From singing on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and riding the subway to recording a program for a Chicago radio station, Kenya’s Afrizo singing group is on a tour like no other.
From singing on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and riding the subway to recording a program for a Chicago radio station, Kenya’s Afrizo singing group is on a tour like no other.
The messy and chaotic weather – including a brief tornado warning – outside the mayoral forum Wednesday afternoon fit the candidates’ demeanors inside.
The White House celebrated programs addressing childhood obesity Tuesday and invited elementary school students from across the nation to help with the third annual fall harvest of the South Lawn garden.
 
 
 

Semester in Washington Intern Blog

Aug 14, 2014

 Click on photo to enlarge or downloadClick on photo to enlarge or downloadBy Kate Winkle

I’m convinced that Hollywood thinks journalists are cool. Hollywood, and the makers of superhero comics. And, when the two get together, you get Amy Adams’ Lois Lane stomping around the world in high heels and Tobey Maguire’s Spider Man taking selfies while zipping through the air. Both, I have to admit, are pretty cool images.

Journalists in actuality are a lot less glamorous, and not every story is a world-traveling adventure or the uncovering of a scandal. Sometimes, journalists have to sit by a phone and wait for a source to call back. They have to be patient. But they need to get information in a timely manner, so they also have to be persistent.

The past few weeks have been a lesson in the virtues of patience and persistence. I worked on a longer-term project that required me to call media relations representatives and coordinate interviews. In fact, my project absolutely required that I rely on them for help, which can be very good or very difficult.

The good part is that media relations representatives can provide access. Through coordination with a Smithsonian National Zoo representative, I took video inside an enclosure of giant tortoises. By talking with a Library of Congress representative, I photographed the library’s extensive flute collection. The media relations people also introduced me to individuals willing to let me follow them around and do an interview. Those are some very rewarding benefits.

On the other hand, as a journalist I depend on these people. If they don’t call back or won’t work with me, sometimes there can’t be a story. If they don’t call back quickly, my project timeline gets shifted a smidge.

There’s a kind of frantic worry that develops when waiting for someone to call back. If it’s for a daily or breaking story, I’ve sometimes called every half hour until I’ve gotten a response. But working on a longer project requires more tact, there’s a delicate balance between being an annoyance and being at the forefront of that person’s mind. I wanted to develop a relationship so I could work with them and continue to work with them.

I wanted so badly for this project to work, and the worst part was that there was really nothing I could do about the holdup, except call back every day and politely request to be called back. And also tell them to “have a nice day,” for good measure.

Finally getting that call and talking schedules was a welcome relief. Even more of a relief was  going out and meeting my sources, starting productive work on the project.

The next relief was, of course, finishing and publishing the project.

 

Aug 1, 2014

Click on photo to enlarge or download: Warning: Sometimes you’ll end up on a senator’s web page if you sit in the front row of a press conference. That’s me, center, in the light suit taking notes. Photo from Sen. Claire McCaskill’s websiteClick on photo to enlarge or download: Warning: Sometimes you’ll end up on a senator’s web page if you sit in the front row of a press conference. That’s me, center, in the light suit taking notes. Photo from Sen. Claire McCaskill’s websiteBy Daniel Wheaton

There’s some sick enjoyment in the power a congressional press pass gives you.

And no, not in the Frank Underwood-ey “proximity to power” way, but being able to walk around the Capitol like you own the place, which, technically, we all do.

I got the chance to experience what our lawmakers did before they went on their summer vacations.

Some had hopes for grand legislation, and others lost political battles.

The House and Senate passed their short-term fix to the Highway Trust Fund, which ends my continuous string of what I’ve been internally calling “HTF” stories.

Sitting up in the press galleries taking notes of congressional debate is an experience I’m glad to have had, but I understand why people who do this as their career sometimes just sit back and listen to C-SPAN.

There’s only so much floor action you can listen to.

It’s a bit easier to understand why things take so long in Congress when you’re physically there.

Parliamentary procedure eats up minutes, and 15-minute voting periods are really more like 25.

When it comes down to it, you realize that they’re just people.

Just like you and I would probably (Read: definitely) do, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., checked email on her iPad when Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was giving a speech on the floor.

