Books & the Culture is funded in part by the City of Austin through the Cultural Arts Division and by a grant from the Texas Commission on the Arts. CW.1411: JANUARY 23, 2009 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3
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