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

Mar 3, 2014

 

Click on photo to enlarge or download: I prepare to escape through an air duct at the International Spy Museum. The mission was tough, but nonetheless, I made it out. SHFWire photo by Cathryn WalkerClick on photo to enlarge or download: I prepare to escape through an air duct at the International Spy Museum. The mission was tough, but nonetheless, I made it out. SHFWire photo by Cathryn WalkerBy Alejandro Alba

I crawled through an air duct to escape the high-security prison in Ankara, Turkey. The guards were in pursuit. I tried disappearing into the shadows and making my way through the crowds. At last, I was able to make it through the International Spy Museum in Washington.

I took on the alias of Colin Walker, an 18-year-old art student from England, when I visited the spy museum this weekend. It is an interactive museum that had me thinking twice about every object on display.

Cameras, audio transmitters, trackers and weapons were disguised in everyday objects. An umbrella could turn into a rifle, a coat was a camera and a pen turned into a dagger. The most fascinating disguise was what I thought was dog feces, but it wasn’t. It was actually an audio transmitter. Very clever – no one would touch it. If someone were to step on it, well, I don’t know who it would be more unfortunate for, the spy or the person who got poop on his or her shoe.

Pigeons were also used in the spy profession as messengers and flying cameras. They were given names and medals, which I find impressive. I usually think of pigeons as useless birds that poop on everything. Nobody likes pigeons. However, looking at the aerial photography they took, it changed my perspective for a moment.

Some museum exhibits tell stories that that date to 1446. It was interesting to see how the act of espionage changed throughout the centuries. The most interesting, however, was the 20th century, when all the clever gadgets like those we see in James Bond or Mission Impossible movies were used.

A James Bond exhibit featured the 50 years of Bond movie villains.

Another part of that exhibit simulated the experience of hanging on the edge of a building or an airplane in flight. As I held onto the bar, wind blew in my face. The goal was to last for a minute. I lasted 24 seconds, but that is because my ring was bothering me and my hands were really sweaty. I swear I could have lasted the minute.

Click on photo to enlarge or download: I try the Bond challenge of hanging for a minute from a bar while wind blew in my face. Unfortunately, I failed, but only because I wasn’t ready. SHFWire photo by Cathryn WalkerClick on photo to enlarge or download: I try the Bond challenge of hanging for a minute from a bar while wind blew in my face. Unfortunately, I failed, but only because I wasn’t ready. SHFWire photo by Cathryn WalkerWith all the suspenseful music playing in the background, the high-tech devices on display, the interactive spy challenges and the fake name, I came out of the museum feeling like a spy. I now want to write everything in code, throw pigeons off the office balcony to send my messages and crawl through air ducts to get in and out of buildings. Then again, it’s the 21st century. We have iPhones. No need for secret ink on paper.

Mar 3, 2014

Click on photo to enlarge or download: International spies Colin Walker and Angelena Falcone pose for their head shots at the International Spy Museum. They did not get caught on their mission. Photo by International Spy MuseumClick on photo to enlarge or download: International spies Colin Walker and Angelena Falcone pose for their head shots at the International Spy Museum. They did not get caught on their mission. Photo by International Spy Museum

By Cathryn Walker

This weekend I became Angelena Falcone, an Italian spy on a mission to defeat villains in Vietnam.

At the International Spy Museum, I was given an alias spy name and background story to follow. I was a 21-year-old travel agent from Mirano, Italy, headed to Hanoi, Vietnam, for 30 days. I decided to fully embrace my new identity.

Each exhibit showed how creative the art of spying can be, or rather, was. What I found most interesting was how spying techniques have changed so drastically due to advances in technology. Last week, I wrote a story this exact issue.

Almost anyone can become a spy of some sort now because of easy and cheap access to information. I attended a discussion at which surveillance experts analyzed how cheap digital data is making privacy a thing of the past.

For example, law enforcement officers can now track cell phone data through a strategy called  tower dumping. The process allows police to collect data without a warrant from phones within a certain radius of a cellphone tower for as low as four cents an hour. Government agencies can also collect Internet traffic data and email information from users for a very low price.

There’s no need to train a carrier pigeon to fly with a camera on its back or hire a spy to physically follow someone if you can gain an unlimited amount of tracking information via the Internet.  

Police and government agencies are not the only ones who can take advantage of digital spying. Computer hackers are grabbing information from everyday consumers at an increasing rate. Security breaches are occurring more often than ever before. In the last few months, data breaches at major corporations, including Target, Neiman Marcus and Michaels, have cost banks millions of dollars.