Who can blame her?

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is kind of a touchy-feely kinda guy; he often places a hand on the shoulder of someone he’s talking to.

That and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., looks extra sullen when you’re looking down at him from the House Press Gallery

At times Congress feels like a zoo, and reporters get the chance to toss a few bites over the wall.

I’m glad for that.

 

Jul 24, 2014

 Click on photo to enlarge or download: Matt Waite, University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor of practice, flies a small drone during a talk at the National Press Club on Wednesday. His drone is typical of those used to gather photos and videos for news stories. SHFWire photo by Daniel WheatonClick on photo to enlarge or download: Matt Waite, University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor of practice, flies a small drone during a talk at the National Press Club on Wednesday. His drone is typical of those used to gather photos and videos for news stories. SHFWire photo by Daniel WheatonBy Daniel Wheaton

I never planned to get in trouble with a federal agency.

About this time last year, my organization – the College of Journalism and Mass Communication’s Drone Journalism Lab at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln – was asked to stop flying drones by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Matt Waite, the lab’s founder, sent me a text briefly explaining the situation and how we’d go forward.

It’s bewildering getting a letter like that from a federal agency, but at the same time it was reassuring to know that the work that we were doing was cutting-edge enough to be, you know, possibly illegal.

Let me rewind.

In the fall of 2011, Waite was a guest lecturer in my journalism 101 class when he preached about investigative journalism and the intersection of technology and reporting.

As a still-impressionable freshman who was and is a bit of a technophile I thought: “I should get to know this guy.”

In November, Waite had officially created the lab, and I offered my help as a research assistant.

My role was to write for the lab’s blog and to study the ethics of using drones to report.

I flew some of our drones – the DJI phantom and our fixed-wing – but that wasn’t my focus.

Ben Kreimer, then a history and broadcasting student at UNL, was our engineer. He built several systems and worked out some of the kinks.

This side project put me in an interesting position as a reporter.

Let me be clear: I want journalists to be allowed to use drones. I think journalism needs to harness all kinds of communication technologies to tell stories.

I have biases, and I’m able to work around them.

At this point, I’m not sure how many stories I’ve written about drones.

In all of them, I still use the same reporting techniques as any other stories, and I still work to make sure my reporting is balanced.

In my latest drone story, I anecdotally refer to the common response: “I’ll shoot down your drone.”

It’s a common viewpoint – that’s why it’s in the story.

Beyond that, I avoid writing directly about UNL’s lab, or about Waite.

If you’re a student journalist, I encourage you to find topics that you care about and make that your beat. If you’re able to keep your own opinions out of the mix, having a personal connection might make you a better reporter.

Getting that letter from the FAA proved that the government and the public need good journalism to understand what’s going forward.

Policy, regulation and law is inherently complicated, so boiling that down into useful, coherent information is entirely what’s needed.

Find your passion and report it.

 

Jul 22, 2014

 Click on photo to enlarge or download: The National Park Service runs Cedar Hill, in Southeast Washington, that was once the home of abolitionist Frederick Douglass. He bought the house and land in 1877. SHFWire photo by Megan CardClick on photo to enlarge or download: The National Park Service runs Cedar Hill, in Southeast Washington, that was once the home of abolitionist Frederick Douglass. He bought the house and land in 1877. SHFWire photo by Megan CardBy Megan Card

It took a Sunday morning spent in the home of Frederick Douglass for me to realize my ninth-grade American history class failed me.

I’m ashamed to write this, but I didn’t know anything about the man other than he was a former slave turned abolitionist. Taking a tour of Cedar Hill, his house in Southeast Washington, seemed to be the logical first step to learn more about him.

An 1980s video at the visitor center included a lot of dramatic pause-for-effect moments and covered Douglass’ historical relevance from slave to emancipation orator.

But the most intimate facts about the abolitionist’s life came from the guided tour of his hilltop home, courtesy of the National Park Service. Here are a few tidbits.

