When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Oklahoma earlier this year, it put things into flux for the entire state.
Our reporters began working from home, like many Oklahomans, juggling work and family responsibilities simultaneously.
But we weren’t the only ones. Many public agencies across the state began to work remotely too, and while that was surely a challenge, it created possibilities for journalists like ours.
Suddenly, public meetings that pre-pandemic had been perhaps sparsely attended by reporters were being held virtually, making them easy to “attend” live or view later.
We put that to good use.
In late April thousands of Oklahomans, suffering without jobs amid shutdowns and reduced economic activity amid the pandemic, were among those receiving additional federal unemployment payments.
In a meeting of the Governor’s Council for Workforce and Economic Development, the members discussed the feasibility of removing the ability for Oklahomans to receive those payments as the state began its re-opening process.
The meeting was held virtually but was publicized by The Frontier after we received a recording of the meeting through an open records request. The day after The Frontier’s story, the council said they would not seek an early end to those payments.
When President Donald Trump announced he was holding his first post-pandemic rally in Tulsa in June, many were outraged at the idea of an indoor rally in the BOK Center and called the event a potential “super-spreader.”
There was some back and forth about who was responsible for the event. The City of Tulsa said it was the BOK Center’s call, and that they would support the venue if they decided not to host the event.
But The Frontier obtained a recording of a Tulsa Public Facilities Authority meeting held about a week before the rally where BOK Center officials said they “were looking” for Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum to tell them not to host the event.
They said they would have told Trump no if Bynum had told them to. The recording provided a much deeper look and understanding at how the controversial rally came to Tulsa, and the discussions within the city leading up to it.
And more recently, The Frontier’s Ben Felder wrote an excellent article about Gov. Kevin Stitt’s actions early on during the pandemic after receiving dozens of hours of recorded meetings Stitt held with a number of different people in March and April.
That story gave Oklahomans the deepest look possible at the thoughts that shaped Stitt’s early coronavirus response.
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