As Capitol press corps shrinks, government controls message

From The Oklahoma Gazette:

The sun was down, the building nearly empty — the perfect time to slip in a massive piece of legislation which could alter an entire legal system. Lawmakers were mulling over a simple four-page health bill well after dinnertime when one representative tried tacking on a 133-page lawsuit reform amendment.

The measure contained language placing new restrictions on citizens suing businesses in court, limiting the damages a company might have to pay for wrongdoing, and capping the pay of trial lawyers. It was the same language the governor had vetoed a few weeks earlier.

The late-night move might have gone unnoticed had The Oklahoman’s Michael McNutt not decided to hang around after finishing his work for the day and wander into the committee hearing. The story appeared the following morning and the surprise was exposed.

McNutt would normally not have been the only reporter in the room that night. But after recent cutbacks at the state’s largest newspapers and years of radio news stations folding and television news stations losing interest, the light on the people’s business is starting to dim.

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