John Morrisroe
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John Morrisroe

My name is Jack Morrisroe, and I am a junior at the University of Missouri, studying journalism and political science. I am thrilled to be a part of Missouri Digital News for the second year. Beyond political reporting, I enjoy ultimate frisbee and baseball. A lobbyist once pulled me aside just to say his hair looked like mine in the 70's.

Stories by Jack Morrisroe in 2017 include:
Stories by Jack Morrisroe in 2016 include:
Jack Morrisroe's Tweets @MDNnews in 2016

  • 01/19/2016: A ban lobbying contributions and gifts passed the House Oversight committee for House floor discussion
  • 01/21/2016: A bill requiring a photo ID to vote in Missouri passed the House and will move on to the Senate.
  • 01/26/2016: The ban on all lobbyist gifts could apply to all elected officials in Missouri.
  • 01/26/2016: Missouri's House voted to impose ethics restrictions on private citizens working for government.
  • 01/26/2016: MO DoT's director detailed their inability to fund the state's crumbling infrastructure
  • 01/28/2016: Melissa Click's suspension brings calls for her firing and more focus on campus' racial issues
  • 02/02/2016: The use of deadly force requirements for police officers may be adjusted soon.
  • 02/05/2016: Republican Legislative leaders propose welfare budget cuts to fund transportation needs.
  • 02/09/2016: A Missouri legislative committee approves greater access by adoptees to their adoption records
  • 02/11/2016: Missouri's House votes to force Uber and similar taxicab alteratives to provide driver insurance.
  • 02/16/2016: A group of terrorism bills were heard by the Senate judiciary committee
  • 02/18/2016: A House-approved bill states government employees cannot be required to pay union dues
  • 02/23/2016: Gubernatorial candidates in a two-hour line were asked if they should wait in a digital age.
  • 02/25/2016: Missouri's Senate approved anti-terrorism legislation that could impact state government's retirement system.
  • 02/25/2016: State retirement funds would not invest in companies contracting with terrorism-supporting governments
  • 03/02/2016: UM system doesn't recoup $7.6 mil in cuts, receives minor funding increases.
  • 03/03/2016: The Senate narrowly passed portable coolers and self-serve containers being available wherever beer is now sold.
  • 03/09/2016: The Missouri flagship campus had $1 million pulled from its budget on the House floor
  • 03/10/2016: The Missouri House sent its budget to the Senate with cuts to Planned Parenthood and the Governor's Office.
  • 03/17/2016: A couple consumer protection measures were passed by the House onto their final vote.
  • 03/17/2016: A minor having an abortion would inform both parents before the procedure, under a passed House bill
  • 03/22/2016: A warm winter brings about transportation savings.
  • 04/05/2016: The Senate Rules Committee discussed a subpoena for the CEO of Planned Parenthood's St. Louis region.
  • 04/05/2016: A massive consumer of energy in Southeast Missouri hopes to set its own energy rate.
  • 04/05/2016: Missouri motorcyclists would no longer need a helmet under a house measure.
  • 04/07/2016: Missouri motorcyclists would no longer need a helmet under a passed House measure.
  • 04/07/2016: Statewide regulations for taxis and Uber were passed by the House.
  • 04/08/2016: Online fantasy sports are games of skill, not chance, according to the Missouri House.
  • 04/08/2016: Missouri motorcyclists would no longer need a helmet under a passed House measure.
  • 04/08/2016: Statewide regulations for Taxis and Uber were passed by the House
  • 04/12/2016: Abortion would be illegal in the Missouri Constitution under an approved committee measure.
  • 04/14/2016: Aborted fetuses could not be donated or sold, under a passed House bill.
  • 04/19/2016: The Missouri House voted to cut its goal for funding local public schools.
  • 04/19/2016: The Missouri House voted to cut its goal for funding local public schools.
  • 04/26/2016: Court awards for medical care would be reduced under a House-approved bill.
  • 04/26/2016: Pharmacies may prescribe birth control under an approved House measure.
  • 04/26/2016: Pharmacies may prescribe birth control under an approved House measure.
  • 04/26/2016: Court awards for medical care would be reduced under a House-approved bill.
  • 04/28/2016: The Missouri Speaker of the House said a religious freedom bill is finished
  • 04/28/2016: Missouri's Speaker of the House said a religious freedom bill is finished.
  • 05/03/2016: A Missouri House committee approved increasing the state's gas tax.
  • 05/03/2016: A Missouri House committee approved increasing the state's gas tax
  • 05/03/2016: Energy rate restructuring was filibustered by a bipartisan Senate coalition.
  • 05/05/2016: The Missouri House approved defining life at conception in Missouri's Constitution.
  • 05/05/2016: A decrease in Missouri's goal for education funding will become law.
  • 05/09/2016: A gas tax increase was approved by a Missouri House committee.
  • 05/11/2016: Missouri's General Assembly knows transportation funding is lacking. But they can't agree on how to fix it.
  • 08/30/2016: The Missouri Senate's sexual harassment training is found insufficient by the state auditor
  • 09/01/2016: A $15 minimum wage would affect 190,000 jobs in Missouri, according to a conservative think-tank.
  • 09/06/2016: A Missouri Representative won't vote on his 'biggest accomplishment' after resigning to hold a lobbying option.
  • 09/13/2016: Missouri public defenders are unable to fulfil their Constitutional duty, says system director
  • 09/14/2016: Missouri voters will need a photo ID to vote in elections if the measure passes a public vote.
  • 09/14/2016: Missouri's General Assembly overrode the governor's veto of a concealed carry expansion to people without permits.
  • 10/13/2016: Missouri electoral college voters are not required to vote for their pledged candidate

