Next week, when Congress gets back to work in the nation's capital, News 9/News On 6 and Griffin Communications will begin a new chapter in serving Oklahoma news consumers by opening a bureau in Washington, D.C.
In posting a reporter in the District of Columbia, News 9/News On 6 will be the only commercial news organization in the state with a full-time, local correspondent in Washington. With impeachment proceedings underway and 2020 being an election year, there couldn't be a more opportune time to give Oklahomans a clearer picture of what's happening here.
I take on this assignment with humility and determination. I want to be sure that the stories I send back home will be different from what News 9/News On 6 viewers see on the national newscasts.
"It's fake news," shouted President Trump to reporters who were trying to ask him about the impeachment charges against him as he prepared to board Marine One recently. "They make it up."
In this era of hyper-partisanship, reporters in Washington regularly come under fire, criticized by politicians on both sides for asking leading, biased questions. Aggressive reporting is nothing new on Capitol Hill, but what we're seeing now is definitely stepped up a notch.
According to Gallup, public trust in mass media has been ticking up the last three years, but Americans, and Oklahomans, as well, still trust the national media significantly less than their local reporters.
Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-District 2, said he has nothing personal against national correspondents, but "they're not from Oklahoma, they don't live in Oklahoma, they've probably never even been to Oklahoma."
Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma, said that local connection matters.
"You don't really get the local angle," Lankford said, "until you have someone from Oklahoma in D.C. asking the Oklahoma questions."
"I mean, you've spent a lot of time covering Oklahoma, you know Oklahoma, you know Oklahomans, you know what's gonna interest them," said Rep. Tom Cole, R-District 4.
Fortunately, the members of Oklahoma's Congressional delegation serve on committees that have the state's most critical interests in their purview; they include:
Living in Washington, I will be at the Capitol daily, if necessary, and will be able to visit regularly with our delegation, sit in on their committee meetings, and report back on all the work that they're doing -- or not doing.
The seven members of the delegation have all agreed this closer scrutiny is a good thing.
"It's important that people back home have a first person understanding of what's happening here," said Lucas, R-District 3.
"And that ongoing check-in and for you to ask us questions -- transparency and accountability -- is a great way to do that," said Horn, D-District 5.
With an office downtown at the Associated Press's Washington bureau, I'll have easy access, not only to our local representatives, but also to the White House and to all of the big stories that grab the national headlines. I'll cover those stories, but in a way that is more mindful of the Oklahoma audience that is watching.
"I think it's about seeking out the truth to tell Oklahomans what's really going on up here in the beltway," said Hern, R-District 1, "which is very difficult to find, without having a spin."
"I'm not real fond of hypocrisy," said Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, "and there's a lot of that in Washington."
Look for my first reports beginning on Monday, Jan. 6.