Peering into massive semi-truck engines, ducking beneath wheel wells and examining tail lights, students at Boone County Truck Driving School slowly worked through their first pre-trip inspection, huddling together in small groups against the chilly mountain air.
Peering into massive semi-truck engines, ducking beneath wheel wells and examining tail lights, students at Boone County Truck Driving School slowly worked through their first pre-trip inspection, huddling together in small groups against the chilly mountain air.
Ian Heaton was a black belt Tae Kwon Do instructor who played baseball, soccer and lacrosse as a sophomore at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in Bethesda, Md. “I did not appreciate what a great life I was living,” Heaton, now 18, said in March testimony before Congress. “It was over in a split second.”
Fast forward 238 years since the founding of U.S. democracy, and it continues to survive through the efforts of presidents past. But the office has evolved from what George Washington had in mind.
 
 
 

Semester in Washington Intern Blog

Apr 11, 2014

Click on photo to enlarge or download: Saying goodbye to the White House before ending my internship. I will be back! SHFWire by Alejandro AlbaClick on photo to enlarge or download: Saying goodbye to the White House before ending my internship. I will be back! SHFWire by Alejandro AlbaBy Cathryn Walker

Somehow it is the final day of my Scripps Howard Foundation Wire internship and the spring semester has flown by. I imagined it would, but it’s still overwhelming thinking about how I now have to shift my mindset to the next chapter.

During my time in Washington I have had the privilege of reporting on high profile events at some of the most historically significant landmarks in the U.S. Each story I have reported on has left me feeling more enlightened or has altered my perspective.

My first trip to the White House was within my first week of the program and my first story assignment. I remember feeling as though the universe was telling me, “Welcome to Washington, yes, you’re really here.” President Barack Obama announced the creation of Promise Zones in five U.S. cities, one being San Antonio, which is where I attended high school. It was great to hear about changes happening in my city.

On the Hill, I attended several hearings and one that stood out to me covered the effects of solitary confinement. Testifying was Damon Thibodeaux, a man who was placed in solitary confinement 23 hours a day for 15 years for a crime he didn’t commit. He spoke on how dangerous it was that he never received any therapy before or after he was released back into the public. He saw men lose their minds from a lack of mental stimulation.

Another witness who testified was Piper Kerman, the author of Orange is the New Black, which is a book and now Netflix show based on her experience in an all-women’s prison. She gave the women’s perspective of how prison guards abused their power over them. A viewer of the show, hearing her story in-person was very powerful.

Another memorable story was when I covered a snowman competition on a frosty day. I trekked out to Dupont Circle with my camera equipment, layers of clothing, hand warmers and rain gear into the deserted and snowy streets. I expected to see a crowd of children at site but the participants of the contest were all adults. They were outside on their day off decorating snowmen in tutus, bikinis, fedoras, political signs and more.

Even though I was balancing keeping the camera equipment dry and trying to prevent my own body from freezing, the positive energy from the participants helped make a cold situation warmer. Reporting on this story taught me how important it is to smile and be a kid every once in a while and see the silver lining in a cold situation.

These are just a few of the impacting moments I’ve had in Washington. I could write a whole book elaborating on more. Coming to Washington for a semester was one of the best opportunities I have been granted and I am incredibly grateful. I learned more and grew more than I ever imagined.

I'm nervous about leaving because I'm headed into the "unknown," aka, the world of post-grad. But I'm excited because ventured into the unknown 14 weeks ago and it truly paid off.

Apr 11, 2014

Click on photo to enlarge or download: Enjoying the sun near the White House. SHFWire photo by Alejandro AlbaClick on photo to enlarge or download: Enjoying the sun near the White House. SHFWire photo by Alejandro AlbaBy Kritika Gadhvi

Hi! My name is Kritika or "KriKri" as my friends call me (it’s easier to pronounce). I'm from New Delhi, India. About six months ago I got an acceptance letter at 10 pm, telling me that I had been selected for the Scripps Howard Semester in Washington program.

And then it was just a matter of 7,479 miles. This internship has been a great learning experience for me. I got to discover and explore a new country. I had an amazing time covering stories from the White House and the Capitol. And learning about a culture so different than mine was a whole new aspect in itself.

