Posted 05/10/2012: In Journalism, news lies within news. One story can trigger another and sometimes story ideas stem from conversations with sources and interviews. I have thoroughly enjoyed working at Missouri Digital News this semester and know that my news writing skills, reporting skills, and interview skills have all improved greatly. This experience has made me not only more knowledgeable on politics and how the legislative session works, but I have become a much better journalist. I really got a lot out of it and learned how to work with all types of people at different experience levels.
Today, I finished my feature story on lead poisoning in children and it's prevalence all around Missouri. Everyone was in a good mood today so we all left on a good note! I am ready for a much needed summer.
Phill has been great to work with and is one of the most intelligent person I know. Not only are his journalistic writing skills admirable, but his historical and political explanations are impressive. Overall, his sense of humor is enjoyable and I have liked working with him. Thank you Phill for everything you've taught me and for this fabulous experience!
and for one last time...reporting from the state Capitol, I'm Ashley Hartman.
(unless of course I come back for KOMU)
During the press conference on Thursday afternoon, a few Representatives said that they will publicly announce and discuss the terms of their new proposed budget. They will also discuss a number of bills and other important matters next week.
The Senate conducted a seemingly routine filibuster again Thursday. It's comical that Senators would talk about nothing for hours just to extend the debate. The Missouri Senate values the free flow of discussion and debate. It's interesting because if they are in favor of this process, wouldn't they want to continually discuss the matters at hand rather than avoiding the issue and rambling about nonsense? Honestly, it's quite entertaining although unproductive.
Much that goes on at the Capitol is strictly political in regards to changing policies, amendments to bills, or introduction of new legislation. However, it is equally newsworthy and crucial to support other causes and remind Missouri's community of disasters and reconstruction around them.
This week I did a story on a bill's resolution Tuesday and I continue to witness the slow process of passing legislation. In the public hearing, they did not vote on the resolution, but simply heard several testimonies on the changed language in the measure. There are so many steps in order to get something passed. Working here has made me realize why things in the federal government almost never get done or take years to become law. Bills that are passed within six months of their first reading really impress me.
I have been working on several packages and my feature this week as well. What I have continued to learn is that persistence pays off. I must've called dozens of contacts and several places at lease five times. Just when all was looking bleak, sources started to call me back all at once yesterday. I was able to set up some interviews and gain several more source ideas. Another thing I learned this week is to be more flexible. I was working on a package related to my feature, yet the time constraint didn't allow for certain sources. I ended up with a whole different story idea and actually when I went to shoot video and do a video interview, my story changed quite a bit.
Originally I was working on a story for my B1 class related to the "safe-sale" tracking laws that require a pharmacist to scan one's license when purchasing any over-the-counter drugs with psuedoephedrine. That active ingredient is what can be made into meth. Missouri has been the nation's leading state with exposed meth labs for a few years and this over purchasing of Sudafed and other over-the-counter drugs have aided in increasing meth production. Anyway, once I started interviewing one of the pharmacists our conversation took a different turn. About half way through and he said deaths from overdosing on prescription drugs now exceeds the number of deaths in automobile accidents in the United States. Now that's more of a story!
Now I feel like I should get more sources and produce a radio story on that here in the Capitol!
I have not fallen down or up any stairs yet and luckily, I will not have to move much while in here. I covered the House session this morning and they didn't do anything newsworthy.
Although, one this I will say is that was probably one of the quickest House sessions I've attended in the last few months. They did a third reading and passed multiple bills with only 1-2 representatives' inquiries and comments per discussion.
Next, they moved to House Resolutions and some more special guest introductions. Lastly, they did some quick announcements and finito! Done around 11:15a.m.
I have been typing up my notes on a Word doc. lately for House and Senate sessions. As far as keeping track of what people said and the times they said them, it's much faster for me to type them out. I also tend to go back and add things in between or mark where a good sound bite would be. It's also easier to keep track of which bills are on which tracks.
Time to do some more work on my feature back in the newsroom.
Thursday, I did a story on a perfected bill that increases the amount of years teachers need to work in order to get tenure. This bill makes getting quality teachers in schools a major priority, which I thought was really important. This was a Senate bill and their session went until about 2p.m. It was cool to cover a House and a Senate session this week to get some variety.
I'm definitely learning everyone's names now and starting to know who speaks without having to look them up because I've either interviewed them at one point or I've looked them up enough times to start memorizing their face. Overall I do feel it was a more productive week.
I liked the story about the need to increase security within the Capitol. This is an issue that I have thought about since day one. Whenever anyone walks into the Capitol, they can do just that: walk in no problem.
I really do think that with all of the shootings that have occurred recently in mid Missouri, the state Capitol should definitely implement security cameras all throughout the inside of the building at the very least.
I'm also glad someone finally did a story about these concerns. It definitely needed to be brought up and I hope changes will be made.
Looking forward to having a week off for Spring Break, but I'm looking forward to reporting once again once school reconvenes.
