What would you pick in the Capitol cluster?

3:40 PM, Feb 8, 2010   |    comments
Minnesota State Capitol
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Saint Paul, Minn. -- The dawning of the 2010 legislative session brought an onslaught of scheduled news "events" that can only be described as a spin-blitz spectacular.  And, as a Capitol correspondent of sorts, I feel the intense winds of persuasion heading my way.

Our KARE Capitol Bureau is part of a public building. We share the room with a Rochester newspaper, so we tend to keep the door open. Anyone who wants to pitch a story, or offer to help us catch up on one we've missed, can stick his or her head in the room and launch into a mini stump speech.

We do our best to field the information in a polite manner, and not to unrealistically raise anyone's expectations about what will make TV news or kare11.com that day. These are some of the same people we'll be calling when we're looking for a source or a quote on a controversial issue, or big vote or veto. 

The decisions are tough for those of us who feel a responsibility to educate our viewers. There are many committee hearings and news conferences scheduled each day.  Below is a rundown -- so far -- for Monday, February 8th.  Consider how you'd narrow your choices down, were you in the editorial driver's seat. 

9 a.m. -- Cash flow discussion House Ways & Means (how will state use short-term loans to pay the bills?)

9 a.m. -- State Auditor releases annual report on use of Tax Increment Financing by local government.

9 a.m. -- Red Rock Corridor news conference - lawmakers seek support for commuter rail to southeast and high speed rail to Chicago.

9:30 a.m. -- Senate Jobs package - Senators unveil several bills designed to encourage hiring, and produce green jobs.

11:30 a.m. -- Bonding jobs to Minnesotans - Sen. Satveer Chaudhary proposes bill to insure new public works construction jobs go to Minnesota residents.

12:00  p.m. -- Budget Redesign - A bipartisan group of lawmakers hold news conference to call for an overhaul of how Minnesota spends money, in hopes of ending annual deficits.

12:15 p.m. -- Complete Streets - Lawmakers hold media availability to talk about move to build more sidewalks, to encourage pedestrian safety and more carbon free walking.

12:30 p.m. -- Hearing on Senate jobs bills.

1:30 p.m. -- Congressman Paulsen holds jobs fair at Normandale College.

2:45 p.m. -- House Taxes Committee hears bill that would accelerate income tax deductions for charitable donations to Haitian Earthquake relief.

Keep in mind, however, that all of these stories may have to be set aside if this new snow storm, or "Snow-zilla" if you will, takes precedence in our shop over all things legislative.

Another political story may surface by morning that will blow all of these choices out of the water.  Governor Pawlenty may say something on FOX that will make us all drop what we're doing and scramble for reaction.

But, for the sake of argument, let's say Monday's Capitol calendar is our field of doable stories.

Commuter rail is easy to illustrate, now that we've got great file of Northstar commuter rail.  Jobs bills are always topical in a recession. So are jobs fairs.

Sidewalks are also important, especially in the burbs where they often don't exist.  And seeing them in the new "green" light, something that provides mobility without burning fuel, is a new spin.

Anything connected to Haiti right now is very topical, including a bill that would let you deduct this year's donations from last year's taxes.  Anything bipartisan, such as the budget redesign, usually draws the Capitol reporters because they know it has more of a chance than some of the ideas in the hopper.

The Capitol press corps, as a group, often falls into a sort of pack mentality.  If you look out the door and see three guys with TV cameras heading out in a hurry it's very tempting to jump up and follow them.  In a place known for scheduled events the surprises are truly surprising.

The "jackals," as Governor Ventura labeled them, live in fear that the one news conference or committee hearing they ignore will be the meeting that generates huge headlines in the newspaper or emotionally gripping features on competing stations.

One compromise would be to shoot a little bit of a bunch of things and roll them into one big "Capitol wrap-up" report. The problem in that is that catch-all stories don't work well in TV land.

And, while I'm trying to pick a story from that day's crop, there are other news tips flowing in connected to issues that aren't being heard that day. There are also great follow-ups we could be doing, to go out and put a human face on an issue lawmakers will be grappling with this session.

My entire thought process about Monday's list of events may be rendered moot by a separate decision-making process that unfolds in the morning editorial meeting, during which producers and news managers discuss how they're going to fill the 4 p.m., 5 p.m., and 6 p.m.

So tune in Monday night, or visit kare11.com later, to find out which Capitol stories -- if any -- were deemed newsworthy on a snowy Monday in February.

I know one thing for certain.  I'll start the day fixing breakfast for my son. Then I'll head outside to shovel snow for a half hour.

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