Lose the 'tude

6 May

I’m currently wrapping up a feature and a news wrap about the Missouri Property Tax Credit Law. The law didn’t change, instead it is now being enforced without warning. Elderly and disabled people who have been receiving tax credits for years are all of a sudden not getting it anymore. Ok, they shouldn’t have gotten it in the first place, but that was not their fault. Now, without explanation, they are short $300-700. Even though it’s not a change, people are upset, and it’s news.

Brenda Proctor is a MU extension tax specialist who does taxes for low-income people brought this problem to the light. I interviewed her and she is passionate about it. She told me how people showed up crying because they didn’t know why they couldn’t get this money used to pay heating bills and holiday expenses, etc.

Next, I interviewed Robert Johnson, a man on disability who lives in public housing. This is the first time in 10 years he’s not getting a check. His story is the most compelling because he is my “human voice” to the issue.

To even out Proctor’s views and check the facts I called the Missouri Department of Revenue. The person I spoke to was unprofessional and very unhappy I was doing a story about this problem. This obviously leads me to believe it is a problem. I asked him if he would be willing to do a phone interview and he said yes and hung up on me when I asked for his name and his direct extension.  That evening he e-mailed me and both of my news directors a snarky e-mail about what a terrible idea it was to do the story and how it wasn’t a story and how it’s already been done. (How did he even find my e-mail?) Some of the highlights of his letter:

I am frustrated because, despite what KBIA reported last time and despite what Ms. Procter says, THERE WAS NO CHANGE IN STATE LAW AND THERE WAS NO CHANGE IN THE INTERPRETATION OF THE LONG-STANDING LAW.

I am not refusing to comment if you really feel it is necessary to yet again give a forum to Ms. Procter’s crusade because I would not want Ms. Procter’s opinions to go unchallenged.  But it is incredibly unfair to the Department of Revenue to do yet another story when you HAVE ALREADY DONE ONE and because we are immediately put on the defensive as if the department did something wrong.

So my news director told me not to contact him and she would get in touch with him.

Rigth now I’m working on finding a more objective source…


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