Tyler Fine is a sophomore studying Covergence Journalism at the University of Missouri -- Columbia. She is from Saint Louis, Missouri but now lives permanently in Columbia. This is her first time working for a news organization.
She plans to graduate from the University of Missouri with a major in Convergence Journalism with an emphasis in Emerging Media and a minor in Sociology. She is interested in political and social news and hopes to one day create an online interactive multimedia news site.
Posted 04/20/2012: "Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, no instruction, material, or extracurricular activity sponsored by a public school that discusses sexual orientation other than in scientific instruction concerning human reproduction shall be provided in any public school."
Let me state first, that the above is the bill text, word for word. It is amended to Section A, Chapter 170 of RSMo. It is not edited down, this is the entire bill.
Let's break this down, this bill, (HB 2051), would ban discussion of sexual orientation, in lecture, books, or clubs, in any and all public schools in the state of Missouri, unless of course, it concerns human reproduction. There's only one sexual orientation that has anything to do with human reproduction...and that would be the heterosexual orientation.
So here we have a bill essentially banning discussion of any other sexual orientation besides straight. That means discussion or education on gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, etc. could literally be banned by law from being discussed in schools. The part that has gotten more than a few people riled is the inclusion of "extracurricular activity", many high schools have either LGBTQ Pride clubs, or Gay-Staight Alliances, these clubs act as a way for LGBTQ students to express themselves and discuss issues, as well as educate their fellow students on what all those letters can mean.
While this bill is late in the game as far as legislation goes, even its proposal is a slap in the face to the LGBTQ community, as well as students, teachers, and parents who want public schools to be an arena for growth and discussion, not censorship.
Wednesday was hat day at the Capitol. Hat day...at the Capitol...the place where our government makes all of its big decisions. The House afternoon session began fairly calm, but once House Speaker Steve Tilly had to bang his gavel and request a representative remove his plastic fire-hat from his desk, and then warn him not to put it on, it became a mad house.
Majority leader Tim Jones broke his hatred of the left and tipped his cowboy hat to democratic Rep. Mike Colona. Colona, also sporting a cowboy hat, subsequently galloped down the aisle, resulting in another gavel warning from the Speaker.
Sun hats, viking hats, beanies, and a wide range of other headwear were worn, tossed around, and eventually told to be removed or put away during the three and a half hour long afternoon session. (I wonder if the Speaker playing babysitter had anything to do with it...) But perhaps hat day was a success, representatives from both sides of the aisle (and galloping in between) shared a moment of ridiculous.
It was all either very touching, or very ridiculous. Either way, it was quite possibly the most entertaining session I have ever attended.
I wish I was making that last part up.
The tweets have since been deleted, although the only reference to them that Jones made was to say that the tweets had "flushed out" the "far left" from his twitter followers. Jones is no stranger to using his twitter to voice his opinions on liberals, Obama, "lefties", and the like, but the tweets regarding those Cheetos stained left wing individuals became the topic of a few tweets and articles themselves.
The ordeal either shows something of the maturity of our government officials, or perhaps the idea that individuals over the age of 30 shouldn't be venting on the internet.
But I'm pretty biased, being one of those gleeful left wing trolls myself (although I'm proud to say I have a second story apartment, thank you very much).
The original article can be found here:
I was really excited about writing about this, so we spent Monday researching and interviewing, but because we couldn't find any opposition, or explanation for the disparity, or a quote from the sponsor, we decided to continue work on Wednesday.
Wednesday rolled around, I was so excited to get to work that I got there early. I spent the entire day interviewing conservatives, Republicans, anyone who might have something to say about the bill. Six hours of work, for very little gain. Finally, I was ready to write after finding that conservatives either knew too little about the bill to comment, or were in support of it. It would have made an interesting story, but I was sent to the Senate to cover a bill to revamp the probation and parole system instead.
Normally I would have been ecstatic to cover something so close to my enterprise story, but at 6:30pm, I wasn't exactly excited to start a brand new topic after doing so much work on my previous one.
