Knowing that I’m usually in the newsroom early, a classmate texted me at about 8:15 Friday morning to ask me to cover the GA desk for her because she thought she may be late. She did not know that at 8:15 I was tying my tie as I prepared to leave for Jefferson City.
I parked my car about 9:30 and walked two blocks to the capitol building. During the walk I tweeted a picture of the capitol building and checked in on our class GroupMe.
Walking into the capitol building was surprisingly challenging as the grounds were littered with construction fences. Eventually I found a path that wasn’t blocked and walked through a set of doors. I took a few steps into the building, looking around as my eyes adjusted to the darkness after coming in from a sunny summer day.
The first thing I noticed was actually the absence of something: security. There were no metal detectors, no security guards and not even a desk with an attendant. I had worried the security wouldn’t let me bring in my backpack or computer, but I never even encountered a security officer.
My next task was to locate the room the meeting would be in. I told myself I could find it without asking for instructions, so I took a walk through the winding hallways of the massive building. It was fun to take in my surroundings, but I quickly realized I wouldn’t be locating the room by myself.
Luckily my self-guided tour had led me to an information desk. The nice, older gentlemen were able to point me to my destination, and a few minutes later I was in the House committee room.
This is when the fun began.
As I set myself up for what was scheduled to be a four hour meeting, I began listening in to hear what the congregating suits were talking about. I was expecting to hear some legal jargon that I couldn’t understand, but really they were just talking about St. Louis Blues hockey. A self-proclaimed hockey expert myself, I had to stop myself from jumping into the conversation.
When the commission members began to filter in, I noted what they were wearing and created a cheat sheet so that I could note who said what during the meeting.
I started the audio recording application on my phone when the meeting finally began. As the meeting moved forward I took notes, and marked the time stamp on my recorder when anything especially interesting was said. I also highlighted my notes at these special spots.
Lunchtime came and the media crowd in the room swarmed Jeanne Sinquefield. The questions started out pretty basic, but then the Tribune reporter asked about her and her husband’s political donations and if they will be influencing her actions in the commission. After about 10 minutes I felt like I had enough information from Sinquefield, so I broke away from the pack to speak to a different commission member.
While doing this, I couldn’t help but think about John’s discussion of gravedigger journalism. For those who don’t know, this phrase comes from the journalist who chose to not cover JFK’s funeral in November of 1963, but rather find a different story about the tragedy that the other media members wouldn’t have. He wrote this beautiful piece about the man who dug JFK’s grave.
Leaving the pack gave me an opportunity to speak to Dr. Pamela Washington. She will be working with Renee Hulshof to examine the system’s handling of diversity initiatives and Title IX. Not only did I receive an exclusive interview with her, but I was also able to control the interview how I chose, not how the other journalists in the swarm wanted.
I spent the rest of the lunch break adding information and quotes to the story I had prewritten. I also had an opportunity to introduce myself to two more of the commission members.
The rest of the meeting didn’t take too long. I was back in Columbia by 2:15 and the story was published by 6 p.m.
It was a long day, but I’m happy with the results.
I’m especially happy with how I reported on the story. To be completely honest I think I could have written the story better than I did. It doesn’t have the flow that I usually work for. Reading the Tribune’s story about the meeting also showed me how I could have done it differently. (Note: I originally questioned Liz when she wanted to put Jeanne Sinquefield’s name in a prominent place in an attempt to attract readers to the story. The Tribune put her name in the headline. Once again, Liz was correct.)
Hey, at least I spelled each of the commission members’ names correctly. MissouriNet misspelled Gary Forsee’s name in their headline, article, photo caption and tweet.
All in all, I’m proud of what I achieved after my day at the capitol. You can read my story here.