Another step toward openness

sc-webcastThe Cape Girardeau Southeast Missourian took an important step for open government this morning when it did a live webcast of a Missouri Supreme Court hearing. Congratulations to the staff that came to Jefferson City, starting at oh-dark-thirty to get here on time.

Congratulations to the court staff that worked with them to get the webcast set up. Congratulations to Chief Justice Ray Price and the other members of the court for deciding on short notice to let the webcast take place as a test. The newspaper has archived the video coverage.

It’s not gripping drama (appeals court hearings don’t have witnesses and final arguments and juries),but it is our court system at work. This particular case had the additional value of being an appeal of a ruling about the state’s open meetings/open records law. The average person is likely to find it somewhat tedious to watch. But the important thing is that the Missourian provided a window on the political system that people can look through and learn from.

The new technology that we use in the news business allows citizens to see watch their government at work in real time. The wheels of government are often noisy and sloooooow. Our own Learfield web guru, Steve Mays, has been live streaming a few legislative committee hearings during this session. The feeds have been fairly primitive and haven’t used the more sophisticated but very affordable camera that the newspaper used today. But they’ve been important steps we’ve taken to continue to let Missourians see and hear their government at work and to help Missourians understand the political process is human and often not clearly black-and-white.

He says one of the things the experience has taught him is the value of reporters who sit through those lengthy meetings and then distill that hour or so of discussion into print or broadcast stories that capture the essential elements of the event so the public understands the issues. Those of us in the Missourinet newsroom hope the company invests in the resources we need to do more of the work that Steve has been doing and that the Southeast Missourian did today.

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