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The Capitol Connection
The College of Public Affairs and Education and the Center for State Policy and Leadership, University of Illinois Springfield
Public Affairs Reporting

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  • Photo of iphone with Social Media icons

    Time for a social media break?

    Many of today’s college juniors and seniors report opening their first social media account (usually on Facebook, with a parent’s help) when they were around 10 years old. That means they’ve spent half of their lifetimes on the app!

  • Photo of Ariel Van Cleave

    Ariel Van Cleave named PAR broadcast instructor

    Ariel Van Cleave, senior editor for audio and interim managing editor for Chicago public radio station WBEZ, will serve as the Public Affairs Reporting program's adjunct broadcast writing instructor beginning this fall.

  • Photo of Jason Piscia giving a talk at an UIS Lunch and Learn series event

    Journalism: Where we’ve been, where we’re going

    My talk focused on the critical role of local journalism and how cutbacks in local newsrooms over the years have affected media outlets' abilities to adequately cover their communities, providing residents with the information they need to make informed decisions.  My report wasn't all gloom, however.

  • Photo of Alex Degman, 2009 PAR Graduate

    PAR Alumni Spotlight: Alex Degman returns to Illinois Capitol

    Public Affairs Reporting Director Jason Piscia chats with Alex Degman, PAR '09, who is returning to Springfield after nearly five years with KMOX in St. Louis as an anchor and reporter.

  • Watch replay: Ray Long talks about his new book about former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan

    On March 17, the Public Affairs Reporting program hosted a conversation with Ray Long, the longtime investigative reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He recently authored a book about the political career of former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

  • Photo of Ray Long, PAR graduate with image of his book cover, “The House That Madigan Built: The Record Run of Illinois' Velvet Hammer”

    PAR grad Ray Long talks about Michael Madigan with us on March 17

    Ray Long, PAR '81, chronicles Speaker Madigan’s storied legislative career in a new book – “The House That Madigan Built: The Record Run of Illinois' Velvet Hammer”, which comes out March 22.  We’d like to invite you to join us on Zoom at noon March 17 to hear from Long about his book and his career covering Madigan.

  • Photo of a newspaper being printed

    Your Local Newspaper Is In Trouble

    The most recent figures from Pew Research Center’s analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the number of newsroom employees in the United States fell by 26% since 2008.  Most of that loss has happened at newspapers, which often is a community’s best source of consistent, in-depth, solid watchdog news coverage. 

  • Jason Piscia, PAR Director, teaching news literacy in a high school class room

    News literacy: A lesson for all ages

    As the last several months have shown us, misinterpreted or flat-out bogus information about vaccines, masks, the outcome of the 2020 presidential election and much more affects – and polarizes – all ages.

  • Photo of news camera man filmng an interview

    Will Congress give a tax break to local news organizations?

    With President Joe Biden on Monday signing a $1 trillion bill to fix roads, bridges, water systems and other aspects of America’s infrastructure, attention now turns to another expensive part of Biden’s plan – a $1.85 trillion social spending bill that includes help for local news organizations.

  • A PAR student completing an interview at the Illinois State Capitol

    PAR: Real journalism experience and a master’s degree without a huge student loan

    A headline in the Wall Street Journal caught my eye last week:  “Journalism schools leave graduates with hefty student loans”.  The article focused on the cost of a journalism master’s degree at well-known institutions like Northwestern University near Chicago and Columbia University in New York City – and the debt students are taking on to get those degrees.  However, not all schools will bury you in debt to provide a graduate-level education that includes a guaranteed opportunity to get professional experience.

  • Image of a "Good Newspaper" in front of a turquoise background

    New year’s resolutions for news consumers

    The fall semester begins this week at UIS. To me, this time of year feels more like New Year’s Day than Jan. 1.  So with that in mind, allow me to wish you a Happy New Year and provide you with some new year’s resolutions.

  • Illinois Bill Explores How to Save Local Journalism

    In the blur of legislative activity that closed out the spring 2021 session of the Illinois General Assembly, state lawmakers passed a bill that would help figure out how to save local journalism. If signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, the law would create a group of 15 people to study communities underserved by local journalism and recommend ways to preserve and/or restore coverage in those area.

  • 50-Forward 2


    In 2021, our national network and member stations that fund it are celebrating 50 years since NPR started with the broadcast of All Things Considered in 1971. NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS will celebrate our 50th anniversary of broadcasting to central Illinois in 2025. So over the next few years, “50” will have special significance for NPR Illinois. I’m honored to announce the 50-Forward Campaign. As we lead up to 2025, we will be looking for major and planned gifts and/or grants to increase the service of NPR Illinois into the future.

  • Recollections of Springfield

    Being the politics nerd and longtime Springfield resident that I am, I’m always interested when well-known political figures offer their impressions or memories of our capital city.  Two books I’ve read over the last few months include the Springfield recollections of two people on the national stage – President Barack Obama and former White House press secretary and current Fox News host Dana Perino.

  • Photo of Hannah Meisel

    PAR Alumni Spotlight: Hannah Meisel returns to NPR Illinois

    Hannah Meisel has made a handful of stops on her journalism journey since completing the Public Affairs Reporting program in 2014. But she’s never strayed too far from the Illinois political beat.

  • 5 Reasons to Pursue a Master’s Degree in Public Affairs Reporting at UIS

    Since 1972, the Public Affairs Reporting program at UIS has jumpstarted hundreds of careers in journalism and communications. There are dozens of reasons why a PAR master’s degree is a smart option to level up your chances at a job reporting on government, politics and other high-profile topics. Read on for five of the best reasons.

