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Kansas and Missouri government reporters see a ‘pattern of hostility’ in trying to do their jobs

Missouri's Republican governor, Mike Parson, has been supportive of restricting abortions in the state.
Charlie Riedel
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson's administration has imposed restrictions on journalists covering the Statehouse.

Reporters in both Kansas and Missouri are dealing with a new wave of restrictions aimed at their ability to inform the public on how officials are spending their tax dollars.

People who are in charge of holding elected officials accountable are finding it harder to do their jobs.

In Missouri, Gov. Mike Parson’s administration has revoked building passes for statehouse journalists and restricted where they can park.

“I've always found governors really supportive of trying to help reporters provide access into the Capitol,” said Phill Brooks, who has been a Missouri Statehouse reporter since 1970. “But shortly after this governor took office in 2018, there's been a pattern of hostility.”

In Kansas, Emporia State University is demanding payments of hundreds of dollars for public records that would help reporters understand why the university suspended tenure and fired more than 30 staff members while paying performance bonuses.

“If you're saying, 'We're facing new financial realities, and need to fix structural deficits' as their president Ken Hush has said, then you would assume that the university was in a penny pinching kind of mode,” said Clay Wirestone, the opinion editor at Kansas Reflector, where journalists sought records. “We were just curious to see, are they handing out these bonuses? And if so, to whom and for how much?”

Emporia State responded by demanding the Kansas Reflector pay $700 for that information.

Wirestone and Brooks joined KCUR’s Up To Date to discuss how restricted access to government records and the treatment of journalists can slow down their ability to do their jobs.

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When I host Up To Date each morning at 9, my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. Reach me at steve@kcur.org or on Twitter @stevekraske.
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