1. Frederick Douglass changed his name, twice.

Douglass didn’t go as far as NBA player Metta World Peace, but he was born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey as a slave in Talbot County, Md. When he escaped in 1838 and married Anna Murray, a free woman, they adopted the surname Johnson. He then decided to change his name, again. A friend chose the name Douglas, from Sir Walter Scott’s narrative poem “The Lady of the Lake,” and Douglass  added an “S.”

2. He didn’t shy away from the camera.

The former slave was the most photographed man of his time. Apparently, Douglass was not a fan of sitting still for portraits. He surpassed President Abraham Lincoln and Gen. George Armstrong Custer with 160 photographs taken of him during the 19th century.

3.  Frederick Douglass had a 19th century “man cave.”

This sounds strange, but it’s true – kind of. Behind the main house, Cedar Hill, there is a small rustic building called a growlery. Douglass would retreat to the space to read, think and write undisturbed when he didn’t want to use one of the multiple offices in his home.

Click on photo to enlarge or download: Books and objects owned by famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass are on display at his former home in southeast Washington. Daily tours are given by the National Park Service about the former slave in the house. SHFWire photo by Megan CardClick on photo to enlarge or download: Books and objects owned by famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass are on display at his former home in southeast Washington. Daily tours are given by the National Park Service about the former slave in the house. SHFWire photo by Megan Card4. He liked Caribbean-inspired wallpaper.

Douglass was a world traveler. He ventured to Europe and Africa, but it was his trips to Haiti that left a noticeable impression on his home. One of his parlors is decorated with palm tree wallpaper and other elements incorporate a Haitian theme. 

5.  Douglass preferred wheels on his chairs.

In the dining room of Cedar Hill, a chair at the end of the table has wheels attached to its legs. Douglass was known for large mannerisms when he spoke. He had the wheels put on his dining room chair so he wouldn’t tip over if he started to move around in his seat.

6. He fought for the vote with Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

The abolitionist is known for his work for equality and justice for African Americans, but he also was a vocal supporter for women’s rights. He and Stanton, a leading figure in the early women’s right movement, spoke at the famed Seneca Falls Convention and argued for a woman’s right to vote.

7. He married a white woman.

After the death of his first wife, Douglass married Helen Pitts, a white feminist from New York who was 20 years his junior. His four adult children and Pitts’ abolitionist parents were vocal critics of their nuptials. Even so, the two were married for 11 years until Douglass’ death on Feb. 20, 1895. He left Cedar Hill to Pitts in his will, but the will was invalid because he only had two, not three witness signatures. Pitts bought the house from his children and spent the rest of her life turning it into a museum to commemorate his life’s work. The National Park Service acquired the house in 1962.

 

Jul 11, 2014

 Click on photo to enlarge or download: SHFWire photo by Daniel WheatonClick on photo to enlarge or download: SHFWire photo by Daniel WheatonBy Daniel Wheaton

The specter of finding a “real person job” can be a frightening thought, especially if you’re going into a constantly evolving industry.

I’m a rising senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and before long I’ll have to turn those ideas into reality.

Aiming to improve my chances at getting a job, I’ve started learning some coding and data skills to supplement my reporting.

Having skills such as data visualization and coding is slowly becoming a necessity in newsrooms. Earlier this year, new organizations such as Vox, FiveThirtyEight and the TheUpshot emerged on the scene and are churning out new forms of journalism.

During my summer in Washington, I’ve been meeting with journalists to get their perspective on the industry, and how journalism students can better adapt themselves to the changing journalism environment.

Here are some of their tips:

Becky Bowers | PolitiFact digital operations manager

Becky Bowers operates the back end of the fact checking news source. Before PolitiFact grew to national prominence, it operated as a small part of the Tampa Bay Times. She said working on smaller projects within a larger organization gives creative people more freedom to experiment and try new things.

She encourages people to seek out communities of people who are willing to help you get over the learning curve. Working on GitHub or with the NICAR listserv are some places to get the coding basics down.

Jeremy Bowers | New York Times interactive news developer

Jeremy Bowers has been coding since he was in college. He found this passion out of a love of solving problems, and during the past several weeks he’s been developing the New York Times’ interactives for the World Cup.

Bowers said it is important to find opportunities in news organizations that allow you to be more than “a cog in the machine.”

