More than 30 years later, some things haven’t changed in Louisiana
Here’s what you can expect from the Illuminator under my watch
Louisiana legislators convene in the House of Representatives chambers at the State Capitol during the 2020 special session. (Wes Muller/LA Illuminator. Wednesday Sept. 30, 2020)
A sub-basement section of the State Capitol is where you’ll find press row, where news outlets have bureaus for their reporters who cover the state government beat. At the east end is where you’ll find the humble dwelling of the Louisiana Illuminator.
It’s the exact same office where I worked my first job 31 years ago after graduating from the LSU Manship School of Journalism. Back then, it was headquarters for the Louisiana News Bureau, a legislative tracking service. Through the technical marvel of 10-key data entry, we could keep lobbyists and other interested folks apprised of the daily doings of the legislature while in session.
While not much is different on our end of press row, it would be great to tell you how much things have changed elsewhere at the Capitol over the ensuing three decades. But this doesn’t feel like the right moment to take a trip down nostalgia lane. Not when Louisiana still finds itself ranked at or near the bottom of so many indicators of progress: education, health care, economic opportunity, the unenviable lists go on.
If right now you find yourself saying “Why focus on the negative?” then we should have a separate conversation about the purpose of journalism. But as a lifelong Louisiana resident and now a parent, I would also tell you it’s increasingly harder to find the flowers that distract you from the weeds. I find myself at times having the “Why stay?” conversation.
Before you throw me in the corner with Negative Nellie, let me say that Louisiana has provided consistent opportunities for me to advance my career, raise a family and live fairly comfortably. I could have done so in many other states, but I clearly have an attachment to my home. One reason I have stayed in this field for so long is because, perhaps naively, I have always believed my work can make a difference.
It’s in that spirit that I accepted this fantastic offer to lead the Louisiana Illuminator. I’m not going so far as to say one editor and a small team of dedicated reporters are going to fix what ails the state. But as journalists, we take seriously the responsibility to report what works and what doesn’t. We also provide a forum where possible solutions can be brought forward and vetted through public discussion.
As a lifelong Louisiana resident and now a parent, I would also tell you it’s increasingly harder to find the flowers that distract you from the weeds.
In today’s political environment, news is frequently weaponized or disguised to target a like-minded audience. Simply put, it ceases to be news. The Louisiana Illuminator doesn’t play that game. We consider facts paramount to our work, with the goal to convey them in a way that helps you make informed conclusions or choices. Feel free to argue over what those conclusions or choices should be, but the facts stand on their own.
So what’s this all going to look like from the Louisiana Illuminator? For starters, expect more policy analysis in plain language – “people” stories to which you can relate. You’ll learn more about who’s behind the power moves at the Capitol (hint: it’s not always the people you elected). We’ll help you understand how decisions made in Baton Rouge affect you and your family, and if they don’t, why you should still care.
Officials often sound the trumpet call for government transparency, but it’s been my experience that they either fall back on the familiar tune of complacency or march to the beat of “What’s in it for Me?” As such, you can look for more investigative reporting from our team and through key partnerships that will shine light on matters that some would rather keep in the dark.
The Louisiana Illuminator is still a nascent news organization, but we’re looking to take major steps in the months and years to come. To do that, we not only need your support – whether that’s financial, signing up for our newsletter or just spreading the word – we also need your feedback.
How can we be useful to you? What can we do better? Where do you want to find us?
I look forward to hearing those questions and many more from you – and then finding the answers and more.
Greg LaRose is editor in chief of the Louisiana Illuminator and can still keep pace with 10-key data entry. He can be reached at [email protected]
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