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Perspective: Capitol life without Priddy?

January 4, 2015 at 2:00 a.m. | Updated January 4, 2015 at 2:00 a.m.

It starts again on Wednesday.

Missouri lawmakers return to the Capitol and, at noon, launch the 2015 General Assembly which will run through May 15.

As I have for the last 26 years, I'll be there (along with Landon Reeves) on behalf of the News Tribune and our readers - reporting on bills that have been introduced, the committee hearings and floor debates about them, the amendments and compromises made to get ideas passed and other ideas delayed or canceled.

Reporters from The Associated Press and other news organizations will be there as well - including the Missourinet, a statewide radio news network that's been covering the Legislature since the 1975 session.

But the Missourinet's first (and, until Dec. 1, only) news director, Bob Priddy, won't be at the Press Table in the Senate when the session begins Wednesday.

Instead, the Sullivan, Ill., native is into his second month of retirement after a 50-year journalism career - almost all of it in Jefferson City.

And he will be missed.

He always asked the good questions - you know, the kind of questions intended to get politicians to say more than their "planned message," and explain what they really want to accomplish and why they support, or don't support, an idea or a proposed law.

With his experience and years of service, he was a great resource for remembering (and reminding others about) things that happened in state government in the past - especially when similar ideas surface and reporters or term-limited lawmakers don't have a clue about the "last" time that happened.

Priddy always has seen being a reporter as an important part of keeping the historical record - by accurately recording history as it happens.

He's always been a history student.

To help celebrate Missouri's 150th anniversary as a state in 1971, Priddy wrote and broadcast "Missouri In Retrospect," a series of short stories about Missouri history that were tied to a specific date - and were carried daily on KLIK Radio.

That's the local station he first worked for in Jefferson City, from the late 1960s until Nov. 1, 1974, when he moved to the Missourinet.

When Priddy joined the Missourinet, the stories went with him but got a new name - "Across Our Wide Missouri" (and are a project he'll be continuing at the Missourinet, even in retirement).

They also became three books with the same title, and the same stories-by-date approach.

He also wrote a book, "Only the Rivers Are Peaceful," about the House of Representatives' decision to have Missouri native Thomas Hart Benton paint a mural in the House Lounge - and Benton's decisions about what would go into that mural and the controversies it generated.

Several years ago, he completed a "coffee table" book on the artwork in the Capitol - and the research for that volume produced enough information that he currently is working on another volume on the history of the Capitol itself, including the 1911 fire that led to construction of the current building.

Before I forget, he also is a long-time member of the State Historical Society of Missouri's board.

His retirement has been the subject of a lot of tributes in the past couple of months - to the point where some have suggested it's been overdone. (After all, he's just another retiree ...)

But I make no apologies for this column.

When I came to Jefferson City in July 1974, as a reporter/disc jockey for then-new KJMO Radio, Bob was one of the first broadcasters from another station that I met. He helped me learn some of the local ropes, corrected me when I made (many) mistakes - and, in general, helped show me what news reporting really was all about.

When he went to the Missourinet, I was among the first to submit an application for a chance to work with him - but I was still very inexperienced.

After 14 1/2 years in radio and television, I got this job at the paper (the best job I ever have had), covering state government and telling more-detailed stories than I ever could have had Bob hired me at the Missourinet.

So, Priddy and I always have been competitors.

But, at the Capitol, competitors also sometimes work together to make sure the information we gather is accurate - so that our readers, listeners and viewers are getting the best information possible.

So, when the General Assembly resumes this week, Bob Priddy will be missed by at least some of us reporters - although he promises to drop by once in awhile, just to see what's going on.

Maybe we can hit him up for some more historical background - and advice.


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