Today marked my last day at Missouri Digital News, and this semester is officially finished. I entered broadcast sequence this semester, and I started to learn how to work as a professional journalist. With the experience at MND, this semester is definitely the most meaningful and important semester so far as my journey studying in USA.
I get very emotional when I am thinking about how much I have learned or accomplished this semester. I was terrible at political science. I got a C on that class, which was the worst grade I had in my college years; I never thought I would reporting in a state Capitol. And just as Phill said, I am coming from a country that is far from democracy. However, after this semester’s reporting, I managed to report committee hearings, House or Senate session, and most political issues.
I still remember how intimidated I was on my first several days. I was confused about many things, scared of making mistakes, and I felt terrible of my works. I massed up the first time when I was in the House; I didn’t understand what was going on with the roll call, the previous questions, or what does third reading or perfection mean. And I didn’t finish the story that day. But now, I can sit in the House and comfortably cover the debate.
It was pain but sweet to work at the Capitol. We had to drive to Jefferson City twice a week under the incredibility raising gas price; sometimes we needed to stay in the House for more than 6 hours a day; we were stacked with a story because we cannot get a sources in person or on the phone. But to look back, everything was worth. I interviewed with university president, state representatives and senators, state governors, and also a U.S. congress.
I used to thought that my international background is my drawback in this field; however, my experience at MDN gave me more confidence, and taught me that my culture and background would actually help me. I couldn’t believe what I have accomplished this semester, and I would definitely applaud for myself.
It is the end of this semester and my work at MDN, but it is also a fresh start for me--with a better me in the field of the professional journalism.
BTW, Next week will be the last week of this years’ session. Although I will not be here but I am excited to find out what the legislatives have accomplished this year.
This week I received an email from KOMU’s email list about being a tougher journalist. It explained what journalists should do when they got rejected from shooting or interviewing at a place.
It is a paragraph from the letter:
“There's also a need to be tougher about where you can shoot when someone doesn't want you there… The bottom line is that you should not be quick to be agreeable with sources trying to restrict you. When they refuse you something, push back hard--but professionally. Let them know we will either not do a story (if they really want you to do one) or that we will name them on air as the people keeping the public from seeing what it should be seeing.”
This definitely is helpful to me. Reporting at the Capitol is easier because most legislators are very open to the public and welling to take in front of media. They want their voices heard, and they want attentions. On the other hand, in the real world, many people don’t want to speech in front of camera.
The last two weeks I was trying very hard to get sources for my B1 package. Many agency and people shut me down on the phone, saying they don’t want to be shot. Even I tried to talk to them again and again, they didn’t feel my sincerity but be annoyed. However, when I got to the agency and talked to them face to face, someone actually agreed to talk to me. I feel it is much easier for people to reject something on the phone. And once I come to them, showing my sincerity face to face, it’s hard for them to say no.
Therefore, journalists should not give up an interview or a source easily, because you have no idea what you would miss. The whole experience and process is more important than the result.
Before I came to America, I took the TOEFL test, Test of English as Foreign Language, once. It had an essay question about “whether the most important quality for a good politician is to make good speeches.”
I didn’t know anything about American politics at that time, and it was hard question. Today, I understand a lot more about American politics, but I feel it is ever harder to argue for that question.
Making good speeches is definitely a very important quality to become a politician. Speeches remain an important tool for communicating policy to the public. They are one of the best tools politicians have to communicate with their own bureaucracies. Floor debates are examples. A good policy or bill definitely will win votes, but a great speech or debate is the key to get more votes. Senators and Representatives use a many psychology technic to win votes, including giving effective examples, making emotional connections, and having aggressive conversations. Politicians also use speeches out of the floor for publicity. This week, several representatives spoke during MU students’ rally at the Capitol; some representatives mentioned their bills and how it may help students out. It’s undeniable that those bills may have significant impact on students, but it is also a way to publicize themselves, especially when the election is approaching.
Speech is a powerful tool. However, is it the most important quality for a good politician? It’s hard to say so. And as a journalist, it is very important to stay neutral and balanced when covering a political issue. Sometime it is easy to be convinced by one side’s ‘speech.’ So got both sides covered is always a good solution.
Without staying at the Capitol this week, I experienced a Reality TV mini-course taught by Jim Berger, the CEO of High Noon Entertainment. It was a great and fun class, and definitely an amazing experience. Berger is a Mizzou Alumni, who also graduated from the journalism school.
Many people enjoy watching Reality TV shows, while some people hate it, especially people work in a news business. Reality TV shows are completely opposite to news. News is accurate, simple, short and newsworthy, while reality shows are dramatic, entertaining, everywhere, and maybe even faked. However, after learning more about reality TV, I personally think there are many connections between news and reality TV shows.
Producing a reality TV is also a way of story telling. It presents a story and also attracts people with elements that people are interested. It requires every skill a journalist has—shooting, editing and story telling. Both news and reality shows want to draw people’s attention. During the economic down turn, both industries will not be affected. Actually, people may consume more entertainment than usually in order to run away from the real world.
