Danielle McCarthy's Blog in 2011
It was a crazy week at the Capitol to say the least. But as the craziness continues into the end of legislative session, I continue to learn so much more about the world of politics and political reporting. I've never considered myself to be well-versed in politics. But after spending so much time in Jeff City, I now know more than I ever would have about the legislative process had I just studied it in school and books. I find myself relating what's going on in the Capitol to what's going on in our nation's Capitol. With the legislators having the Monday off after Easter, this week started out fairly easy. But come Wednesday there was a flurry of activity going on ranging from dog breeding to redistricting. I didn't leave the Capitol until 11 and one of the print reporters didn't leave until 1 a.m. Even though I was exhausted, I didn't complain because working at the Capitol that late was a real life journalism experience. That isn't something you can do in a classroom and I'm so grateful for the real newsroom experience I've been getting this semester. I'm assuming the upcoming week will be full of as much, if not more, excitement than this past one was.
I can easily say covering the Prop B animal rights protest this past week was the most fun I've had in Jefferson City this semester. I found myself tapping my toes to the people's chants of "keep your paws off our laws!" Even though there was less chanting, the pro-dog breeding rally in front of the Capitol was also exciting as well. Despite all the energy, chants and dogs I encountered, I think the best part of it all was getting out of the newsroom and the Capitol building. The people I talked to were passionate and they were all having a good time - making the rallies all the more fun to cover. I don't think these people would have been quite as spirited if they were confined within the walls of the Capitol. As I work on my packages for Broadcast 1 as well, I find I've gotten the best interviews out of people I met while outside. As I continue my career in broadcast, I look forward to getting out of the newsroom and standard office interviews as much as possible.
You know you really are working hard when you find yourself feeling
exhausted. With how busy I was this week, that was definitely the
overall feeling. But, it was a satisfying feeling nonetheless. Along
going out to Jefferson City for my regular Monday and Wednesday
reporting shifts, I found myself running all over mid-Missouri taping
interviews and filming footage for my first Broadcast 1 package. My
time management skills are constantly improving, but
they’re still far from perfect. If I had wanted to, I could have
designed my schedule so I would never leave Columbia and I would have
been infinitely less busy, but I didn’t for a reason. Reporting in
Jefferson City has been an amazing experience and meeting
people throughout mid-Missouri, rather than just Columbia, has been
exciting as well. Branching out from my comfort zone in Columbia has
been great and I’ve met some really interesting people along the way.
The differences in the cultures of the places I’ve
seen so far is fascinating as well. I take great satisfaction in
knowing this is just the start to all the places I’m going to go in the
future and all the people I’m going to meet in the future.
is definitely the nature of journalism. There is simply no way to know
exactly what is going to happen and when it’s going to happen. Sure,
you can have a general idea, but there
is just no way you can ever be certain which route a story you are
working on is going to take. For example, this Monday I covered a Senate
committee hearing vote on a bill that would give St. Louis control of
its own police department. I thought the story
would be about how the bill was making more progress after a majority of
the committee approved the bill. But, after talking with the bill’s
sponsor and a senator who strongly opposes the bill the story turned out
to be about something much different than the
bill’s progress. The senator leading opposition against the bill said
she now has ten other senators who would filibuster the bill with her.
If the filibuster were to be successful, it would effectively kill the
bill – that was the true story that day.
contributing to my week’s theme of unpredictability in journalism is how
difficult it can be to get in touch with some sources. As I work on my
feature story, people I once thought it would
be easy to get in touch with turn out to be nearly impossible to get a
hold of. The same applies as I work on my first package for my broadcast
one class. I think my story has a lot of potential, but obviously the
sources make the story. But in the end, there
is really nothing else I can do to speak with my sources other than
After being sick and at home for an entire week, I'm looking forward to getting back into the swing of things at the Capitol. Although I must admit, even though I am sick, this break has been incredibly nice. There were two realizations I had regarding reporting for MDN while I was at home this week. The first was how easy it can be to keep up with all that is going on in Jeff City through the internet, particularly social media. I'll admit I spent more time than I probably should have on Twitter this past week. But, whenever I saw any tweets from KMOX, MDN, or any other Missouri news sources for that matter, I made sure to read up on whatever was going on back in Missouri. For example, had I not seen KMOX's tweet last night about the Senate stalling unemployment benefits, I probably would have had no idea that such a controversial event was going on. The other realization I had was how good we have it at the Capitol when it comes to conducting interviews. I must have called 15 different sources this week trying to set up a time for me to film material for my vosotvo that is due in Broadcast 1 this week. I was so frustrated when none of them were willing to help me. I had forgotten what that rejection was like. At the Capitol, senators and representatives typically love talking to anyone who wants to talk to them. While it wasn't what I had wanted, the rejection I faced when trying to schedule interviews with people outside of the Capitol was a much needed reminder and reality check about how most journalism really works.