  • Join us April 28 for a discussion about nonprofit news

    As privately owned media companies fight for survival and search for a funding model that is both sustainable and provides vital and trustworthy news coverage of local communities, we’ve seen more nonprofit journalism organizations (NPJs) emerge to report on specific topics and/or geographic areas that other newsrooms won’t or can’t adequately cover.

  • Sunshine Week - Your Right to Know

    Celebrate Sunshine Week!

    As I’m writing this on Monday, thick, gray clouds are streaking across the sky above the UIS campus. The view out my window reminds me of what it’s like sometimes trying to get information from government agencies.  March 14-20 is Sunshine Week, an initiative that began in 2005 by the American Society of News Editors to promote the public’s right to know what its public officials are doing.

  • Photo of the UIS Young Lincoln statue covered in snow


    On top of an ongoing COVID Pandemic, a still confusing response, a mixed up political world, and a new standard of truisms, and of course, just to make things worse, the weather has now turned against us. In particular the Midwest and South was severely impacted. As of this writing I think we all have heard that Texas seems to have borne the brunt of this winter weather.

  • Andrea Zelinski stands on Zealand Mountain in New Hampshire during her seven-month hike on the Appalachian Trail.

    PAR Alumni Spotlight: Andrea Zelinski hikes 2,193-mile Appalachian Trail

    In the years since completing the Public Affairs Reporting program in 2008, Andrea Zelinski has been covering politics and government for news organizations in Illinois, Tennessee and Texas. But in 2020, she pause her journalism career for a seven-month journey on the Appalachian Trail, the 2,193-mile hiking trail that covers 14 states.

  • Image of a reporter in a helmet in front of protesters in the middle of a street.

    Time to stop hating on journalists for reporting facts

    I didn’t get into journalism to be liked. But I didn’t get into it to be hated, either. After the last four years of President Trump’s attacks on the media, his followers feel more emboldened than ever to direct hateful language and dangerous threats toward journalists trying to do their jobs.

  • Photo of Daralene Jones, PAR Graduate

    PAR Alumni Spotlight: Daralene Jones helps reveal truth of Ocoee Massacre

    For 100 years, the story of the Ocoee Massacre remained largely untold. But thanks to the efforts of Public Affairs Reporting graduate Daralene Jones and her team at WFTV Channel 9 in Orlando, the truth of what happened to Black residents in Ocoee on Election Day 1920 is being revealed to a new generation of people in Florida and beyond.

  • Photo of a newspaper front pages above the fold

    Is It A Lost Cause To Get Young People To Read Newspapers?

    When we think about the average reader of a newspaper – the actual paper kind – the profile tends to be older, more educated and more affluent compared to a non-newspaper reader.  Combine that with the stereotypical image of a college student – younger and less affluent with their eyes and fingers glued to a screen – and you might think there’s little chance of ever turning a 20-something into someone who sips their coffee over the morning paper.  It might not all be a lost cause, however.

  • Trump Controversies Raise Journalism Ethics Questions

    An analysis:  two recent news stories that make President Trump look bad have launched important discussions about journalism ethics. 

  • Vice Presidential Candidate Kamala Harris

    We Don’t Want to Hear about Kamala Harris’ Shoes

    When vice presidential hopeful Kamala Harris delivers her prime-time speech at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday, pay attention to the words used to describe her.  Unfortunately, commentators, opinionmakers and sometimes even news reporters have a bad habit of describing female politicians in ways they rarely or never do about male politicians.

  • "Make a little noise with your pens, pencils, your cameras." John Lewis.  An Essay by Prof. Jason Pisica, PAR Director.  The Capitol Connection Blog.  July 21, 2020.  A photo of Kayla Collins, Public Affairs Reporting Graduate, during her internship int he state capitol.

    ‘Make a little noise with your pens, your pencils, your cameras’

    John Lewis had a familiar directive when it came to standing up against racial injustice – get yourself into some “good trouble” while doing it.  As tributes to the civil rights icon and congressman pour in following his death on July 17 at age 80, journalists need to remember those words apply to them, too.

  • Trump targets Twitter; what will happen to free speech?

    "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."  Back when I was the online editor of The State Journal-Register, this sentence went through my mind often as I kept track of the flood of reader comments that appeared under the online version of our journalists’ news stories.

  • Saving Local News

    Local journalism was in serious trouble before anyone heard of COVID-19, but amid a worldwide shutdown intended to stem the spread of the dangerous virus, the financial struggles of your local media outlet are even more serious now. So how can we fix this?

  • Trif Alatzas

    Local News – Needed Now More Than Ever

    Trif Alatzas discusses the need for local news in today’s world.  Alatzas led The Baltimore Sun team that was awarded the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in Local Reporting "for illuminating, impactful" investigations into city and state government.

  • Dr. Robert W. Smith, Dean of the College of Public Affairs and Administration

    May Public Affairs Minute: The Role of a Free Press in a Democratic Society

    Journalists are trained to be objective observers, uncover the facts, keep sources confidential and question stakeholders, citizens, politicians, corporate and military leaders, and their institutions. The purpose is to shed light, provide transparency, ferret out lies and insure accuracy. Indeed, this focus on the truth is the fundamental role of a free press in democratic society.

  • May 3rd is World Press Freedom Day. Thank a Journalist.

    World Press Freedom Day -- established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993 and observed annually on May 3 -- is a chance to celebrate the free press principles we enjoy in the United States.  America’s journalists -- from the largest national outlets in New York and D.C. to the tiny newspapers in rural towns throughout the country -- work hard to reveal the truth the public needs.