Jack Morrisroe's Blog in 2016
Your First Day

Posted 03/23/2016:  With a few pens, the journalist notebooks you're most comfortable with and your laptop you're set for your first day. Well, every day with MDN.

Park directly in front of the Capitol's main entrance, the one with a statue of TJ himself, if there's a spot marked for Missouri Digital/Radio News. If not, there's a few open lots to the west where you can park. Give an editor a call once you arrive.

When you walk in, take in the scenery of where you'll not only be visiting, but have special access to as a journalist. Enjoy it, but don't abuse it.

The office is directly behind the first floor rotunda's stage, on the west side. When you walk in, we'll show you around everything you'll be using as a journalist and what not to touch (there's quite a bit). After a quick tour we'll give you a Marantz (an audio recorder), a cord to plug into at a hearing or floor discussion, and a pat on the back. It will be slightly stressful, but with an editor's phone number you'll have all of your most basic questions answered swiftly.

First rule of thumb: Don't be intimidated. Just because the person you're speaking with was voted into their office doesn't make his or her job any more impactful. They make the laws, we tell the public about them.

Second rule: Take notes. I try to take down names, topics, and time of each person's first word on the recorder. With all that information, you'll never be caught with an empty quote.

Third rule: Whenever possible, plan your story before arriving. It saves your time, stress and story. With a story in mind, you can ask to speak to anyone you need if your quotes aren't what you wanted.

Fourth rule: As soon as you feel comfortable, write your story while the action is happening. While your main focus will be on what legislators and other concerned citizens are saying, you can start getting together a skeleton of your story and will have many more options to expand right after.

My first few weeks of stories were pretty bland and uninteresting. That's what an internship is all about: improving. Don't be too discouraged after edits, you can use the feedback to improve your writing for yourself, the organization, and future job prospects.

There are so many small things I had to question that I got tired of hearing my own voice. The newsroom is initially complex, but extremely welcoming from the very first day on. If you're having trouble feeling comfortable, please let an editor know. They want you to succeed in the medium you're focused on and will do whatever possible to help you achieve your goals within the internship. Every day is less and less intensive in terms of working the equipment, so don't worry. The final product will improve through the semester.

Budget Meetings Suck. We Know.
Posted 03/23/2016:  Covering the budget is boring. You know it. I knew it. Everbody does.

