KNF to help fund statehouse coverage

Posted December 18, 2014

LAWRENCE -- Every member of the Kansas Press Association will have access to coverage of the Kansas Legislature during the upcoming session.

Last year, University of Kansas journalism students supplied nearly 100 stories to the KU Statehouse Wire Service. The wire service then distributed the stories to about 20 media outlets throughout the state.

In the 2015 legislative session, KPA will assist in expanding the wire service’s reach, thanks to a grant from the Kansas Newspaper Foundation.

“Our members have indicated they need more content from the legislative session,” said Doug Anstaett, KPA executive director. “This partnership with KU will ensure at least a portion of that need is met.”
KPA will distribute the stories to its 230 member newspapers, and KNF has committed $5,000 in cash awards for students who excel in covering the Kansas Legislature.

“The purpose of the class is to provide KU journalism students a professional reporting experience,” said Scott Reinardy, KU associate professor in the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications and the Statehouse Reporting class instructor. “The Kansas Press Association’s commitment to that purpose raises the professional standard for the students, and enhances legislative coverage for its member newspapers.”

The Statehouse Reporting class began in 2012 when a dozen students worked in collaboration with professional reporters at the Kansas Statehouse. The student reporters were assigned a mentor from the Lawrence Journal-World, Topeka Capital-Journal, Wichita Eagle or Kansas City Star, and were required to publish at least twice a week.

In 2014, the program was expanded to operate as an independent wire service, providing daily stories to 18 Kansas media outlets. The School of Journalism developed the KU Statehouse Wire Service to fill the gap in legislative coverage that isn’t being provided by newspapers or the Associated Press.
“A dozen students can fundamentally cover more legislative stories than any single news entity at the Statehouse,” Reinardy said. “We think all media in the state should have access to the stories. As a state university, it’s a service we should provide to the residents of Kansas.”

Graduates of the class now work at media companies throughout the country, including the Florida Times-Union, New York Times, and Dallas Morning News.

The 2015 Kansas legislative session begins Jan. 12.

“We truly appreciate the opportunity KPA is providing to the students,” Reinardy said. “As I always tell the students, ‘If you can cover a Statehouse, you can cover anything.’”

KPA members will be notified during early January how they can access the stories.

Reinardy or a student editors will edit the stories before they are distributed.