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WCCO Radio Statehouse Reporter Retiring

The Capitol is a special beat

As a former Maryland state capital reporter and bureau chief, I was touched by this story from WCCO(AM), Minneapolis about Eric Eskola (ES-koh-lah), who is retiring after spending 26 years on that beat.

(I was recently in Minneapolis and saw the WCCO building. Find a fascinating history of the CBS Radio station below the program lineup here.)

Capitol reporters spend long hours on their beat, often covering arcane topics, and break down these topics into digestible pieces of information.

To give an example of how deep into it I became during my stints in Annapolis, when the Challenger space shuttle exploded in-air in 1986, several of us were in the glass-enclosed broadcast booth above the floor of the Maryland House, filing for the noon newscast. The technician for Channel 11 in Baltimore saw it on his monitor and told us, and then we saw it too.

Our phones in the booth began ringing. Editors called us, and asked us to drop our coverage plans for the day and get reactions from our local delegations. We did, but thought it was beneath us, that an intern could do the “how do you feel” stuff, because the “hot” story at the time was the fight over the education funding formula for all of the counties. We were way more interested in covering that, because it was complex and nasty; the counties with the bigger population got more money than the smaller counties, and fights broke out between those that had money and those that didn’t, as well as between the one county that paid into the formula (resenting it) and others that thought this was just fine.

I got home that night and relayed all of this to my husband, who said the regular radio statehouse reporters had our priorities backwards and regular listeners didn’t care about the education funding formula; they cared about simpler things that touched their lives more directly, like a bill to require all trucks driving through the state of Maryland to be covered so the cars of nearby drivers wouldn’t get hit by falling rocks. It took 17 years for that bill to pass the legislature and I must admit, most of the time we poo-pooed it as too simple and ignored it; until it passed.

Oh well. I still get deep into whatever esoteric items I’m covering.