Today is my last day at work and for some reason I am jittery. This roller coaster ride is almost over. A thousand and one questions are running through mind – will I ever come back to this wonderful place? Will I get to see my friends again? I am excited to go back home and see my friends and family again but, at the same time I kind of don’t want to leave.

This internship was everything and more than I could have hoped for. I got a chance to explore and enhance my potential. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

I hope I can use these enhanced skills to make a difference in India.

I made some really great friends. We went around the city together and had an amazing time in D.C. We almost missed spring, though. I will miss them a lot, for sure.

I am going back with a lot more experience than I came here with. I just hope life keeps on surprising me and I keep meeting new and fun people.

As a final goodbye to my friends, this city and this blog – I had a lovely time here and I learned a lot. There is more to this world than what meets the eye. I will continue to pursue what I like because You Only Live Once.

Goodbye! Namaste! Khuda Hafiz! 

Apr 11, 2014

Click on photo to enlarge or download: At Ohio University, we have the same bust of the amazing Mr. Edward Willis Scripps, the founder of the E.W. Scripps Co. It is tradition to rub good old E.W.’s nose for good luck. SHFWire photo by Cathryn WalkerClick on photo to enlarge or download: At Ohio University, we have the same bust of the amazing Mr. Edward Willis Scripps, the founder of the E.W. Scripps Co. It is tradition to rub good old E.W.’s nose for good luck. SHFWire photo by Cathryn WalkerBy Caitlin Turner

A mentor of mine once told me you can’t screw up your life before the age of 35 because everything you do is a lesson. Now that my time with the Scripps Howard Foundation internship  is ending, I find myself agreeing with those words.

When I first applied to work for the foundation, I was pretty sure my chances of coming back to Washington were slim. I have no idea why I felt that way, but I did.

I was accepted to the program during finals week. I was halfway through writing a paper when I got an email saying I was going back to my favorite city a few months after my summer internship for NY1.

I don’t condone what I did next, because I immediately stopped writing and went out to celebrate. Stay in school, kids.

My decision to leave for Washington instead of staying in Athens, Ohio, for my last semester of college was not an easy one. Although I had the support of my family and friends, it was no secret that they wanted me to stick around.

But I knew myself well enough to know that I was in need of a challenge. I’m at a point in my life when it is OK to take chances because when else will I take them?

I couldn’t have made a better decision. I got to march with people protesting abortion, stand 10 feet from President Barack Obama in the White House, see his State of the Union Address and live and work with people I can now call lifelong friends.

I spent most of my time here with Alejandro, Cathryn, Melhor and Kritika. I like to think of the five of us as this tight, sarcastic gang whose members never miss an opportunity to embarrass themselves and don’t care when they do.

From touring the city, to singing Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA” in a karaoke bar, they were my shoulders to lean on and the people who would laugh at my terrible jokes. I am forever grateful that we were all here at the same time.

Fourteen weeks ago, I would have said this program was going to last forever. Now that it is over, I feel like the time flew by.

Looking ahead to the future is terrifying. I feel like I’m in a car headed toward a cliff. This is the first time in a long time that I don’t have definite life plans.

I’ll be graduating from Ohio University in less than a month, and it is surreal. Athens has been my home for four beautiful years. College has been one of the best adventures of my life. Why is it mandatory that I leave? Sure, my parents wouldn’t be pleased if I became a fifth year senior, but why should that matter? I can see my mom rolling her eyes as she reads this.

The months ahead will be interesting. I’m sure that my emotional stability will waiver as I figure out where I will work and live, how to consistently do laundry and stop buying pizza Lunchables so I can afford whole grain bread and do other things I consider to be adult behavior.

But I am so happy that I have this experience with Scripps Howard in my pocket. At this point, I know that if I can report from Washington, I can report from anywhere. Here’s to this adventure and many more.

 

Apr 8, 2014

 

Click on photo to enlarge or download: Spring came late to D.C., so I walk around during my final days enjoying the cherry blossoms, sunshine and heat that the polar vortex long deprived me of. I had many great times at the White House, and this picture shows how happy I am to have been there as a reporter. We will meet again. SHFWire photo by Cathryn WalkerClick on photo to enlarge or download: Spring came late to D.C., so I walk around during my final days enjoying the cherry blossoms, sunshine and heat that the polar vortex long deprived me of. I had many great times at the White House, and this picture shows how happy I am to have been there as a reporter. We will meet again. SHFWire photo by Cathryn WalkerBy Alejandro Alba

I have four days left in D.C., 40 days to my graduation and 42 days until I turn 22 – I’m already feeling 22, though. These next few months will be eventful, to say the least.

