Category Archives: Washington DC

Club Travels to Nation’s Capital

By Vicky Sama

NPR visitLuke Ramseth, Susan Aksu, Kaci Poor, Joshua Aden, Natalia Estrada, Melissa Coleman, Bryn Robertson and Brandon Widder toured the National Public Radio headquarters in Washington.

Eight journalism students visited Washington, D.C. Nov. 3-7 for a political journalism conference and tour of the nation’s capital. The students met with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and sat in on his Situation Room program while news broke of sexual harassment allegations against presidential candidate Herman Cain. The students toured the newsroom of National Public Radio, visited the Newseum– a museum dedicated to the history of journalism, and visited monuments, the Capitol, White House and National Museum of American History. They attended conference panels about covering politics and learned tips from professional journalists on the campaign trail. The Humboldt State University journalism students attending the conference were Luke Ramseth, Kaci Poor, Susan Aksu, Brandon Widder, Joshua Aden, Natalia Estrada, Bryn Robertson and Melissa Coleman.


HSU J-Club takes on D.C.

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.

CNN visitNatalia 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,, 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!

Politics 24/7

By Luke Ramseth

Before the J-Club took off for Washington D.C. our professor Marcy Burstiner gave us some food for thought. She told us if we seriously want to work and live in D.C, we better be willing to live politics, all day every day.

At the time, I thought that pretty self-evident. Of course it’s all about politics. But after spending five days there for the Institute on Political Journalism conference, I know what she means.

As we landed, the Herman Cain scandal was breaking. Everybody was talking about it. It became the focus of much of the conference, as well as our tour of CNN.

If there’s one overarching theme I learned over the weekend, it’s know and embrace politics. Know who’s leading the Republican presidential race in the polls. Get fired up about John Boehner’s latest spending cuts plan. Fire off facts about the Keystone XL pipeline. Compare and contrast the Occupy and Tea Party movements.

Here’s a few other tidbits I picked up, at the conference and while touring D.C.:

-Learn to love social media, especially Twitter. Multiple speakers at the conference talked about Twitter’s usefulness as a personalized news aggregator, a place to find story ideas, promote your own stories and work, and make connections.

-Work on writing well. Everyone we talked to said writing was by far the most important skill they used in their news or media jobs, whether broadcast, radio or print. They said many other skills can be taught on-the-fly, but not good writing.

-“Stack your blog roll,” use Google Reader, and generally consume the news and information. Many presenters talked about the importance of this, to know what their colleagues are doing and provide context for future stories.

-There’s no recipe for success, at least not in political journalism. Lymari Morales from had a master’s in public policy from Harvard before she got her job. Others had advanced J-school degrees from Columbia and Northwestern. One of the top political reporters at CNN we talked to had become a lawyer, only to transition into journalism. Jared Keller, social media manager and an editor at The Atlantic, got his job shortly after completing his undergrad degree. Others, like Kenneth Vogel of Politico (who I found to be one of the most inspiring) had worked his way up in the newspaper industry all over the country before moving to D.C. Vogel said just writing a really solid political blog could land someone a job (and had, at Politico).

-Internships are available for college students, even at the big news outlets. Check out opportunities at CNN, NPR, Washington Post, The Atlantic, The Atlantic Wire, National Journal Hotline and

Our Nation’s Capital

By Brandon Widder

From the moment we arrived in the city, it was clear that Washington D.C. is not Arcata. The bustling city boasts the most suit-wearing batch of people I have ever witnessed — probably because much of the U.S. Capital is employed by the government — and the sheer number people and sights to see are potentially endless. While we did get a chance to attend the Institute of Political Journalism conference and take a whirlwind tour of the city, the city certainly warrants another visit down the line.

On our first day in D.C., a few of us visited the a couple of Smithsonian museums and the Library of Congress. Later that day, we toured CNN courtesy of Professor Vicky Sama’s friend and colleague. We met Wolf Blitzer, host of the Situation Room, and talked with several other reporters and journalists about various tips, stories and the general nature of the evolving industry. The face-paced, competitive nature of the CNN was almost too much to take when compared to that of our small media industry on the North Coast, but it was great to see how a 24-hour news network in full swing.