You'll need coffee, and an idea on what the main issues in the budget are. You'll need a recorder with a lot of space, a blank schedule and the determination of a C-student on the eve of a math final. But most of all, you'll need coffee

Planning a story before going to cover it is one of the most droll moments of a journalist's work, but it makes the latter steps so much simpler. Knowing when to focus on the proceedings (because we'll be honest, you can't focus though 5 hours of anything) and write down times and speakers for quality quotes is made so much simpler.

My focus for my two stories on the budget's travails through the House was the University of Missouri. While there may have been some conflict of interest issues at hand, it was a big enough story to cover and I believe I gave Mizzou no favoritism nor excessive criticism on both occasions. I could tune out, while still keeping my ear out for anything dramatic, and focus on what the main points in my story would be. When Mizzou came up, both the system administration and the Columbia campus, I wrote down every speaker, the time they began speaking, and the main focus of their testimony. This was crucial when I needed to find quotes and positions for my story.

Also, be willing to speak to the editors and Phill on what troubles you're having finding an angle and interest. Just about every morning I'm given a story idea without a clue on how to make the topic readable. Through brainstorming and story-narrowing, an interesting, sharable piece will be found. My favorite part of working with MDN is the newsroom and people's willingness to speak on any issue. When my mind hits a blank while writing, I typically shout out what I'm struggling with and my peers help me get to the answer in some form. That idea sharing and openness is the main reason I wanted to become a writer, and I thoroughly enjoy any opportunity to help someone's story improve.

Budget stories will typically have a main focus, something that was the biggest issue of the moment, and then a few quick hits on other interesting moves made. Mizzou was the main story for mine, but an amendment to cut Planned Parenthood passed on the House floor, and another passed amendment would force illegal immigrants to pay out-of-state tuition at the state's universities. Those topics were the next few paragraphs of my story, and a full budget story was complete.

On side notes, getting a packet of the proposed amendments and having all of the bills readily accessible on your laptop will be critical to writing your story on the spot. It'll get you out of the Capitol sooner and with less frustration. Budget is a tough job, but one that will earn you major kudos with your co-workers and editors.

Supermajorities Aren't Evil
Posted 03/23/2016:  When I first started working in Jefferson City for Missouri Digital News, I had this preconceived notion that any legislative supermajority would be in such a position of power as to run over its people. While that may be true when it comes to the state's ethics, the vast majority of the legislature's moves have been simply to help their constituents and provide a healthy and safe state for everyone.

While stalling and obfuscation are major concerns, the Missouri General Assembly is not in the business of purposefully screwing over the state's major cities. Rather, the Republican representatives are there to serve their largely-rural constituency through measures that protect them. While there's a lot of farming bills and protections to the businesses in their districts, they don't seem to have any interest in making any other population feel out of place or drive them out.

An example of this is in the photo ID voting law, which would require every voter in the state to present a driver's license or some equivalent to vote in the state. While many Democrats paint the issue as one of race, it really hurts older people who may not be able to find proper documentation too. If Republicans are looking to rid themselves of one of their best-performing constituencies, their intention is likely what they say: voting sanctity.

However, on ethics Missouri has quite a few issues. My adopted state is the only one in the country to not have any limits on lobbyist gifts and campaign contributions. If a lobbyist wanted to hand out a Lamborghini Veneno to your local senator, they would be allowed to drive it off the lot. All they would have to do is report it to the state's ethics commission.

There's a bill in the Senate to stop just about all lobbyist gifts from being accepted, though it's been on the body's calendar for over a month, after over a day's discussion. With spring break during this week, the lack of any action speaks for itself

On campaign contributions, the legislature is even more reserved. Unprompted at an editors' dinner, "because I know one of you is going to ask this," the president pro tem (the Senate's presiding officer) said the issue was not going to be solved this session. So much for the substantial ethics reform Speaker of the House Todd Richardson's promised.

While ethics are still a major concern, how the ACLU, Democrats and student advocacy groups spin Republican's moves in the General Assembly goes too far morally. Republicans are likely not making their bills and amendments in malice. Criticism should be on merit, not on person.

Originally published for Jack Morrisroe's Journalism Class Blog.