To be dramatic, I would like to recite the words Taylor Swift wrote in her song “22”: “We’re happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time. It’s miserable and magical.”

Well, yes. It is. Taylor Swift somehow knows what I and other normal 22 year olds feel like.

I am happy because I have great things going on, but I am miserable because it’s coming to an end and my college afterlife is yet to be determined.

My time in D.C has been great. I am beyond grateful for all the reporting opportunities the Scripps Howard Foundation has given me. I’ve been able to report from the White House several times, attend the State of the Union and see celebrities at news conferences – Alicia Keys, Diego Luna, Lenny Kravitz, and of course, President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.

Although my present is wonderful – and I have absolutely no complaints – I need to start planning for the future. I’m just too impatient when it comes to planning life. I always want to know what I’m doing at least six months in advance. I guess I have that mindset because of school and the semester schedule.

Right now, I'm not trying to decide what classes to take or where to go study abroad. Right now, I am trying to see what news organization will hire me for a job, or even an internship. I've been applying, and I've had a few call backs. But once again, I'm impatient. I'm part of the now generation and I would like to have an answer to get rid of all my anxiety.  

Once again, to be dramatic, I would like to recite the words the Black Eyed Peas wrote in “Now Generation”: "We are the now generation. I want, I want, I want it now. ... And I just can't wait, I want it immediately."

I know that if I keep working hard, it will all turn out fine. I need to let go of all anxiety and fully enjoy my remaining days in D.C. Spring hit the city this week, and the cherry blossoms are blooming. It’s about time the climate changed because I was not happy with the polar vortex craziness.

I'm counting down the days to everything.

I  have a countdown to the day when I want to be employed - 53 days. The date is June 1.

 

Mar 20, 2014

Click on photo to enlarge or download: Click on photo to enlarge or download: Here I am with my ticket waiting to get into “The Colbert Report.” By this time I was a little too excited to see the show. SHFWire photo by Cathryn WalkerClick on photo to enlarge or download: Click on photo to enlarge or download: Here I am with my ticket waiting to get into “The Colbert Report.” By this time I was a little too excited to see the show. SHFWire photo by Cathryn Walker

By Caitlin Turner

I don’t freak out about many celebrities, but Stephen Colbert is the man.<--break->

We arrived last week in New York City to the smell of fresh city air - smoggy, hot dog-scented air. I loved it.

Emerging from the subway and seeing the skyscrapers is always surreal for me. Even though I live in Washington, I don’t understand how so many people can live in one area.

Shortly after our arrival, we walked over to Colbert’s studio to sit in the audience.

I’ve been watching “The Colbert Report” and “The Daily Show” for years and I must say, I’m a huge fan.

As a reporter, I often get caught up in how serious the news can be instead of seeing the funnier side. Given the chance, I would love to be a fake television anchor.

Being in a studio audience is so different from watching at home. There was a mass scramble of producers, camera operators and makeup artists to make Colbert look his best.

 The producers encouraged the audience to laugh and yell extra loudly during the show so the microphones could pick it up. Doing so wasn't a problem for me because the jokes were extra funny live.

We also got to see Colbert out of character, which is something not many people experience. Before the taping, he came out to answer audience questions and gave fair warning that he plays a character. He is not as erratic as he appears on the show.

One of the audience members asked what advice he has for budding journalists. Colbert answered that we shouldn't be like him, which is a bummer, but I get it. 

During the rest of our trip, we attended the College Media Association’s Spring National College Media Convention.

The conference was a good starting point for me. I had some quality networking time because the director from my previous summer internship was there. He helped me connect with other alumni of the program. Many now work for news outlets, including The Huffington Post, Reuters, The Wire and The Wall Street Journal.

When I meet people who have been in the same situation as me and now have jobs, it’s an inspiration that reminds me that getting a job after college is possible.

Following the conference, I stayed with my second cousin, who lives in the city.