The University of Maryland College Park is paying for five years of identity theft protection for 300,000 students, faculty and staff whose Social Security numbers and names were copied. On Monday Detroit said its security system was hacked and personal information for 1,700 employees was compromised.

The museum exhibit made me question whether the era of physically spying on others is a thing of the past. Maybe this century’s James Bond will be a man in a computer lab licensed to code  rather than licensed to kill.

 

Feb 27, 2014

Three things are undeniable when it comes to women in politics: they are the minority, they are relatively new in the playing field, and they will play a big role in the upcoming midterm and presidential elections. 

For all candidates, media coverage can make or break campaigns; but for women, undue negative impact can come as a result of gendered coverage.   

This was the focus of the “Pitfalls and Possibilities of Covering Female Candidates” discussion Tuesday hosted by Women, Action and the Media in Washington, D.C.   

With the buzz -- or ringing, rather -- surrounding Hillary Clinton’s possible presidential run, the panel tackled some of the complications of covering female candidates, what research shows about the media’s impact on their campaigns, and frankly, how not to ruin it for Clinton in 2016.   

 

Click on image to enlarge or download: Democrat Jennifer Boysko, who ran unsuccessfully for the 86th district seat in the Virginia House of Delegates, and also a panelist, talked about running as a female candidate. SHFWire photo by Melhor M. LeonorClick on image to enlarge or download: Democrat Jennifer Boysko, who ran unsuccessfully for the 86th district seat in the Virginia House of Delegates, and also a panelist, talked about running as a female candidate. SHFWire photo by Melhor M. LeonorWearing a fitted black dress  

Erin Cutraro is the recently-named executive director of She Should Run, a think-tank dedicated to increasing the number of women in public leadership. During the discussion, Cutraro cited research that shows that talking about a woman’s physical appearance -- regardless of the tone -- is detrimental to the candidate's voter approval.   

“We know unequivocally that ... appearance coverage damages women in their campaigns,” Cutraro said.   

She is referring to news items that highlight female politicians’ appearance, particularly in a way that is typically not done for men.   

In case you need a refresher, let’s remember the recent New York Times Magazine’s “Can Wendy Davis Have it All?” profile on the Democratic Texas senator, where in the first four paragraphs the author manages to squeeze in her emblematic pink running shoes, her “fitted black dress and high heels” and her marriage, twice.   

Or Newsweek’s article on Sarah Palin, which describes her “dressed in a button-down shirt, fitted jeans, and a beaded belt with a big red buckle.”   

Then there is also what political commentators have said on air during news programing on Hillary ClintonChristine O’Donnell, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and others.   

Cutraro said part of the reason why attention to physical appearance can be detrimental is because women have to work harder to prove they have the required qualifications.    

“Women are coming to the table, when they are running for office, already facing a higher hill to climb,” Cutraro said. “Women are held to a higher standard, a higher need to tilt their qualifications in a way that men don't, and they need to lead with their qualifications. Pair these two things together and it’s another barrier women are facing to advancing.”   

 

What is fair game?   

The panelists also discussed the media’s at times unbalanced attention to the personal lives of female politicians.   

Pelosiformer speaker of the House, said she was repeatedly questioned about who would take care of her children -- the youngest a teenager then -- when she stepped up to the speaker role.  

Democrat Jennifer Boysko, who ran unsuccessfully for the 86th district seat in the Virginia House of Delegates, and also a panelist, talked about what is often called “the mommy trap.”  

“Women who don't have children are deemed as soulless, and they don’t care about children; but darn it if you're a mom then it’s why aren't you at home taking care of your kids?” Boysko said, who is a mother of two. “You're damned if you do and dammed if you don't.”   

Boysko said that being a mother gives her a perspective “that is different than a 70 year old man.” But Cutraro said that when it comes to covering this aspect of a politician’s life, it’s about striking a careful balance and making clear that “that isn’t the story alone.”   

But when is it okay to draw attention to a female politician’s appearance and personal life? The panel overwhelmingly agreed on what the Women’s Media Center calls the “rule of reversibility.”  

“Don't mention her young children unless you would also mention his, or describe her clothes unless you would describe his, or say she's shrill or attractive unless the same adjectives would be applied to a man. Don’t say she's had facial surgery unless you say he dyes his hair or has hair plugs,” WMC co-founder Gloria Steinem said in a statement. 

The panelists also talked about the difference between talking about Chris Christie's weight, and the physical appearance of a female candidate.   

“It’s not simply a superficial matter, it’s about health,” Huffington Post politics reporter Sabrina Siddiqui said.   