Of course news is important and serious, and it need more responsibility. But reality shows are more fun and wild, and can be more creative. I definitely think reality shows provide good career opportunities too.
On the other hand, we can take many elements from reality shows to news. We should always ask these questions:
It is always fun to involve different areas and to explore. And the world will always love people who are capable of everything.
Things got a little bit slow this week after the Easter break on Monday. The Senate and House did not start session until late Tuesday, and there was not much going on. However, the Senate’s budget was a big news. I may not know the whole story about the budget, but I was very disappointed to see that the Senate was trying to cut another 15 off on higher education budget. As a student in MU, I know that our school is going though finical difficulties regarding programs cuts, and tuition increases. Many students are complaining about their current situations.
“Of the 35 public university members of the American Association of Universities, the salary with full professors at the University of Missouri ranks 34th out of 35. With associated professors, Mizzou ranks dead last.”
This is a quote from UM system’s president Timothy Wolfe, when he spoke on UM system's Legislative Day last week. I was very upset about our universities situation regarding both teachers and students. We can’t blame anyone for this situation, but I really hope there will be some good solutions.
This week I worked on my feature, and it is almost done. My story on the transferring credit bill was kind of one-sided because I could find out anyone opposed to it. Then Phill helped me out to find a very important piece of information that it passed unanimous in the Senate, while 3 representatives voted against it with 2 of them were Columbia area representatives. I was excited to know it and I am very curious to find out their reasons for voting against it.
For most students, it is usually very hard to get on track right back on the first week after spring break, and I usually hat this week too. However, this semester I enjoyed my work and my classes, and I accomplished a lot.
This Tuesday I covered the UM system’s legislative day with Missouri's Attorney General and the president of UM System’s speech. After their speech, I actually got a chance to interview the president. Although it was very short and I only asked a few questions, I was thrilled. Because I always want to have a chance to interview the president, face-to-face, and I finally complete my dream thanks to Missouri Digital News. It might sound silly and interview the university might not be a big deal, but it was my first dream since I started pursuing my career in journalism.
Moreover, I conducted an interview with Alan Byrd, the Admission Director and Dean of Enrollment Services at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. I was told that education department especially administration department was not very corporative with journalists, and I may never had any
interview with people in this area. However, I complete one successfully after making tons of phone calls. I was finally paid back.
As the House and Senate getting busier, their sessions become longer and seem to be on forever. House had two sessions this Tuesday, and when I was in the House on Thursday, it did not stop until 1:30 PM. I was starving when I was in the session but I was glad I did not pass out in
the House because of it. I totally understand that journalists used to have very different working schedules and limited time for meals because of the specialty of the work. Therefore, it is very important to keep myself healthy and strong enough, in order to survive in the reality.
By the way, Easter is up coming, and it is the cutest holiday every. I hope everyone will enjoy the Easter Bunny and coloring hard-boiled eggs!
The Toll road controversy issue has been debated for long since MoDOT brought up the proposal by turning I-70 into a toll road. House Transportation committee held a hearing this Tuesday, and discussed a joint resolution that puts some restrictions on toll roads.
The dramatic thing is that I went to the hearing but missed the very first part since the committee hearing started earlier than it arranged. Therefore, I didn’t heard what they discussed about the resolution. I was freaked out because I missed the big news! The only thing I can do after that hearing is to interview the sponsor to know what happened. Three Missouri lobbyists spoke in favor of the bill while MoDOT didn’t even showed up. Then I did an interview with a MoDOT officer and saved the story. This experience definitely told me that missing a meeting does not necessarily means a story is missed. On the other hand, it might be more important to find out what happen beyond the meeting, and do a deeper enterprise story.
My feature is still on going. It takes very long to collect information. I was trying to find some students who transferred from a two year college to a four year higher education would speak in my story, and I could not find any source on the internet, of course. And it is not possible to let the university or college officer to give me their students’ information. However, Sherman’s advice makes me realized that using social network may be one of the best ways to get in touch of people, and get more sources. I posted a status on Facebook, and asked my co-workers to distribute it, and I find several students very soon. And it is great to include their voice in this feature story.
Spring beak is coming next week, and I will not working in the Capitol. Instead, I will travel to New Orleans with my friend, and get a better view of the multi-cultured America. But I beat there will be something interesting going on in the Capitol, and I will be disappointed that I missed it!
Legislators were on spring break this week, and there wasn’t too much going on at the Capitol. It was a great week to take off because of the beautiful weather, and they must have enjoyed it. Magnolia flowers have bloomed all around the Capitol, and with petals fell everywhere under the sunshine, it couldn’t be more beautiful.
A lot of kids were having field trips in the Capitol; everyone was in a great mood. Girls in the Capitol were talking about shorts, skirts, and getting tanned. TAs are not TAs anymore, but also being relax and playful. Everyone here on Tuesday was having ice cream together at the best ice cream shop in Mid Missouri, after we finished the work. That marked the best day every in Jefferson City.