I hadn't seen that side of the family since high school, so it was great to catch up, see how everyone is doing and meet new additions to the family.

Last time I went to New York, I focused on seeing all of the tourist attractions such as the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

This time, I went to Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I could sit in Central Park all day. Alejandro, Cathryn, Kritika and Melhor came with me to soak up some sun and climb some of the boulders. As a country girl, it’s funny when I consider a park to be nature. I’ve been away from the Ohio corn fields for too long.

I had never been to the Met before. There is so much to explore. From suits of armor to the Monet paintings, I felt like I was getting a good dose of education and fun.

From the entertainment to the 24-hour food truck access, my visit to the big apple was a good one. Here’s to many more!

Mar 19, 2014

 

Click on photo to enlarge or download: The Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns visit Times Square in the rain after joining the “Colbert Report” live audience while we were in New York to attend the College Media Association conference last week. SHFWire photoClick on photo to enlarge or download: The Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns visit Times Square in the rain after joining the “Colbert Report” live audience while we were in New York to attend the College Media Association conference last week. SHFWire photo

By Cathryn Walker

After two weeks traveling back and forth between New York and Washington, I think I’ve adjusted to an even faster-paced lifestyle.

“Networking” was the key word these past two weeks when I headed to New York for a career workshop hosted by the International Radio and Television Society Foundation and the Spring National College Media Convention hosted by the College Media Association.

I had the opportunity to meet with other aspiring media professionals and human resource managers from major media companies, including NBCUniversal, Viacom, AOL, Univision and many more. I am always excited to network in a city that holds the headquarters of so many media entities.

I was given a lot of advice during my time in the city and the most notable tips I received at the workshop and convention are:

  • As an intern or employee, perform the most menial of tasks with an energetic and positive attitude because you never know who is watching.
  • It’s not enough to be a critical thinker in the workplace. It's more important to create solutions.
  • Finding a place to live in New York is just as hard as finding a job in New York, if not harder.
  • Work with a sense of urgency because procrastination can get you only so far.
  • LinkedIn and Twitter are two social media platforms that professionals frequently visit to determine whether potential hires can make good judgment calls.
  • Success isn’t instantaneous – it takes hard work and experience.
  • Find a mentor who exemplifies who you want to be in life. Learn from his or her  mistakes and  advice.

Click on photo to enlarge or download: I reconnect with former International Radio and Television Society Foundation fellows, Bothaina Saleh, left, Joann Park, myself and Mya Ervin, at the Multicultural Career Workshop. SHFWire photoClick on photo to enlarge or download: I reconnect with former International Radio and Television Society Foundation fellows, Bothaina Saleh, left, Joann Park, myself and Mya Ervin, at the Multicultural Career Workshop. SHFWire photoI lived in New York for 12 weeks last summer as an IRTS fellow and Google intern, so I’m not a stranger to the city. Yet, it was interesting to return to the city after living in Washington. New York is much more fast-paced than I remembered, and I now appreciate the cleaner Washington metros more!

The IRTS workshop provided me a chance to reconnect with the 2013 summer IRTS fellows whom I worked with over the summer. Many now have jobs in New York or in other large cities at media companies, including HBO, ABC and Cox Media Group. It was inspiring to reconnect with them and to know that the power of networking really does work!

At the College Media Convention I learned how to use the skills I've gained at the University of Texas at Austin in any job in media. The workshops I attended provided strategies to land a job after graduation and highlight my strengths.

Conferences and workshops like these make me appreciate those who are willing to use their time to help aspiring media professionals. It’s a tough industry, and I feel fortunate to know that there are people rooting for me to succeed. It strengthens my desire to give back in a similar way.

Thank you for the great memories, New York!

 

Mar 11, 2014

 

Click on photo to enlarge or download: Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., delivers a speech roasting President Barack Obama Thursday before the crowd at CPAC, moments before walking off the stage to Ellie Goulding’s “Lights.” SHFWire photo by Melhor M. LeonorClick on photo to enlarge or download: Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., delivers a speech roasting President Barack Obama Thursday before the crowd at CPAC, moments before walking off the stage to Ellie Goulding’s “Lights.” SHFWire photo by Melhor M. LeonorBy Melhor M. Leonor

When Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky strolled off the stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference Friday to Ellie Goulding’s “Lights,” the tune was likely familiar to a large chunk of the crowd.