“Thanks for bringing Humboldt State into the Situation Room.” –  Wolf Blitzer

Friday and Saturday, the two days of our conference, included presentations by Lymari Morales (managing news editor of, members of the National Journal Hotline, Jared Keller (associate editor at the Atlantic magazine), Karen Travers (Washington-based correspondent for ABC NewsOnes) and Kenneth P. Vogel of Politico among others. I found many of the speakers techniques and tips for covering politics to echo much of what we have learned in the journalism program at HSU. For instance, I think many of us knew everything Morales of said because of Professor Mark Larson’s Empirical Research class. Needless to say, air high-fives were abundant. Overall, I left with a more developed sense of how to cover local and regional politics, how to utilize social media in the newsroom, and a plethora of small tips and tricks of the trade.

Before the conference, we toured the nearby NPR studios. It was also very interesting, but much different than CNN. We watched some broadcast recordings, took a look at some other their equipment and talked with several employees. Not as busy as CNN, not as fancy and much more monotone. Oh NPR.

On Saturday, we also took a tour of the Newseum — a new museum solely dedicated took the history and development of the journalism industry. It was basically a walking tour of Professor Marcy Burstiners’ History of Mass Communication class. It was a great museum with exhibits on 9/11 coverage, the evolution of broadcast journalism, newspapers from around the world and many other topics.

We spent Sunday touring the National Mall and taking in the sights. The weather was absolutely gorgeous — autumn was in the air and in the trees — and the monuments were a sight to behold. We also spent time at covering a protest outside the White House and throughout the streets of Washington D.C. (the 12,000 environmentalists didn’t seem too happy about the Keystone XL pipeline).

Washington D.C. gave us a chance to talk and network with both inspiring and aspiring journalists from across the nation and, at least for me, left me with a greater appreciation of the role of the press and a more optimistic outlet for the direction the industry is currently heading.

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A City of Beautiful Proportions

By Kevin Bunch, Club President

It was a brisk fall evening in Washington D.C. when our plane landed at Reagan National Airport.


Much like America’s government, the leaves were changing with the November air. The sight of our nation’s capital city during this historic time was almost too much for my small town Idaho eyes. Beyond the spectacular foliage, the weather was a pleasant escape from the Humboldt fog and rain. As the clouds parted, the sun pierced through the sky illuminating the National Mall.

Our reason for going to D.C. was to attend a political journalism conference and advance our knowledge in the fields of journalism that we wish to pursue after college. What I found was a deep respect for a city that has been given a bad rap for its crime and violence.

Washington D.C. is a district rather than a state, but as cities go it is the sixth most dangerous in America, according to rankings by Population Group. The city that we saw, however, is one of the friendliest and most beautiful cities I have ever visited.

Whether you’re getting on or off the Metro, people are willing to help. Sometimes we would get off the subway and somebody on the street would see our confused looks and ask if we needed help. We even found ourselves scrounging for money for a Metro pass at one point, and a complete stranger offered to pay the difference. There always seemed to be somebody looking out for anyone in need.  This kind of hospitality met us everywhere we went in the city.

Maybe it was the electrifying excitement left over from the November 4 election. The great attitude among the D.C. natives made the week exceptional. Whatever the reason, I have come away with an outstanding view of Washington D.C., and I encourage everybody to forget the East Coast stereotypes and misleading statistics of crime and violence. Visit D.C., if not for the beauty that is taking place in the White House, then for the beauty that takes place in the city every day.

Pop that Corke!

By Luke Ramseth

My tour of NBC Washington (AKA the political news hub of the United States), was no ordinary tour. Maybe this is because NBC White House Correspondent Kevin Corke is no ordinary guide.

nbc-visitCorke takes off where many of the great political anchors of our time left off. His is a big-time job at a news outlet that boasts political shows such as “Meet the Press” and “Hardball.” Corke is the composed weekend anchor we watched report the latest election news from the news studios on Nebraska Avenue.

First stop on our tour: NBC’s humble yet multi-taskable newsroom. There were the customary cubicles, cameras and small TV sets so breaking news could be aired at a moment’s notice. Corke kept us involved like a viewer watching on TV. He wasn’t annoyed by our group’s inexperience and persistent questions. Instead, he kept us involved by firing a few questions back.