The Missouri Captiol felt rather eerie this week as all the legislators were on spring break. Because of this, the atmosphere in the newsroom was rather relaxed and all the reporters/editors had some quality bonding time. I love how everyone just continues to grow closer and closer together. Christi and I planned out our noodling stories most of the time we were there on Monday. We had hoped we would get to watch some noodlers in action, but we were sad to learn that the noodling season typically doesn't begin until June. On Tuesday morning we spent some time talking with an MU professor who studies the sociological aspects surrounding noodling. She was able to give us some valuable insight into the sport. However, there were many things she was unwilling to speak about because noodling is illegal in Missouri. She stressed the importance of protecting her sources which I found very respectable. I haven't had to deal with that issue up until now since I am dealing with an illegal activity. I wasn't able to go to the newsroom on Wednesday because of an evening economics midterm, but I will continue to do research for my noodling story over spring break. I can't wait to see how the finished product turns out, even if we can't watch a noodling session.
Tuesday morning I checked my email and, to my surprise, found an email from KMOX's managing editor. After reading his positive feedback I was so happy I could have cried. I immediately called my parents to tell them the news and texted my high school radio coach. They and all my friends were very impressed. It's funny how just a few words of encouragement can make your day and bring you to a whole new level of confidence. I couldn't wait to get back to the Capitol on Wednesday to tackle whichever story I was assigned to cover. I was in such a great mood that I was hardly upset when the woman I was supposed to interview that morning for my noodling story rescheduled the meeting because she came down with the flu. I know I'm making progress and it feels great. I can guarantee that at the start of the semester, the managing editor's words would not have been as kind as they were this week. I'm learning more about the state government and the legislative process every day. Even on days when I'm not at the Capitol, I look for stories to tell me what is going on. I've always been impressed with the MDN editors' knowledge of everything going on at the statehouse and I really want to get to that point. As I continue to interview state senators and representatives, I find myself learning things that I never would have found had I just read through articles online. I've yet to come across a legislator that has been unwilling to help me with a story or understand a difficult topic. I'm still having difficulties condensing all the information I gather into a 40-second story, but I know I'm getting better at it. Soon enough, I'm sure it'll be second nature.
This week I came to realize that I am definitely becoming older and more mature. Wednesday was my 20th birthday, but I came to the newsroom and worked hard nonetheless. I am growing up, and it's happening fast. Sometimes I feel like it's happening too fast. It feels like it was just yesterday I was back home in Chicago at Chuck E. Cheese celebrating my 7th birthday. Now I'm in Jefferson City, Missouri spending my birthday in a newsroom. But, I'm starting to like working in the newsroom more and more. It's exciting and I'm really starting to bond with the other reporters. It makes working that much more enjoyable. That's another thing I came to realize even further this week after going on several interviews is that I love talking to people. I can honestly say I enjoy sitting down and getting to know various state representatives. The majority of them are incredibly friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. When I sit down one-on-one with them, I find nearly everything they say to be interesting. Even when I don't necessarily agree with what they may say when it comes to a controversial subject, I thoroughly enjoy talking to them. Hearing all the different sides to and the facts that support each side's argument has really caused me to think. I am finding myself more involved with the news and actually understanding news stories that I wouldn't have understood before. Working at the Capitol has made me infinitely more interested in national news. When I'm watching a story about Congress or the Wisconsin Capitol, I find myself applying what I've learned in Jeff City to these stories. I've always liked the news and have been passionate about broadcast, but I am now becoming more excited about news than I ever was before.