Ann Tumolo, president of Loyola University Maryland’s College Republicans recognized the song – it was one of Billboard’s Hot 100 the summer of her senior year of high school.

Tumolo, 20, wasn’t alone. At CPAC, an annual hub of conservative politicians and activists, a large number of seats was taken up by millennials – and maybe – the party’s future.

“There are tons of students here,” Tumolo said. “Even the speakers, they've really tailored their message to a younger audience. It’s very refreshing.”

The millennial crowd at CPAC, though, is not representative of the nation as whole. A study from the Pew Research Center released Friday shows millennials lean liberal – 32 percent identify as liberal, compared to 26 percent who identify as conservative.

For Republicans, party affiliation may be more worrisome. While a solid half of millennials identify as independents, 27 percent identify as Democrats, compared to 17 percent who identify as Republicans. When the leaning of these independents is taken into account, half of millennials identify or lean toward the Democratic Party, while 34 percent say they identify or lean Republican.

The atmosphere at CPAC was festive, but Republicans are aware of the changing demographics. During his speech, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, called on the party to attract young voters, a group that voted overwhelmingly Democratic in the last two presidential elections. 

Cruz told the audience that drawing a clear distinction between the Democratic and Republican ideals would bring millennials to the polls in favor of the GOP.

“If you were to sit down and design an agenda to hammer the living daylights out of young people, you couldn't do better than the Obama economic agenda,” Cruz said. “Yet how many Republicans said that? Does anyone remember in the last election anyone going and making the case to young people?”

Cruz gave props to Ronald Reagan and Ron Paul for being the most recent Republicans to wrangle the younger crowd. “They stood for principle,” Cruz said. “And young people came out by the millions.”

The Tea Party darling represents one faction of the conservative movement; representing  another is the Libertarian movement and Rand Paul.

The Kentucky senator, son of former Texas House member Ron Paul, has inherited some of his father’s young followers. Rand Paul came out on top at the CPAC presidential straw poll – a gauge of the nation’s conservatives – with 31 percent of the votes. Of the 2,459 people from all 50 states and the District of Columbia who participated in the straw poll, nearly half were between the ages of 18 and 25.

“Among the college crowd is probably where you’re going to see that whole conservative libertarian lean the most,” said conservative blogger Justin Higgins, also a millennial. “There’s a reason why there is no panel on gay marriage. The only values issue is a Citizens United movie about abortion. Obviously the organizers are a lot smarter than Republicans in Washington because they understand that having an issue that divides our own party is not smart.”

Ryan Smith, a junior at Loyola University Maryland, traveled with Tumolo to attend CPAC and said the GOP could take some notes from the pages of Obama’s ground game when it comes to attracting young voters.

“I think it’s a good thing we are trying to target younger people because it was such a good tactic in the last two presidential elections and the liberals basically had a monopoly on it,” Smith, 21, said.

The music, Higgins said, was another attempt to appeal to the young crowd. Republican Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor, walked on to the stage to Pitbull’s “Feel This Moment.”

“Years ago ... everybody would come out at CPAC to this generic type music. Now, they understand their target audience,” Higgins said. “There’s the people who write the checks, the people that get the diamond level sponsorships, but the college students provide the energy.”

Come 2016, any presidential contender is going to need a lot of that.                                             

 

Mar 10, 2014

 

Click on photo to enlarge or download: I attend the Beatles tribute concert with Melhor Leonor and Alejandro Alba at the Uline Arena, where the British boy band had played its first concert 50 years ago. We had a wonderful evening with a lot of singing and dancing. SHFWire photoClick on photo to enlarge or download: I attend the Beatles tribute concert with Melhor Leonor and Alejandro Alba at the Uline Arena, where the British boy band had played its first concert 50 years ago. We had a wonderful evening with a lot of singing and dancing. SHFWire photoBy Kritika Gadhvi

What makes life in a strange city awesome? Throw in a wonderful internship, amazing friends, a pretty city like Washington and the polar vortex. Sprinkle it with some laughter, smiles, bickering and craziness. Shaken not stirred, and voila your mix of a crazy time is ready!