We watched NBC engineers create one of those classy interview sets that’s supposed to look like someone’s living room. The engineers are the guys that make the on-air personalities look good, by using soft lighting and organizing tiny details like moving a lamp a hair to the left to make the shot balanced.

Between stops in the NBC hallways, Corke kept us from distractions by walking backwards quickly and constantly repeating, “we’re walking, we’re walking, we’re walking.”

meet-the-pressA stop at an average-looking office brought confused looks from our group until Corke described it as the most influential office in political journalism: the office of recently-deceased Tim Russet. “Meet the Press” was mounted on the wall among the pictures of Russert with various heads of state.

After two hours, Corke cornered us into the NBC conference room. He has said about an hour into the tour that he had to go to the White House, yet he took the time to talk to us some more– demanding that each of us ask him a question before he left. This is when I realized that Corke wanted to go beyond just the obligatory tour of NBC for some aspiring journalism students. He seemed to care about our futures. Only after he had answered every one of our questions, most with some personal experience or advice, did he tell us, “I gotta run.”

Checking out a major news outlet was only part of it. Getting personal advice from an influential member of the media world made our NBC tour something unique.

The Flickering Candle

By Mary Pero

Overwhelming change can be seen everywhere in Washington DC– on buttons, shirts and signs with the words, “Yes, we can.”

Street vendors sell magnets, postcards and bobbleheads, all with the face of Barack Obama.

At its front door, the Newseum displays newspapers from different countries celebrating the new president.

Ben’s Chili Bowl– a famous restaurant– placed a new sign behind the cash register: “People who eat FREE: Bill Cosby and the Obama Family.”

A man outside of Bank of America shouts, “Hey, you can’t rob me. Obama is president!”

obama-wall1The city is rustling with the spirit of change. At the Lincoln Memorial, a large wooden sign illuminates in the night. The words at the top read, “Congratulations President Obama. Change Won’t be Easy, but… Together as One World, Yes We Can.” Sharpie markers, pens and pencils are scattered at the base of the sign so that well-wishers can write their name on it. People write in different languages, up and down, sideways and in giant swirls– everywhere there is a message of inspiration. I see a speck of white space at the top of the canvas and climb a ladder to add my name.

Here, I feel the spirit of Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. and George Washington, and the future flickers like a candle as the first Black American President Barack Obama awaits Inauguration Day.

Washington Monument: A view from everywhere

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Reflections on change

By Sarah Hardy


global wall

Change is in the air in Washington D.C. Social change, physical change, and most notably, the so-called “regime change” that will take place on President-Elect Barack Obama’s inauguration day.

The atmosphere of change surrounded me everywhere I went; street vendors hawked Obama memorabilia under falling leaves as passersby stepped on discarded McCain-Palin stickers stuck to the sidewalk. It was a powerful metaphor to say the least.

Even with the coming of the Obama Administration and the transition from fall to winter, change is nothing new in this city. The District is a place where change is literally in its roots. As Obama said in his Democratic National Convention speech, “Change doesn’t come from Washington. Change comes to Washington.”

The city itself is an homage to change. A creation of a democracy that was literally revolutionary in its time, memorials that honor men and women and wars that changed the world and the course of human history. All can be found in its history.

The connection between changes old and new didn’t really hit me until I visited the Newseum, an entire museum dedicated to the history of news in every form. Among the displays of events that symbolically represented change, the most striking was simply the word “change” graffitied on a section of the Berlin Wall.

The connection between that simple message written almost 20 years ago and the words written now on the global message wall to Obama in front of the Lincoln Memorial, was powerful to say the least.

It reminded me that “change” isn’t just this election’s winning campaign slogan. It’s not something we sometimes mindlessly chant, without knowing what exactly we’re striving for. Change is something that we’ve been working towards–-and sometimes against-–throughout the course of human history. At its very core, change, no matter what its purpose, is timeless.

Washington DC trip photo links

Liason Capital HotelStephanie Haller, Ryan Mollenhauer, Rory Smith, Deunn Willis, Lauren Perez, Emily Creaven, Angela Emmons, Prof. Vicky Sama, Tristan Pulido and Milo Anderson in front of the Liason Capitol Hotel conference location. Photo by Vicky Sama.

See more photos from the trip on Flickr! and other photos too!