It can start out as simply as using a Storify or adding graphs to a story, but adding more elements sets your stories apart from others. 

Derek Willis | New York Times The Upshot reporter

Willis covers campaign finance for The Upshot, as well as designing interactives for the Times. Like Bowers, he is a long-time coder.

Willis said journalism students should take classes that will supplement their reporting, such as economics and statistics. He also encourages students to seek out internships that allow for more freedom to experiment with data and other forms of storytelling.

 

Jun 27, 2014

 

Click on photo to enlarge or download: Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., questions witnesses during a hearing about the missing Lois Lerner IRS emails. What they call the well – the space between the dais and the witness table – was filled with professional photographers, so I had to squeeze by them to get my shot. SHFWire photo by Erin BellClick on photo to enlarge or download: Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., questions witnesses during a hearing about the missing Lois Lerner IRS emails. What they call the well – the space between the dais and the witness table – was filled with professional photographers, so I had to squeeze by them to get my shot. SHFWire photo by Erin BellBy Erin Bell

You have to do it all.

Write. Take photos. Shoot video. Tweet.

It might not seem like much in a list, but when I’m doing it – trust me – it’s harder than you think.

Journalism is changing, and it’s not as simple as being strictly print, radio or television any more. You need to be a well-rounded journalist if you want to have an edge. That’s part of the reason I applied for the Semester in Washington Program – I wanted the multimedia experience. I’ve done a little bit of everything during college, but covering an event in Washington by yourself when you have to do everything is a little different, to say the least.

It can be hard to multitask. You need to move around to get photos and video, but you don’t want to miss jotting down something important in your notes. It can also be awkward, especially in a congressional hearing, shifting from the press table to where the photographers and videographers are.

But after three weeks in the program, I’ve learned a few things about how to balance it all:

Get there early. It will let you scope out a good spot where you can easily move around so that you don’t disturb too many audience members. At every event I’ve gone to in the last few weeks, I’ve gotten there early. Mostly because I was afraid I’d get lost and wanted to give myself time to navigate, but it also allowed me to get a good seat on the end of an aisle where I could easily get up if I needed to.

Don’t worry too much. Even if you have to push through some people to get what you need, do it. You don’t need to be rude, but you’re there to do a job, and you can’t let the fear of being impolite hold you back. I attended two congressional hearings about the missing Lois Lerner IRS emails, one Monday and one Tuesday. There were a lot of journalists at both hearings, and most news organizations sent a photographer and a reporter. I was the only one moving back and forth trying to take notes and get photos. I felt slightly awkward about it, especially since the hearing room was nearly full. But I knew what I needed to get, so it didn’t matter if had to maneuver around people.

Click on photo to enlarge or download: The Consumer Product Safety Commission blows up a mannequin during its annual demonstration of fireworks safety. Just before this explosion, my battery died, so I had to quickly swap it out just in time to snap a few photos. SHFWire photo by Erin BellClick on photo to enlarge or download: The Consumer Product Safety Commission blows up a mannequin during its annual demonstration of fireworks safety. Just before this explosion, my battery died, so I had to quickly swap it out just in time to snap a few photos. SHFWire photo by Erin BellPlan. At first, I was fairly sporadic in switching between note taking and my other tasks. I’ve found that it’s better to give myself a chunk of time to focus on doing one thing. Spend an allotted amount of time taking photos, then transition back to taking notes.

Think quickly. Even if you have a plan, things aren’t always predictable. Sometimes, you only have a moment to capture something in a photo or to get that perfect quote. Think on your feet,  follow your gut and, hopefully, you won’t miss your opportunity. The Consumer Product Safety Commission hosted its annual demonstration about fireworks safety Thursday. Fireworks safety experts blow things up, so it was a great opportunity to get video. The only problem was that the demonstrations were yards apart, and they went quickly. I had to reposition my tripod and refocus the camera between each one. I only had seconds capture each explosion. So, planning was fairly hard, I just had to move as quickly as possible and trust that I could get what I needed.