So, I spent the next two hours working, the only one left in the office, and finally finished my article.
It was exhausting. This whole week was exhausting. This entire semester has been exhausting.
But, hopefully it will all be worth it in the end.
Monday I covered a bill establishing Caylee's Law in Missouri. The law was inspired after the child homicide trial of Casey Anthony and is named after her daughter Caylee. As a citizen, laws often seem to be either straight forward, or incredibly confusing, but it's not until you sit through a hearing that you really understand just how much time goes into the most minute details of laws.
The hearing lasted a little less than an hour, but a majority of that time was spent debating wording. It seemed tedious at the time, but after discussing the hearing with my coworkers, I realized that these debates are incredibly important. One word could be the difference between a verdict of innocent or guilty.
Although I hate the sound of my own voice, I covered the Caylee's law bill in a radio story. Even though I know I am never destined to work for NPR, as a convergence major, it's important to get experience with audio and recording.
Wednesday was actually a pleasantly smooth day. I attended a health care policy hearing which covered several bills, unfortunately due to a late start and long testimonials, only a few of the bills were actually heard completely. The one which was the most interesting to me, and the one I wrote my story on was a bill to include CPR training in high school curriculum.
The bill is very straight forward, and the sponsor Rep. Rick Stream was compelling, as was American Heart Association lobbyist Jace Smith. But the reason the bill was interesting to me was the testimony from two school teachers. The first teacher told a story about how at lunch one day her colleague collapsed, but because she did not know CPR she had to call the school nurse to get help. The second teacher was the person the first teacher had spoken of. By the time she made it to the microphone she was already in tears. Her story about how that day changed her life, and how it made her such a huge advocate of CPR training and AEDs in schools made me realize just how important this law may be. I don't know CPR and I wouldn't know what to do if something similar happened to me.
Today (Wednesday) also marked the first day that I was really proud of a story I had written. I think I'm becoming a stronger writer, and I'm so glad I have this opportunity to improve.
Although my major is journalism, my minor, and one of my weird, nerdy interests is sociology. My freshman year, I took a class about social deviance, which actually came in handy when covering the crime beat. In the class we read a book about the way American prisons have changed.
My idea for an enterprise story is to use some of that sociology background to see the state of Missouri's justice system. I want to look at Missouri's correctional facilities, and what if any rehabilitation techniques are used. Hopefully I will be able to talk to parole officers, wardens, and those who have been in the system to get a wider view of what techniques are used, and if they are effective. I will have to look into the recidivism rates in Missouri compared to other states, and how their systems differ from ours.
I want to use this information to compare new legislature that may lessen sentencing, or create different parameters for parole and probation. There is a movement to make laws less harsh on non-violent offenders, but often those who support become labeled "soft on crime". However, there is also a large amount of the state budget (which isn't very much to begin with) that is being spent on corrections and crime, and there have been studies which show longer and harsher prison sentences may remove the criminal from society, but it will not rehabilitate them, and could make them more likely to commit another crime.
At this point, it's just an idea. I've done some research but this story could go several different ways. I'm hoping to get sound, video, and pictures as I go along, and maybe eventually create a convergence story along with print.
I'm a little afraid that I'm getting in over my head, trying to balance MDN, a job, school, and some semblance of a social life, but so far it's working out, for my sanity, I hope it continues to do so.
Wednesday my story ended up being kind of a bust. I did get to use some the audio equipment and software, and I finally made it to Arris' Pizza Palace for some delicious greek food, so it was still a pretty good day.
I'm sorry I'm just awful at blogging. Hopefully this will get better too.
I forgot to write a blog for the first week, so I suppose it's better to post it now than never. The first week at MDN was...insane. I learned so much information in two days, I wasn't sure I could even remember it all, but some of it is starting to stick. The Capitol was a scary place at first, I was nervous to talk to my coworkers, let alone politicians. It's already seeming more familiar and less scary, although I do get lost almost every time I come in to work. My coworkers are amazing, everyone is helpful, even when everyone is working and cramped into a tiny office. So far, I like it here, hopefully this week I can learn even more.