Posted 05/04/2012: This week I made the biggest mistake (so far) of my reporting career.
It would basically be like going up to a member of British Parliament and asking to interview him about the Intolerable Acts.
Yeah, I messed up pretty bad.
I don't want to go into detail about it in the public sphere, but embarrassingly enough, I went up to a bill sponsor to interview him about a story I was working on, and ended up using a pejorative term to identify the exact bill I wanted to talk about.
Needless to say, he wasn't happy, and I didn't get the interview. And didn't dare ask again.
Did I deserve it? Definitely. And I think it's a great example of how important it is to use objective, neutral terms when interviewing people and when reporting. Without that kind of objectivity, stories and interviews can be ruined. Luckily I was able to get another interview with a co-sponsor (during which I was much more careful) and finished the story.
Neutral identification of an issue will ensure everyone feels more comfortable talking about a subject, and will help ensure objectivity when interviewing.
It was a difficult process because first, the testimony was very broad. It ranged from people talking about their experiences working under an alleged neo-Nazi, to someone who had been accused of misconduct himself. So narrowing the focus of my story was a bit of a challenge.
It was also tough because some of the people I talked with couldn't give much detail in their answers. They were employees of the state so they couldn't comment in too much detail. For that reason, I think it's tough to do a good job of reporting sometimes. It's tough getting the full story.
However, I think it turned out pretty well when it was all said and done.
Friday the 13th is sometimes considered "unlucky" due to its superstitious connotations. I don't usually subscribe to those kinds of ideas, but I actually agree with them this time.
This week I finished quite a bit at the statehouse. I finally completed my feature story and also helped with some research for other stories. It was a huge relief to get that done.
Now, after all that's done, comes the weekend. This doesn't have to do with state politics. This has to do with me running out of luck starting Friday the 13th of April.
Unlike news stories, I don't really have that much support for this story, but we'll see.
And hopefully it'll come back before too long.
It's crunch time. Back from spring break, and now it's dawned on me that the semester really is coming to a close in the next month. I can't say I'm ready for it, but I can say I've learned tremendous amounts from what I've been doing.
Through my work here at the Capitol, for example, I've learned to be strong. It's not easy working in a fast-paced newsroom. But it's definitely gotten easier for me as the months have flown by. I know it'll help me in the future as well.
I've also learned to multitask. Some may argue it's impossible to truly "multitask," only switch very quickly between multiple tasks, but whatever it is, I've got it figured out. Being at the Capitol for eight hours twice a week is difficult work on top of being a full-time college student, and at times I've really wanted to give up. But instead, I just worked harder at it. And I'd like to think I've become more efficient, too.
In a way, I've really just been getting ready for the rest of my life. It will always involve too much to do and not enough time to get it all done, so it's probably something worth getting used to. I don't believe it will always be this difficult or demanding, but if it is, I guess I'm up for it now. I will always compare my life to this moment in time when it's seemed the most difficult.
By the end of my semester here, I think things will be even easier for me. It's nice especially because I have people looking out for me there, too. Even still, I've found myself needing to ask them fewer questions as time goes on. What once intimidated me (and still does!) is now much more manageable and even an enjoyable way to spend my time during the week.
Even though I end up leaving later than most people at the Capitol, long after the hallway lights have been dimmed and the lobbyists go home, it's valuable experience that I don't think I'd be able to get anywhere else. Truly, I'm learning some great things here.
It's nice because I don't have to use a bulky Marantz recorder, but simply carry my phone and cord with me to do my interviews and reporting. And the quality is good, too. I tested it in hearings and during interviews, and it worked out really well. I think reporting will eventually end up moving more toward mobile and portable, actually. It seems like that's a trend that will continue to develop especially during this decade, and I'm excited to see it.
I decided this would be a good thing to do, especially because the number of recorders we have at the office is limited. That way, the equipment will be free for other reporters. Eventually, I could see all reporters gathering audio with their phones and these kinds of adapters, but we're not quite there yet.
He wanted to know more, so I looked into it more. As it turns out, during a similar case in Canada involving a 15-year-old boy committing murder, his use of Prozac was deemed an acceptable argument in court. I gathered that along with other documented cases and information about the drug and its effects on adolescents, and finally Phill started coming around to my idea. He had me go talk with a legislator who said I was probably on to something.
Unfortunately, the day after I started looking into this, I learned that the Prozac argument was used during Bustamante's hearing the very same day that I was looking into it at the statehouse. So, was it new by the time I got back to MDN? No. Was it a good learning experience investigating the case? Yes. I definitely think I gained valuable reporting experience this week, and I look forward to another full week of reporting.
Is it a pain driving to Jefferson City twice every week? Yes. Is it frustrating getting only three hours' worth of credit for fourteen hours of work each week? Yes. But it's definitely worth it and I think the experience is going to really help me in the long run.
I talked with people over the past week who seemed really apprehensive about covering anything going on at the Capitol. They were further in school than me, too, and it surprised me a bit. The great thing is, I'm going to be very comfortable covering things at the statehouse before too long because I'll have so much experience, so in that regard I think this program is really valuable.
Even in the past few weeks, I've gained good experience covering politics. Just learning where the hearing rooms are, how to listen for important information during House or Senate meetings, and how to pull legislators off the floor for a quick interview are all helpful things that I've learned so far.
I'm looking forward to a great semester of reporting for MDN. I think I'm going to get along really well with the people who work here, have a great time, and vastly improve my writing in the process.
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