On Tuesday, I did an enterprise story on rising highway fatalities around Missouri and what is being done to correct this problem. It was definitely the fastest I'd ever finished a story. If I had more time for this particular enterprise story, I would have taken a much different angle. My story would have been much more powerful and relevant to Missourians if I would've talked to people who have lost family members and friends due to highway crashes.
We all went out to lunch at Arris' Pizza in downtown Jefferson City and it was a really relaxing day, but productive day. After lunch break, it was back to the newsroom to crank out some wraps. We all finished at about 2:30p.m. and went out for ice cream at General Dairy.
Today, being Thursday, I am working on another enterprise story about the Missouri caucus that will be held this Saturday. Although a shorter radio story, but it is important for Missourians to be knowledgeable about this event.
In between waiting for interviews and researching, I am also working on my feature about lead poisoning in children within metropolitan areas around mid Missouri. It's been difficult getting in touch with people because they keep referring me to other people. I continue to be proactive in contacting sources and am trying to set up phone interviews for either today or early next week.
I am currently working on a feature story regarding the lack of implementation of a House bill that requires all welfare recipients to take a drug test. I've got one sound bite so far and I'm working on getting at least one more by the end of the day. It is frustrating waiting for sources to call back for a phone interview. I feel like I've researched my topic pretty thoroughly and would like to start talking to some more people about it.
On a better note, I probably had my best interview experience at the Capitol thus far this with Representative Ellen Brandom this morning. Everything about it went smoothly. I was able to pull her from the House floor once the session went into recess. As she walked toward me, I introduced myself as Ashley Hartman with Missouri Digital News and informed her of the subject matter we'd be discussing. She began answering and I kindly asked her if I could record her responses and she agreed.
On the way to her office, we made small talk and she was interested in where I was from, where I went to school, and how I started working for Missouri Digital News. It was a nice way to ease into the interview and get comfortably acquainted. The interview was short and sweet, but I got the information I needed from her and overall I think I made a good impression with her. She was curious about where this radio story would air or how she would be able to read it later on. It is nice to know that she's interested in what we are doing.
Having finished my sixth week of working at the Capitol, I am much more confident in my interviewing skills and ability to quickly think up questions during meetings. With every shift that I complete, I get a little bit closer to becoming a more advanced reporter.
It's 6:21p.m. and it hasn't been much of a Fat Tuesday so far since I've only eaten one thing today so far. It's been a long, busy day at the Capitol today and I think a buffet style dinner at Teppanyaki is well deserved. So that is exactly where Crystall and I will be going to eat once we close up the newsroom.
I still do not know what I am going to give up for lent tomorrow for the next monthish. Maybe... Chips Ahoy Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies? or... Sushi? or... I don't know. That is something I will have to decide tonight. It is also my Dad's birthday today and he loves food so I'm sure he is very happy that this holiday falls on his birthday.
Back to the Capitol... I covered the House session this morning, which was roughly two and a half hours. Directly after that, I went down to the House Hearing room with Jordan to cover a state budget presentation. I was told to delete all of my audio from the House session to make room for the hearing's audio. It was a bit dull at first, but then once Representative Silvey began to question how they managed the general revenue funds, things got a bit more heated. The governor's budget director was heavily criticized and she didn't answers for all of their questions which didn't help her case.
Overall, I feel like I'm writing wraps faster and am becoming more accustomed to producing radio stories. Hopefully the less help I need and questions I ask, the less I'll annoy the T.A.'s. I was getting a bit restless today after a while and I think everyone was ready to go.
I'm excited to enjoy a work-free lunch this Sunday at Phill's!
Reporting from the state Capitol, I'm Ashley Hartman.
First thing that failed me today was my pen. It was run completely dry so I began to take notes on my iPhone's memo pads to keep track of what time people said stuff and who said what. Then about forty minutes into the Senate session, my marantz died... and it was during the bill I was doing my story on. I had to get up and leave in the middle of the session and run to the Griffin Communication Center to grab another marantz so that I could have enough battery for interviews after the meeting.
Just my luck, the second marantz was already dying after only 10-15 minutes of use. There weren't any more marantz's left in the newsroom so I knew I had to interview fast! I quickly located the Senators I needed to speak with and had the doormen pull them off of the Senate floor. During my second interview, the marantz literally died a few seconds after my last question. Thank God!
Despite the technological setbacks, I was able to get my story and audio quotes. The marantz thing unfortunately couldn't have been avoided today, but I will know to bring two pens next time!
Also, it was Phill's birthday today and while the girls & I were out to lunch, we went to Cork, a local bakery, and all got cupcakes even one for Phill. I assure you that it was only with good intentions in mind and not to try and bribe him for a good evaluation that week. Needless to say, some of the cupcake frosting ended up on Sherman's nose. It was entertaining and I hope Phill got to at least try it because the cupcake I ate earlier was delicious.
I'm excited for next week and maybe I'll get to do a live Skype shot with KOMU or something!
Missouri Digital News is produced by Missouri Digital News, Inc. -- a non profit organization of current and former journalists.