That is exactly what happened with me in D.C. Here are some moments I will cherish for a lifetime:

Moment 1: I grew up with my father playing songs by the Beatles. He told me everything I know about the British band. Fifteen years later, I am in D.C. and a friend offered me a free ticket to a Beatles tribute concert. The concert took place in the same arena where the Beatles played for the first time in the U.S. 50 years ago. It was an amazing night. I went completely berserk when they played “Hey Jude.” It was perfect end to a wonderful night.

Moment 2: A day at Theodore Roosevelt Island proved to be a long walk. Not complaining – it was awesome. But I was over-dressed for a walk in the woods. I am always enthusiastic about hopping around in the woods doing weird stuff. And I was glad that I shared this interest with Alejandro. We went around the trail trying to avoid the swampy areas (we did not want to spoil our nice shoes), dancing and trying to look out for some vegetation. It felt like we went to Narnia and back. And I guess we clicked more than 200 pictures that day. It definitely was a walk to remember. Not to forget the really big ice cream cones that we got later in Georgetown.

Click on photo to enlarge or download: What is a day out if you don’t click a selfie! Here is my selfie with Alejandro Alba, at the Theodore Roosevelt Island. It was a very warm day, the best we have had in D.C. in months, and we goofed around in the woods. SHFWire photo by Alejandro AlbaClick on photo to enlarge or download: What is a day out if you don’t click a selfie! Here is my selfie with Alejandro Alba, at the Theodore Roosevelt Island. It was a very warm day, the best we have had in D.C. in months, and we goofed around in the woods. SHFWire photo by Alejandro AlbaMoment 3: When we all agreed to watch “High School Musical” and relive our high school days, it was great fun. Though I did not remember all the lyrics and dance steps, it was still good. Dancing like crazy in the living room and laughing all along is something that will stay with me for a lifetime. I told my mom about it, and she said, “Are you still kids or what?” Though I did not say anything about it then, I thought to myself – it’s mandatory to grow old; it’s optional to grow up. It sure was one long and fun-filled night.

Moment 4: Two days at the Newseum were pretty cool. Looking at the history of news was an overwhelming experience. The most amazing part was the documentary on the 9/11 attacks. I almost cried. I also did a stand up, where I pretended to be a reporter. It was really awkward. I was stumbling over the words in a script on a teleprompter, but the words were going by too fast, and I kept saying “what,” “what was that.” If anyone saw it, I would be jobless.

I enjoyed the visit, though the 4-D movie was a disappointment. The best thing at the Newseum was the Pulitzer Photo Gallery. It was amazing to see how the best photographers in journalism capture some of the most life-changing experiences in a single picture. A picture is worth a thousand words.

Moment 5: This is for all the times my friends and I had food together at new places. I love how all of us share the love for food. We are always up for eating, be it Busboys and Poets, Ted’s Bulletin or even McDonald’s. We have had a fair amount of food there.

Click on photo to enlarge or download: Sunny side up – it was 65 degrees, and we are standing outside Busboys and Poets after a hearty brunch. From left, Caitlin Turner, Melhor Leonor, me, Cathryn Walker and Alejandro Alba. SHFWire photoClick on photo to enlarge or download: Sunny side up – it was 65 degrees, and we are standing outside Busboys and Poets after a hearty brunch. From left, Caitlin Turner, Melhor Leonor, me, Cathryn Walker and Alejandro Alba. SHFWire photoI am always exited to eat at McDonald’s. It tastes better and different than at home. Back in India, most people don’t eat beef, so the burgers are made from chicken or vegetables. Every kind of McDonald’s food is Indianized with spices and condiments (not complaining – it’s good), but then it’s just not American anymore. For that sole reason my friends here have said, “I literally cannot handle your excitement for McDonald’s.” All in good humor, or so I guess. I love my friends and am glad that we are all foodies.

These past months have been a hell of ride, and these are not the only moments that I will take back with me. There are way more concoctions that I have not talked about yet. I don’t know about the rest but, I literally love this crazy cocktail life.

