“Great moments are born from great opportunity,” is how actor Kurt Russell started a locker room speech to Team USA in his portrayal of the legendary hockey coach Herb Brooks in “Miracle.”
Great opportunity is knocking, so it’s up to me to deliver some great moments. I’m excited to join my new colleagues at the Springfield Daily Citizen. Some of them are brand new to me, and some of them are familiar from previous jobs. We have a common goal, and that’s to deliver the most crucial information that you need to have at your fingertips when it comes to living, working and maximizing your time in Springfield, Missouri.
Because I used to be a sports reporter, and because I find sports to be relatable in most situations, I tend to grab for sports analogies when describing how I feel or what I think. I think this is a very good team that’s been built to succeed immediately. I feel like I’m the last preseason acquisition on a journalistic roster that is full of all-stars.
I don’t know if any of these all-stars can skate, but I know they can report, write and deliver compelling information to the communities they serve. My name is Rance Burger, and I’m the local government reporter for the Springfield Daily Citizen.
At no point in my tenure with this organization do I plan to tell you how you should vote or how you should feel. Those are decisions that belong to you, and are best for me to stay away from. My business ends at the point where I give you accurate, competent and clean intelligence, and leave the decision making process in your mind. Accountability is bred through transparency. I’m not here to influence decisions, I’m just here to observe and record the influencers and the decision-makers.
I’ve covered city, county and state government, basketball state championships, multimillion dollar development projects, professional baseball, murder cases, powerboat races, tornadoes, devastating fires, NCAA national championships and a drive-through birthday party for the little girl who lives down the street. In a world where many professionals develop elite skill sets and concentrate on what they are great at, I seem to have resisted specialization.
Life is just too short to do the same old stuff every day.
It’s been a journeyman’s career up until now. In 15 years, I’ve been paid to practice journalism in Columbia, Osage Beach, Camdenton, Ozark, Springfield, Ozark again, and now Springfield for a second time. For the first time, a certain degree of specialization is about to happen. Instead of being the catch-all receptacle for all of a community’s news and then some, I’ll be able to concentrate to a certain extent on Springfield City Hall, the Greene County Commission and City Utilities.
No one ever said this would be easy. The difficulty is what makes this good.
Government reporting and sports reporting actually have some similarities. Teams make plans. Players sometimes have their own ideas. There are unforeseen challenges. There are celebrations of success. There is almost always someone who is upset. There can be posturing. I have heard applause, boos and hushed whispers in city council chambers. Oftentimes, participants and spectators can have a positive and joyful experience.
Apathy is one of our community’s greatest enemies. People miss out on learning what their local government is and isn’t, what it does and does not do, not because the information is not accessible, but because they don’t care. In short, my job is to sift through the minutiae and deliver crucial information in a way that reaches the highly engaged citizens and the apathetic residents alike. People don’t want to get bogged down in legalese, and they don’t want to feel like they have to have months or years of institutional knowledge in order to understand the decisions that are made today. I’m here to break down the complex and deliver the concise facts.
I can’t make people care, but I can arm them with some tools that might help them start caring a little bit more. We all have topics that we’re passionate about and these topics can be related to citizenship, the act of taking part in a society and a community, if the passion can be channeled.
Most of all, there is simply no way that a person can take action for what they believe is the betterment of their community if they aren’t informed. That’s where I come in. I’m not here to fight fights, lead someone else’s hunts or sharpen someone else’s ax. I’m here to help everyone be a little bit more informed about their government on a consistent basis.