Nebraska Legislature runs its own news service

LINCOLN, Neb. — If you go to a hearing on a high-profile bill at the Nebraska Legislature, you might see a TV reporter here, a newspaper reporter there and a reporter who’s being paid by the Legislature itself.

In addition to the gaggle of TV, radio, online and newspaper reporters that regularly cover the Legislature, a handful of lesser-known reporters write about the Legislature while also working for it.

The Unicameral Information Office employs three public information officers — who earn an average of $47,442 per year — who do public relations but also act as journalists, taking photos and writing stories about legislation, just like the free press. They’re overseen by a director who earns nearly $60,000 annually. Altogether, they earn more than $200,000 in salaries, not counting benefits and office costs.

They produce the Unicameral Update, a free printed and online publication billed as the official news publication of the Nebraska Legislature. When lawmakers are in session, the Update is published weekly and is a couple dozen pages long.

The Unicam Update has a Twitter account called “Nebraska Legislature” with 4,783 followers, an RSS feed and email subscriptions. In other words, it has everything most media outlets have, except it’s all paid for with tax dollars.

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