 

 

Mar 5, 2014

 

Click on photo to enlarge or download: Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., complains to reporters about his treatment during a hearing Wednesday about the IRS targeting scandal. Cummings said Democrats were being left out of much of the investigation. SHFWire photo by Melhor M. LeonorClick on photo to enlarge or download: Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., complains to reporters about his treatment during a hearing Wednesday about the IRS targeting scandal. Cummings said Democrats were being left out of much of the investigation. SHFWire photo by Melhor M. LeonorBy Melhor M. Leonor

Investigations into the IRS scandal are still pushing ahead and still causing a ruckus on Capitol Hill.

Lois Lerner, the former IRS official at the center of the alleged targeting of conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status, once again refused to testify Wednesday before a House committee.

In May, Lerner delivered an opening statement saying she hadn’t broken the law, and then invoked her Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate herself. Called back to Congress on Wednesday, Lerner appeared before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, took the Fifth and took off.

But it wasn’t over back at the committee. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., asked to make a statement, but Committee Chair Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., failed to recognize him. Cummings continued to talk, and Issa cut off the microphones.

"Mr. Chairman, you cannot run a committee like this. You just cannot do this. We're better than that as a country," Cummings said.

Cummings continued to talk — and yell — despite the dead microphone.

"I am a member of the Congress of the United States of America!" Cummings proclaimed.

After he left the committee room, Issa told reporters that time for opening statements had passed.

Cummings told the press that the IRS investigation wasn’t being conducted in a bipartisan manner.

“I just want to make clear that from the very beginning this has been an effort to blame the White House for targeting political organizations,” Cummings said.

Issa said the investigation would continue.

 

Mar 3, 2014

Click on photo to enlarge or download: There I am, on the far right, standing with some bright and talented Ohio University journalism students at the NICAR conference. We had just gone out for a lovely seafood dinner in Baltimore with two of our professors. SHFWire photoClick on photo to enlarge or download: There I am, on the far right, standing with some bright and talented Ohio University journalism students at the NICAR conference. We had just gone out for a lovely seafood dinner in Baltimore with two of our professors. SHFWire photoBy Caitlin Turner

Though I love Washington, it was nice to get away for a few days.

I left Wednesday night to attend this year’s National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting conference in Baltimore. Sponsored by Investigative Reporters and Editors, NICAR is an annual conference that teaches journalists the ins and outs of data reporting.

In other words, it is a journalism nerd’s dream.

For four days, I attended panel discussions about story ideas using large amounts of data, the software available to journalists for organizing data and how to get information from the government.

To say I was in journalism heaven would be an understatement.

Adding to my experience were the many Ohio University journalists who came to participate.

It was great seeing my roommate from home along with many other friends.

Most reporters can get by most of the time without using too many statistics and rely heavily on quotes and documents.

Data reporters are different. They can work on a story for months, sometimes years, because it can take that long to get all of the records they request, organize the information and see how it applies to their audience. It can be as easy as looking up census data or as difficult as working through a campaign budget.

Click on photo to enlarge or download: Ohio University student Brandon Carte and I saw “The Book of Mormon” Sunday at the Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore. While it is not a family-friendly musical, I was laughing the entire time. Photo by Brandon CarteClick on photo to enlarge or download: Ohio University student Brandon Carte and I saw “The Book of Mormon” Sunday at the Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore. While it is not a family-friendly musical, I was laughing the entire time. Photo by Brandon CarteAny budding data journalists out there should join IRE. You can learn a lot from the tip sheets on the group’s website and have access to other, more experienced reporters.

Apologies, my plug is now over.

After conference hours, I explored Baltimore. What a wonderful city.

The harbor area was incredible. There were boats, seafood restaurants and museums.

Unfortunately, a storm heading to Ohio caused the majority of the group to leave Saturday afternoon instead of Sunday. I was left with a hotel room to myself and endless notes on the conference. I was a kid in a candy shop.

Sunday morning, I had planned to go to the National Aquarium. But my friend Brandon Carte (who will be an SHFWire intern in the summer) and I took a chance on a ticket lottery for “The Book of Mormon,” which was showing at the Hippodrome Theatre next door, instead.

I never win anything, so as I filled out my lottery ticket, I thought there was no way Brandon or I would win. I’m that unlucky.

Brandon had already attempted to get into the show through the lottery four times. Call it dumb luck, but wouldn’t you know, his name was the first drawn for a pair of tickets.

We ended up sitting in the third row. The show was amazing, and it left me feeling recharged and inspired to knock out the second half of my time in Washington.

 

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