An Analysis of an Article
In my last entry I posted an article, "Same-Sex Benefits Bill a Point of Controversy," which I wrote for my Intermediate Reporting class at the University of Minnesota (the same class for which I keep this blog). I would like to make this entry an analysis of that article in terms of the problems, obstacles and frustrations a journalist might typically encounter in covering state government affairs.
I chose this particlar article because for me it encompassed several of the difficulties I have come to expect in public affairs reporting. Firstly, I found that the idea of the article didn't translate as well as I had hoped to the written page. That is to say, the intrigue of the issue at hand (a proposal for same-sex partners benefits, and the underlying political tug-of-war that that implies) was bogged down by the political jargon in the article. I thought having to use two paragraphs high in the story to explain what exactly an omnibus bill is and why it is significant took away from the overall appeal of the story ... After reading today's Star Tribune article about the fate of the same-sex benefits proposal (it was dropped from the omnibus bill in fear of a gubernatorial veto) I would have approached that explanation much differently. The Star Tribune's article was much simpler in that it sort of bypassed an explanation of an omnibus bill altogether, opting instead to simply call it "a major spending bill."
I also found the changes that the bill underwent over its lifespan to be a bit of a frustration in trying to to track it and cover it. When I first got the idea to write on the same-sex benefits proposal, it was a bill of its own with three identified co-authors and two clear parties of supporters and opponents. If it had remained this way, it would have been much easier to report and clearer to read. Alas, as I learned in the reporting of this story, diffusing controverisal proposals into bulk omnibus bills isn't uncommon, and is done with the specific intentions of making it more complicated in order to sneak by its passage on the coattails of less controversial legislation.
Finally, I found that getting straight-forward comment on a controversial issue from the parties involved to be a near impossibility, especially from the Governor's Office. Members of the offices of the co-authors would speak about their strong support for the proposal, but they were generally unwilling to comment on the level of importance it would or would not be given by the Democratic Party. They would make comments like, "We really hope this passes, blah blah blah," instead of, "This is what we are going to do to make sure it passes ..." The Governor's Office was even worse. For some reason their spokespeople wouldn't give me any response other than something to the extent of "Let's wait and see." I found that utterly bizarre considering the governor's well-documented stance adamently opposed to the proposal. Welcome to the world of politics, I suppose.