A woman mentioned Thursday while I was covering that event that I looked like a one-man band. Being in that situation can be stressful at times, but it’s also rewarding. I walked away from that event with photos, video and enough information to write an article. It made me feel accomplished, and all I had to do was learn a few tricks, which will definitely come in handy in the future.

 

Jun 27, 2014

 

Click on photo to enlarge or download: New York Times reporter David Carr, left, listens as Beau Willimon talks about his show, “House of Cards.” He only hinted at some of the plot twists that may come up in season three, which is likely to be released on Netflix early next year. SHFWire photo by Kate WinkleClick on photo to enlarge or download: New York Times reporter David Carr, left, listens as Beau Willimon talks about his show, “House of Cards.” He only hinted at some of the plot twists that may come up in season three, which is likely to be released on Netflix early next year. SHFWire photo by Kate WinkleBy Kate Winkle

The creator, show runner and executive producer for “House of Cards,” Beau Willimon, conversed about the show June 19 with New York Times reporter and columnist David Carr. It was like a living room filled with 450 others at the Smithsonian Associates’ lecture: cozy and familiar.<--break->

Although Willimon refused to reveal details about the third season of the nine-time, Emmy-nominated Netflix show, he shared insights about the characters, set and plot thus far. (WARNING: Spoilers ahead)

1. “House of Cards” was never meant to be a typical TV show

Many people working on the show didn’t have television experience and didn’t mind breaking typical TV conventions.

“We often joke when we talk about it that it’s a 13-hour movie,” Willimon said. “And, oftentimes on sets we talk about it as a movie.”

The show has strict rules, including a muted color palette – viewers would never see the color red in the show. Actors were directed to make their characters reserved. Robin Wright, the actress who plays Claire Underwood, was told “you are a marble bust.”

2. The creators planned deaths from the beginning, but Frank Underwood didn’t

Underwood has always been opportunistic, and he took advantage of a situation with Rep. Peter Russo.

“It was really as simple as pushing a button in a kind of way,” Willimon said.

Pushing Barnes in front of an oncoming Metro train at the beginning of season two showed the lengths Underwood would go to reach his goals and allowed the show to explore ethical boundary changes.

“It’s important for us to see that Francis is capable in a minute to commit murder, knowing that’s what it was. There’s no way to rationalize it other than there is no mercy once it’s there,” Willimon said. “The first one was mercy, this is no mercy.”

3. Frank Underwood’s character is a “portrait of optimism

Willimon said people mistakenly put cynicism and idealism on the same spectrum, but cynicism is actually the opposite of optimism. Underwood’s endeavors aren’t always successful, but he moves on and tries something new instead of being bitter. He doesn’t follow strict ideological lines and uses whatever methods necessary to accomplish his goals, even if he must compromise.

“What does Francis say? He says, ‘Whatever is impossible, or near impossible, does not daunt me. I am willing to try,’” Wilimon said.

4. The Underwoods are supposed to live in Georgetown

Although the show is centered on Washington politics, only the opening montage and some exteriors are shot here. The rest is filmed in Baltimore where permits are easier to acquire. Still, the original script called for the Underwoods to live in Georgetown.

“We really loved the idea of a townhouse feel for them, something narrow and claustrophobic, like a bunker, as opposed to a house," Willimon said.

5. Frank Underwood’s sexuality is purposefully ambiguous

Underwood and his wife, Claire, had affairs throughout the show that didn’t disrupt their relationship because of their mutual understanding. The only thing that could break them apart would be actual affection for someone else. Barnes and photographer Adam Galloway didn’t pose that threat.

The show hints at – but doesn’t define – Underwood’s sexuality, especially when he reunites with old school friends.

“He’d have no patience for labels – gay, bisexual, pansexual, whatever you want,” Willimon said. “As he says himself, ‘When I want something, I take it.’ And, he has a very large appetite.”

6. Creators planned to end season two with President Frank Underwood

The creators knew from the first season that Underwood would become president – they just didn’t know how. They added storylines such as Russo’s run for governor and former prostitute Rachel Posner’s complicated relationship with Underwood’s Chief of Staff Doug Stamper.

“We kind of ignored the inevitable, which was, ‘Then what?’” Willimon said. “Because there’s a sort of completion and finality to becoming president, we thought ‘Well, maybe no one watches the show.’”