These are the beauties of spring, but the drawback is that it’s easier to be tired and sleepy in this season.
This week is also the Severe Weather Awareness Week, and I produced two enterprise stories related to tornadoes, one was Tuesday’s statewide tornado drill, and the other was a Governor’s disaster declaration request. Public safety might seem not that interesting, but it is related to everyone. As the Communications Director for the Missouri Department of Public Safety, Mike O'Connell, said, awareness is increasing across the state, and Missourians are inquiring more and seem more interested in weather safety.
In additions to these two enterprise stories, my feature story is on going. Although it is difficult to reach people, but one can always get something after trying again and again.
Spring break was over, and the Capitol legislative reporting will back on track and may be busier. Get ready for it!
And yes, I uploaded a picture on my blog successfully!
It was a busy week for legislators. Just like students, the week before spring break is always filled up with exams and projects. Before legislators ahead for their spring break, they pulled out a lot of decisions and also brought up many controversies.
Missouri House passed a bill for the first round, which would create a statewide prescription drug record database. This bill is proposed to let licensed pharmacies track patients’ prescription records in order to reduce drug abuse. The bill has been very controversy because a Senator strongly opposed to this bill and made very clear statement that he will fight against the bill. It will have some good stories on going on the issue after the spring break for sure.
Many representatives and Missourians were pissed off by House Speaker’s decision on induct Rush Limbaugh into the Hall of Famous Missourians. Limbaugh’s outspoken comment calling a law student a "slut" gained national attention. Is it the right time to honor him when a lot of people were protesting at his radio station? It must will be another good follow up story on the decision.
When covering a House or Senate meeting, it is always a lot of things going on, and it is very important to pick the most important news. Which ones are the most important? It should be those would impact the most people and also would bring controversies. Some bills may have been discussed before and had some arguments, and those usually are newsworthy especially when making conflicts.
As a broadcast journalist, it is also very challenging to anchoring a story. It may seem easy but not exactly. The delivery should be conversational but as well as formal and accurate. It needs a lot of practices.
By the way, hope all the legislators enjoy their early spring break.
Being a journalist, sometime it is very difficult to reach people and persuade them to talk. It might be the worst part as being a journalist. Working with legislators are always very easy, because most senators or representatives are very will to talk, and they do need the media to pass along their idea as a part of publicity. However, when we come to deal with those enterprise and feature story, it is very difficult to reach people sometimes.
I start working on my feature story this week, which is about a bill regarding transferring credit between two-year and four-year higher education institutions. It is a topic I am interested in, while it is difficult. Feature story is challenging because it requires more investigation and deeper understandings. Besides the legislators, I was trying to reach the community college side, the university side, and also looking for some students who are affected by the bill.
Again, I made dozens of phone calls Thursday for my feature story, but still I either got to a voice message or some secretaries who refuse to let me talk to the right person. And none of them replied my email either. And I can do nothing but wait and keep calling. It was painful and very depression. But on the other hand, I faced this situation before, when I was doing my first enterprise story. I survived on that one, and that story turned out to be a very good one. Therefore, I believe I can do this one too.
It is already march, the 7th week of the semester almost half way through. I feel thing is getting smoother and I feel more confortable to knock at someone’s door and do an interview. It also took me shorter time to finish a story, and I enjoy working with my classmates and stuffs. Not to mention Phill, our boss who is always passion for his work and the statehouse; this passion is contagious.
By the way, I have a little thought on our Marantz. I think we can label each Marantz with a number in order to identify each of them. Because sometimes we will run in short of them, and keep a record of number will help identify the one if shared. Also, in case someone forgets to charge it, we do not need to give everyone 0 for not charging it, but figure out who was using the certain numbered Marantz.
One of the best things for working at the capitol is you can never get enough with those exciting experience. Although it looks like everything is in routine every day—House and Senate sessions, hearings, and Committee meetings, it also has many interesting things going on, and they will always surprise you.
I went to see the “Jeff City Journal” show in person Thursday morning, and it is one of the best moments for me. I am fascinated by a working studio, and to watch people record and produce a program is always exciting.
But the best thing for watching the show today is to meet the host Missy Shelton. After recognized my as a Chinese, She shared a lot of information about her experience in China, and her friends’ interesting stories. I would always enjoy to hear American’ perceptions on Chinese culture. I love to hear people talk about how they like Chinese food or fancy about Chinese Kong Fu. And that’ one of the reasons brought me here. Under such a globalized environment, I am eager for exploring the western culture, as well as delivering what I learned here to my motherland. It is a great experience for me, and also for my friends back in China.
Ps, I am really looking forward for the lunch at Phill’s home this weekend, and of course, I will bring some delicious homemade Chinese food there. I bet everyone will love it.
Missouri Digital News is produced by Missouri Digital News, Inc. -- a non profit organization of current and former journalists.