Our new bureau chief needs
no introduction to the Statehouse
by Peggy Boyer Long
In the spring of 1992, as everyone else was packing up and preparing to leave a committee room at the state Capitol, Jennifer Davis happened to overhear an offhand comment made by one lawmaker to another.
That chance remark led her to do a bit of digging. And her curiosity and persistence led to the discovery the state was saving less than expected from an early retirement program. In fact, taxpayers were shelling out about half a million dollars to rehire many of those early state retirees on short-term contracts.
Her story was published by the Springfield State Journal-Register, where Jennifer served that legislative session as a graduate intern in public affairs reporting. Among her other "clips" that session were stories about the debate over the controversial tax on health care providers.
"I was lucky," she says. "The year I was an intern we had an especially exciting legislative session. It really whetted my appetite for government and political reporting."
Now we're the lucky ones. Jennifer is our new Statehouse bureau chief. And she comes to the magazine with strong reporting instincts, a desire to dig and a solid grounding in state government reporting. Jennifer went on to earn that master's in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield. (She received her bachelor's in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she covered legal affairs for The Daily Illini, the student newspaper.)
After graduate school, she was hired full-time by the Springfield newspaper. During her three-and-a-half-year stint at the State Journal-Register, she reported that Sangamon County Republican officials were continuing to ask state job-seekers about their political affiliations and activities, despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling prohibiting political consideration in state government hiring.
And while covering the cop beat for that paper, she broke a story about missing cash, guns and drugs from the city's police evidence room. That reporting won her a Ring of Truth Award from the Copley newspaper chain, which owns the State Journal-Register.
Jennifer moved into the magazine's Statehouse bureau January 2. She comes to us from the state Department of Agriculture, where she worked a few months in the press office; she decided she'd rather be a reporter.
"This is a dream job," she says about covering state government for a monthly magazine. "I'm pretty much where I always wanted to be.
"I knew I always wanted to write news stories with a human face, stories that have perspective and context. Am that's something I never had time to do as a daily reporter."
Jennifer Davis replaces Jennifer Halperin, who now edits a women's magazine in Columbus, Ohio.
4 / February 1997 Illinois Issues