There are very few women, if any, that are -- frankly -- as overweight as the New Jersey governor and have tried to run for high-level office. The panelist didn’t take this item on further, but I would like to note that if you think the attention to Christie's weight is cruel, just image a 300 pound female trying to run for a place in the national spotlight. I can already hear the cowbells. That is why right now, few would even try.   

Moderator of the panel and associate editor at Talking Points Memo Kay Steiger said she often sees the difficulties for journalists in deciding what details to include or leave out.   

“As a reporter and a writer, these details can make... a story sing,” Steiger said.   

Saddiqui said that while writing about female politicians, her time to use these details hasn’t come yet.   

“I personally haven't found an appropriate time to talk about what she was wearing,” Siddiqui said. “Unless you find an appropriate place, I tend to steer on the side of “it’s not relevant.’”  

In the end, for members of the media, the lesson is to ask ourselves what the news value is on anything we report. The lives and appearance of female politicians on or off the campaign trail is no exception.

Feb 18, 2014

 Click on photo to enlarge or download: Posing on the balcony of the Newseum overlooking the Capitol, I felt proud to call myself a journalist. SHFWire photo by Caitlin TurnerClick on photo to enlarge or download: Posing on the balcony of the Newseum overlooking the Capitol, I felt proud to call myself a journalist. SHFWire photo by Caitlin TurnerBy Cathryn Walker

The past week has been a mixture of highs and lows, with warm, spring-like days followed by a chilly snowfall.

Both conditions brought about memorable experiences.

On a beautiful day I made my first trip to the Newseum, and the experience lived up to the rave reviews and my high expectations. Every floor of the museum was not only fascinating but also inspirational.

The 9/11 exhibit was one of my favorites, possibly because it highlighted a moment in history that I consciously lived through. Even though I was only 8 years old when the twin towers were hit, I remember slowly realizing that something unusually tragic had happened in New York that affected the entire country. Still, I didn’t understand the magnitude of the attack.

Looking back at the tragedy almost 13 years later as an adult was surreal and allowed me to analyze 9/11 with a different perspective. I think I learned more during my time at the Newseum than I did when it happened. My teachers and parents didn’t want to scare me.   

I respect and admire the journalists who ran toward danger so they could share with the world what was happening.

The Newseum also provided light-hearted and fun exhibits, which is why I’m glad I took two days to explore all of them. The entire museum truly reiterates my journalist desire.

Click on photo to enlarge or download: Rain gear protects my equipment as I take pictures of the Dupont Circle snow sculpture contest. My favorite sculptures were the Hipster Snowman and Snobama. SHFWire photo by Melhor LeonorClick on photo to enlarge or download: Rain gear protects my equipment as I take pictures of the Dupont Circle snow sculpture contest. My favorite sculptures were the Hipster Snowman and Snobama. SHFWire photo by Melhor LeonorLater in the week temperatures plunged, and the Washington area received 8.6 inches of snow. I braved the chill to cover a very entertaining snow sculpture contest in Dupont Circle.

I was impressed with the community’s creativity shown through the contestants' snow creations, and I was  impressed with how chipper people were in the nasty weather.

While inches of snow coated the ground, sleet was also falling, making the cold weather even more frigid. Coming from Texas, I have never reported in such conditions so it was a big learning experience for me. I was balancing between keeping the camera equipment dry and trying to prevent my own body from freezing. The positive energy from the participants definitely helped make a cold situation warmer.

Although I enjoyed covering the story, I hope I won’t have to brave that kind of weather again soon. I’m looking forward to more high-temperature experiences!

 

Feb 14, 2014

 

Click on photo to enlarge or download: Here I am behind the podium of the White House Press Briefing Room. I waited behind more than 10 French reporters to get this picture. The French reporter who took it was very nice, but he did not speak English. SHFWire photoClick on photo to enlarge or download: Here I am behind the podium of the White House Press Briefing Room. I waited behind more than 10 French reporters to get this picture. The French reporter who took it was very nice, but he did not speak English. SHFWire photoBy Caitlin Turner

My golden ticket to the White House came this week.

After losing two coin tosses against my fellow interns and being the slowest person to email my boss about going to White House events, it was finally my turn to go to the president’s house.

To say I was excited was an understatement because not only was I about to see Barack Obama and President Francois Hollande of France, but I had also seen the first lady a few days earlier at an event.

Obama held a press conference Tuesday in the White House East Room with the French president during the State Visit.

I was nervous about getting into the building and holding my own among the other reporters.