The challenge the creators and Underwood face is the same as many presidents after months of campaigning: leaving a legacy and finding meaning in a new role.

Claire Underwood could change in season three as well because she wrestles with being Frank Underwood’s equal and his support system.

“They have tension that’s already there, and I don’t think it’s rocket science to point a finger at it,” Willimon said. “That’s what we went into season three thinking about.”

 

Jun 20, 2014


By Anna Giles

Getting up close and personal to U.S. lawmakers in D.C. usually entails a never ending maze of spokespersons and communications directors.

Sometimes I feel lucky if they simply return my phone calls. But this week I got to do something I have never done before – stand 3 feet away from three U.S. senators and snap a photograph.

I had the opportunity on Thursday to attend a posh luncheon put on by a conservative faith based group at the Omni Hotel in Woodley Park. There were roughly 150 people there –three of which were Senators Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Mike Lee - enjoying a three course meal of salad, turkey, and chocolate molten lava cake. The senators were there to discuss policy goals and role of religion in government. Rubio and Cruz are considered potential presidential candidates in 2016 – one of the main reasons I was sent to cover the event.

I arrived an hour early – expecting a public relations officer to seat me in the back of the ballroom behind all of the people attending the event as supporters. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find no assigned seating. I even had to write my own media pass. I was able to walk freely throughout the ballroom where the luncheon was being held.

No one yelled at me to move or demanded my credentials as the senators took center stage.  I felt like a child on the first day of school – nervously excited about the opportunity to photograph the senators from 3 feet away! Considering how high profile these senators are – I never thought it would be that easy. Mike Lee and Marco Rubio stood at the podium on the stage throughout their entire speech but Ted Cruz came right up to the edge of the stage – I had to scoot backwards to get a decent photo.

Many big presidential campaigns start at small venues such as this one. Politicians can freely promote their political priorities to an audience that is usually sympathetic to their views. Campaigns have to start somewhere. As a political junkie, it was a great experience to witness the beginning of what might be a major presidential campaign.

 

Whether any of these men end up running for president in 2016 is still unknown. But I will keep my photos just in case they do.

Jun 20, 2014

 

By Kate Winkle

My first time covering the White House was also the first time I’d ever been to the White House.

Sure, I’d seen pictures, History Channel shows and movies, but it’s not the same as actually being there, walking up to the little security hut and checking in. I made my way to the press briefing room, hoping desperately that I wouldn’t get lost or tackled for accidentally walking into the wrong area. Fortunately, none of those happened, and I squeezed my way into an already very full room to wait for the “pre-set” so I could stake out a good location to stand and take pictures.

The story that brought me a few blocks down from the office was a Medal of Honor ceremony in the East Room of the White House. The recipient, Cpl. William “Kyle” Carpenter, deployed in 2010 to Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, eventually at a post in the Marjah District of Helmand Province.

On the morning of Nov. 21, 2010, his alarm clock was AK-47 fire. He manned a rooftop fortified with a semi-circle of sandbags with his best friend and fellow Marine, Nick Eufrazio.

An enemy launched a grenade. It landed next to the two soldiers. Carpenter jumped on top of it, deflecting the blast downward and saving his friend’s life.

Eufrazio sustained brain injuries from the shrapnel. Carpenter lost much of his jaw, face and his right eye, and injured his upper and lower extremities as well. He faced a long road to recovery.

Click on photo to enlarge or download: I snap a selfie on my way out of the White House after covering the Medal of Honor Ceremony on Thursday. SHFWire photo by Kate WinkleClick on photo to enlarge or download: I snap a selfie on my way out of the White House after covering the Medal of Honor Ceremony on Thursday. SHFWire photo by Kate WinkleHe was 21 years old then, the same age I am now.

To get the opportunity to cover the White House as an intern is a great privilege, but covering this as my first story was an even greater honor.

The East Room was a very cozy place as the guests filed into rows of chairs and the press squeezed into the remaining spaces at the back. I was glad I had brought a tripod and scoped out a spot where I could see everyone’s faces on stage. From my vantage point I also noticed a DJ in the corner of the room who played music as the president entered.