And another potential story falls through. It seems like it happens to me every week, if not day, I'm here. It's really disappointing thinking the story I'm about to do will be a good one and then, in the end, there's no story. Even though no story came out of the news conference with the auditor on the proposal to track all of the governor's travel expenses, I still learned a valuable lesson. It would have been easy to do a story on the auditor's lack of familiarity with the bill, but that's not the point of journalism. Phill calls it "gotchya journalism." I agreed with him that it would have been fairly pointless to do the story and it could have hurt any future contact I might have with the auditor in general. Instead of running the story I picked up a second enterprise story aside from my original one on noodling. The story is on the state of public sector unions in Missouri. I'll admit I was almost completely ignorant on the topic until I started working on it. To learn more about public sector unions I called my dad. Before he worked his way up to lieutenant for the DuPage County sheriff, he was in a union there. He was able to give me great perspective on public sector unions both from the management and member sides. I was able to use his information in the interviews I've conducted so far with Senator Ridgeway and the Missouri AFT President.
When I talked to the AFT president on Wednesday, the conversation ended up being far more interesting than I thought it would be. He had actually just gotten back from the statehouse in Washington where he was lending his support to the protesters there. What he had to say about public sector unions was very interesting. I still need some more voices for the story, but I think it's coming along rather well so far. I hope to finish it this upcoming week. Later that day I ended up spending about three and a half hours in the Senate. I did a story on SB188 getting first round approval. It was difficult understanding all the language the senators used when debating the bill. But, Phill told me to not get lost in all the details. It was great advice and really helped for the remainder of my time in the Senate. He also told me that a lot of times, when there aren't a lot of people in the Senate, or when there's not a lot going on in the Senate, it often means that there's more going on outside. We walked around outside talking about how to go about the story and what to pay attention to. We also talked to Senator Kevin Engler who gave us some useful information and told us what he thought about the bill. I didn't end up leaving the Capitol until 9:40, but it was a very rewarding day nonetheless. I'm just hoping next Wednesday doesn't play out the same way since it is my birthday!
Monday I learned to figure out how newsworthy something is before dedicating a lot of time to the topic for research. I had two stories that day that I did a lot of research for that ended up falling through. It turns out there is no story behind my original enterprise story on the story behind the heritage marriage/birth certificates. The Department of Health and Senior Services want the certificates, not a person. Then I was assigned to go to a House Rules Committee where a vote would be taken on some pretty controversial bills. I spent a lot of time researching the various bills in question. I'm happy i know more about these issues now, but no story came out of the committee. It was very short, the members hardly spoke and everything went as was expected. Even though I didn't end up using any of my audio from the people I interviewed for these stories, I was really happy I got to meet them. They were all very helpful and friendly. At the end of the day, I chose a new enterprise story topic - noodling.
I am really excited about my new enterprise story and have been spending a lot of my free time learning more about it. I've set up interviews with two MU professors who are very knowledgeable on the subject. One is publishing a book on noodling and the other has conducted a great deal of research on the topic and helped make a documentary for ESPN. They've both been incredibly helpful and have put me in touch with two of the mot well-known noodlers in Missouri. I'm also looking forward to working with Christi as she does the print version of this story.
On Thursday, I went to the House Judiciary Committee hearing at noon where I covered what was said and done over a bill that would abolish the Sentencing Advisory Commission. The hearing overall was very interesting and people had a lot to say about bill 257. I got audio from both sides of the issue and interviewed some of the witnesses and Missouri Supreme Court Justice Michael Wolff. Everyone was very helpful in explaining anything I was unsure on. Doing the story on this hearing was not easy though. I had a hard time deciphering what the news was, but in the end I pinpointed it with some help from Phill. I also struggled with condensing so much information into a forth second story. There was so much I could have said but just didn't have the time to! In the end, I think I did a pretty good job.
On Monday, I wasn’t assigned to cover any story in particular. So instead, I chose an enterprise story idea from the list Sherman gave me. I researched the heritage marriage and birth certificates and wrote down all the information about them I could find. I also researched the people I need to talk to. I have pages of notes on the certificates and the people involved with it. However, it was pretty difficult to find other info on this topic other than on Missouri government websites. I also couldn't find any other states who have issued something similar. I was unable to get into contact with the sponsor of the bill behind the certificates, but I will try again next week if I have time to work on my enterprise story. Working on the enterprise story was interesting, but I'll admit I prefer being assigned to more timely stories. I think the idea of the enterprise story will grow on me, though.
I didn’t come in on Wednesday because there was an evening midterm exam scheduled for my econ class. I will make up anything I missed next week, but Sherman says it should not be a problem. In the meantime I've tried doing some more research on my enterprise story.
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