On Jan. 10, 2018 Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens delivered his second State of the State Address to the state Legislature.
We were wrapping up our live coverage of the speech when a local TV station began its 10 p.m. newscast with a bombshell: the governor allegedly had an extramarital affair and threatened to blackmail the woman with a nude photograph if she ever talked about it. The governor almost immediately issued a statement admitting to the affair but denying any blackmail.
Our two reporters covering the State of the State quickly put together a story for our website, morning newscast spots (our newscasts were done for the day) and a radio feature for the national NPR morning show.
It would be the first of many late nights and hectic days covering the burgeoning scandal over the next five months.
The governor had to tangle with a barrage of legal problems: the affair turned out not to be as consensual as originally thought; there was a question about the governor’s office using an app called Confide that erases any communication upon receipt; there was evidence that the governor’s campaign used the donor list from his non-profit, The Mission Continues, to solicit donations.
At one point the governor was the target of at least four separate investigation including likely impeachment by the Missouri House of Representatives. Through it all, St. Louis Public Radio was competing for stories with most media outlets in the state - some with significantly more resources than us.
The staff regularly dealt with intense deadline pressure as the story shifted - often several times in the same day. For example, on the day one of the charges against the governor was dropped, he spoke on the steps of the courthouse close to our evening broadcast deadline. Our reporter got back to the station, ran up three flights of stairs with full radio equipment, raced into the nearest studio and got the governor’s comments on the air with literally two minutes to spare. This type of effort was not uncommon during our five months of covering the scandal.
We used all of our resources to tell a complete story, including our daily talk show, St. Louis on the Air, and added a weekly “Greitens roundup” to our regular Politically Speaking podcast (a show that has been airing for five years). We used longer, feature stories to explore some of the underlying questions about the legalities of what was going on and reaction to the scandal. As the date of Greitens’ trial for felony invasion of privacy drew near, we produced a three-part series that examined who the players were for the prosecution, the defense and the judge.
Ultimately the governor was forced to resign, due in large part to news outlets like St. Louis Public Radio that brought the dark practices of his administration into the bright light of public scrutiny.