The ceremony lasted a little more than 20 minutes, and we waited as guests filed out to celebrate. As we left the room, I could smell appetizers and apologized to my growling stomach.

Back in the press room, I heard whispers that Carpenter would speak to us, so we waited. Four people filed in the door and sat down near me, and I realized it was Carpenter’s family. Then he walked out, smiling a bit as he passed by the American flag and set a piece of paper on the podium. He thanked those who served, have served or will serve. He thanked his doctors. He thanked his family.

After he left, I did, too. I had a story to write.

It had been such a long day already that I almost forgot to turn in the temporary press pass at the gate. One of the police officers came out of the building, smiling, and asked if I’d wanted a souvenir.

“No,” I told him as I handed the red badge back. “It’s just great to be here.”

 

Jun 20, 2014

 

Click on photo to enlarge or download: My attempt to capture a photo of Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., three rows back at a press conference following his election to House majority whip on Thursday. He’s the one with the balding head just above the digital recorder. SHFWire photo by Megan CardClick on photo to enlarge or download: My attempt to capture a photo of Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., three rows back at a press conference following his election to House majority whip on Thursday. He’s the one with the balding head just above the digital recorder. SHFWire photo by Megan Card

By Megan Card

I realize at 5 feet 3 inches tall, I’m at a disadvantage when it comes to swarming politicians for quotes.

But I was never so keenly aware of my lack of arm span until I was thrusting my digital recorder past three rows of reporters to capture what Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said he planned to do after his election as House majority leader.

As I waited Thursday for House Republicans to elect new leadership, so did at least 60 other journalists. Some carried cameras, others notepads and iPhones, but all were keeping their eyes trained on the hallway leading to room 1100 in the Longworth House Office Building.

I attempted to keep myself from being psyched out by setting priorities for my coverage.

Get the tweet, get the photo, get the quote. But in the chaos of being surrounded by roving journalists who seem to know every House staffer who waked by, it was an intimidating experience.

I picked up a few good tips, though.

Click on photo to enlarge or download: Reporters monitor a hallway in the Longworth House Office Building to find the staffer who would announce the results of the House majority leader election. SHFWire photo by Megan CardClick on photo to enlarge or download: Reporters monitor a hallway in the Longworth House Office Building to find the staffer who would announce the results of the House majority leader election. SHFWire photo by Megan Card

  •  Standing next to veteran reporters is helpful, because staffers seek them out to pass along information.
  • If I didn’t know who someone was, but saw a throng of reporters asking that person questions, there was no shame in following the pack. This happened a couple of  times, and I realized not everyone knew who they were interviewing either, so reporters asked their colleagues for help to identify them.
  • Answers given during a press conference are not easy to hear if you’re not in the front row. Maneuvering to the front is a must. This might be a time where short people have the advantage of being so low to the ground they can squirm their way through a crowd. By the end, I had moved to the second row from the fourth.
  • Light can change dramatically if you move a few steps. I learned this the hard way when I was told to move to make a path for Speaker John Boehner, and my lighting for photos changed – not for the better.
  • Talking to other reporters, given it’s an appropriate time, is easy to do in this scenario. I was able to exchange business cards with Associated Press and Al Jazeera America reporters.

I still felt out of my depth for most of the afternoon, especially when the petite blonde standing across the hall turned out to be CNN anchorwoman Dana Bash.

But I uploaded news of the election results on the SHFWire Twitter account before I received the AP push notification – so that’s something.

In a matter of two hours, I rushed through stages of paranoia, exhilaration, anxiety and relief covering the wins of McCarthy and Rep. Steve Scalise’s, R-La., as majority leader and whip. While exhausting, this experience as a reporter is one I know I can measure up to in the future, despite my size and reach. 

Click on photo to enlarge or download: TV crews, reporters and photographers surround a podium in the Longworth building that was later used for a press conference with the newly elected House majority leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and majority whip, Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La. SHFWire photo by Megan CardClick on photo to enlarge or download: TV crews, reporters and photographers surround a podium in the Longworth building that was later used for a press conference with the newly elected House majority leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and majority whip, Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La. SHFWire photo by Megan Card

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