By Kaci Poor
Buildings loomed overhead as we stepped out of the metro station in Chinatown on our first night in Washington D.C. Although it was late — and a weeknight! — cars zipped by and the city buzzed with the faint crackle of electricity lighting up billboards and restaurant signs. Goodbye Arcata — our D.C. experience had begun.
Over the next five days we toured CNN and NPR, explored national monuments and attended a two-day political journalism conference hosted by the Fund for American Studies.
Natalia Estrada, Bryn Robertson, Kaci Poor, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Susan Aksu, Joshua Aden, Luke Ramseth, Brandon Widder and Melissa Coleman on the set of The Situation Room during a short commercial break.
Here are a few of my reactions from our whirlwind trip:
We lucked out on our CNN tour guide, Jay McMichael. A big thanks to our professor Vicky Sama for setting up a visit with her former colleagues at CNN. McMichael is a senior photojournalist who has been working on Capitol Hill for over 20 years. Needless to say, he knows CNN like the back of his hand. The fast-paced tour he took us on snaked through network’s various departments — one minute we were sitting around a conference table for a Q&A with State of the Union’s Candy Crowley and the next we were shaking hands with Wolf Blitzer in a commercial break during a live taping of the Situation Room. So cool!
Thanks to Josh Aden, an International Studies major and past Lumberjack news editor who joined us on the trip, we were able to set-up a quick NPR tour before our conference. So, you know that warm, cozy feeling you get when you listen to NPR? That’s exactly how the Washington D.C. bureau feels. Seriously, you want to work in a place where the cozy sweater is standard workplace attire and the smell of toast and coffee perpetually waft through the air? NPR is the place for you. A highlight of the tour — led by our fantastic tour-guide Alan Stone — was seeing the studios of Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Talk of the Nation where we got to listen in as reporters taped their shows for later in the day.
Institute for Political Journalism Conference
Conferences have always been hard for me to sit through. But I have to give credit to the Fund for American Studies — this conference was both engaging and informative. Not only did we hear from note-worthy journalists and media experts from organizations like The Atlantic Magazine, Gallup.com, ABC News, The Washington Post and Politico, the speakers covered a wide range of topics. Everything from religion in reporting and the utilization of social media to the then-breaking Herman Cain scandal were discussed.
Lessons Learned (Heads up journalism majors, this section is for you!):
- If you want to make it the news industry you have to be well-rounded. That means knowing how to shoot video, tweet a reaction and record a podcast — all while doing the standard pen-and-pad reporting.
- Learn to write well. I think every person we spoke with said this. If you can write well, you will always be able to find a job.
- This isn’t an industry that tolerates laziness, or cutting-corners. In other words, if you don’t go out there and chase the story down, someone else will. Also, maintain integrity in your reporting. A misquote or incorrect fact will haunt you forever.
- Network. You’ll probably end up getting a job because you know someone who knows someone.
- Keep up on social media. If you think you have it mastered, you’re lying to yourself because there is probably some new technology out there that has launched and you don’t even know about it yet. A few of the big sites right now are Facebook (Duh!), Twitter, StumbleUpon and Tumblr.
Before I stop typing, I wanted to make sure to include a big thanks to the Journalism Department and the HSU Clubs Coordinating Council for helping us get to Washington D.C. A big shout out goes to Maclyn ‘Mac’ McClary, emeritus professor of journalism and mass communication, for the generous contribution he made to the Journalism Club for both this year and next. Thanks Mac!