Other Viewpoints: Nikki Haley‘s ‘bailout‘ tweets reveal hypocrisy
- September 9, 2020
May 3, 2020 at 5:01 AM
Former South Carolina governor and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley says that states…Read More
May 3, 2020 at 5:01 AM May 3, 2020 at 12:55 PM
The Statehouse press corps works in a largely empty building these days.
The legislature hasn’t been meeting, and most state office employees are working remotely. Among the few people who show up daily at the Statehouse are the reporters.
Even Gov. Mike DeWine, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and Ohio Health Director Dr. Amy Acton — the officials the reporters are there to cover as they explain policies and procedures to try to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus — are no longer in the Statehouse. They moved to another location after people protesting various orders by DeWine and Acton created security concerns.
Although there is a camaraderie among even those from competing news agencies, they sit a responsible distance from one another, and they wear masks to reduce the possibility of spreading the coronavirus.
Those who watch the daily briefings — and thousands do — hear but don’t see the reporters. Their voices are muffled a bit by the masks, but we’ve come to recognize them by voice even as they are about to introduce themselves.
You often hear Jim Otte of WHIO-TV in Dayton ask the first question. He typically sits nearest the microphone connecting the reporters to the state officials, giving him quick access.
You also often hear from a host of other reporters from newspapers and TV and radio stations across Ohio. Among them are Jackie Borchardt and Jessie Balmert, Statehouse reporters for The Cincinnati Enquirer and part of the Gannett Ohio team with Dispatch reporters.
A number of Dispatch reporters have covered the briefings, including Bethany Bruner, Beth Burger, Max Filby, Holly Zachariah, and state government reporters Rick Rouan and Randy Ludlow.
Ludlow has been a fixture at the Statehouse for decades, first reporting for The Cincinnati Post and now for The Dispatch. He started in the news business as a clerk, then known as a “copy boy,” at age 16. That was 49 years ago.
Ludlow is a no-nonsense reporter who has covered DeWine for many years as DeWine moved through various public offices, starting in the early 1990s when he was lieutenant governor alongside Gov. George Voinovich.
And that might explain why it sometimes looks as if DeWine has momentary indigestion when he hears, “Good afternoon, governor. Randy Ludlow from The Columbus Dispatch…” He is polite and professional. He also sometimes asks tough questions.
He and all of the reporters are there on your behalf, asking questions you might ask. In fact, Ludlow says he routinely receives dozens of questions from readers across Ohio, and he appreciates receiving them.
On Wednesday, for example, his question to DeWine came directly from some of you.
Ludlow relayed to the governor the concerns he has heard from people who can’t find masks, cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer — especially people who can now be called back to work because of the plan by Acton and DeWine to allow thousands of Ohioans to return to work in certain professions.
Ludlow noted that some dental hygienists in particular expressed concern about potentially being asked to back to work in offices that have no personal protection equipment.
DeWine said he understands that the supply chain for those materials has been greatly disrupted, and he and others are working to get supplies to people who need them. And Husted noted that workplaces that cannot meet the requirements of social distancing and proper protection for employees, as well as customers and patients, are not allowed to reopen until they do.
Ludlow said he often waits until near the end of the question-and-answer portion of the briefings to go the microphone because it gives him time to write versions of the stories.
“I tend to like to go late, because while they‘re asking questions and I‘m hearing the answers, I can immediately update the online story with that information,” he said.
Ludlow faces several deadlines each day, including while the briefings are underway.
He files stories immediately when news breaks, such as when DeWine said that schools would remain closed for the rest of this school year. An editor picks it up, gives it an edit, puts a headline on it and posts it to Dispatch.
Ludlow files another, more complete story by 3 p.m. to update the online story and for some of our sister newspapers that have early print deadlines. Then he adds more quotes, context and reaction for yet another version for another online update and for the Dispatch print editions. Sometimes, if news breaks later, such as on Tuesday, when more deaths were reported at one of the state prisons, he updates the “final” story yet again.
To help hit all of those deadlines, he talks with sources and uses his own knowledge of the situation to prepare to cover what are likely to be the key topics of each day’s briefing.
“I start in morning trying to anticipate what the day‘s big story might be and have the background written, gather contributions from other reporters and have something written in advance,” he said.
Sometimes, the big story ends up being something else, and he pivots on deadline, but typically the background material assembled in advance is helpful at some point, even if not on the day he prepared it.
Ludlow is quick to point out that he’s one of many journalists who are asking questions on your behalf each day. And these days, they’re doing it from behind masks and from a distance.
Alan D. Miller is editor of The Dispatch.