When I arrived at the White House gate, I buzzed through security and was told to walk up the driveway to the briefing room. As I walked, I tried to take in the moment of being on the White House grounds, feeling like a cool reporter with my press badge and trying to calm myself down so no one would know I was an intern.

I had heard from my fellow interns that it was relatively easy to make friends in the press room because most people understand what it is like to be new and have no idea what you are doing.

I thought, “Maybe I’ll make a new friend, perhaps someone who works at the New York Times.”

Well, there was a bit of a logistical problem with that.

I don’t speak a lick of French. Some days, I can barely get by with English.

So when I walked into the briefing room, you can imagine my surprise when I found native English speakers to be the minority. Of the hundred journalists in the room, I would say about 95 of them were French.

Click on photo to enlarge or download: President Barack Obama smiles as a French reporter asks him whether he likes Great Britain or France better. “First of all, I have two daughters,” Obama said. “And they are both gorgeous and wonderful, and I would never choose between them. And that’s how I feel about my outstanding European partners.” SHFWire photo by Caitlin TurnerClick on photo to enlarge or download: President Barack Obama smiles as a French reporter asks him whether he likes Great Britain or France better. “First of all, I have two daughters,” Obama said. “And they are both gorgeous and wonderful, and I would never choose between them. And that’s how I feel about my outstanding European partners.” SHFWire photo by Caitlin TurnerI barely found a seat and waited until we were allowed to go upstairs to the East Room. It was nice not to be the only new person to the White House. At least all of the French reporters wanted to have their  pictures taken with everything too.

Someone from the press office finally came downstairs and escorted us to the East Room. It still blows my mind that I was allowed to walk in, just like that.

Once we got there, it was very much an “every man for himself” situation. People were pushing and bumping each other to get the best view of the podium.

To my delight, I was able to set up my tripod and thereby, “claim my land,” relatively easily and get to work.

During the entire press conference, I was about 10 feet away from both presidents. There are no words to describe how cool it was to see Obama interacting with the press. Sometimes, he even called reporters by name.

It all ended entirely too quickly, and as I was escorted off the grounds, I hoped that this was not my last visit to the White House. Something tells me it wasn’t. 

 

Feb 11, 2014

Click on photo to enlarge or download: Here I am posing next to the legendary Ron Burgundy from “Anchorman” at the Newseum’s “Anchorman” exhibit. SHFWire photo by Cathryn Walker.Click on photo to enlarge or download: Here I am posing next to the legendary Ron Burgundy from “Anchorman” at the Newseum’s “Anchorman” exhibit. SHFWire photo by Cathryn Walker.By Alejandro Alba 

Ron Burgundy and I are friends now. We spent all day Friday reporting and posing with epic stances in front of the Capitol. Well, not really. I posed with a poster of him at the “Anchorman” exhibit and I did a fake standup at the NBC News Interactive Newsroom. Nonetheless, it was an amazing day. 

I was able to pay a visit to the Newseum this weekend and it was everything I wanted and more. The Newseum was filled with historic events in journalism that inspired me and at times made me emotional – I did not cry, though.  

My favorite exhibits turned out to be the Pulitzer Prize Photography Gallery and the 9/11 Gallery. I never thought that I would go into the museum and feel depressed. Usually I feel smarter and more cultured when I visit a museum.   

The photography exhibit was filled with powerful images of people being victims of hate crimes, natural disasters, or even war. Occasionally there was heartwarming photography of acts of kindness.  

The most powerful photograph I saw was taken in Sudan by photographer Kevin Carter. The photograph he sold to the New York Times was of a starving child lying on the floor while a hooded vulture stood a few feet away ready to take its prey.  

The photograph is filled with symbols of death. We have the vulture, starvation, and it even foreshadowed the photographer’s fate. 

Carter committed suicide a year later after receiving a lot of criticism over not saving the child – even though he was instructed not to do so because of disease – and then winning the PulitzerThis makes me think of when the lines are blurred between acting like a journalist and having to act like a compassionate human being. It also makes me wonder if I will ever be faced with a critical moment in which I have to let go of objectivity. 

The 9/11 gallery also made me ponder the question of objectivity and safety. 

This exhibit was more focused on the stories of reporters that were on the scene. Most faced a moment where they had to decide whether to chase after the story or run for their own safetyAnother question I asked myself was what are my limits? I really don’t know how far I would go for a story until I’m there.  

Not all exhibits were as touching. Some others were fun and humorous. 

My “love is in the air” standup was horrible. I mean, it was fun to do, but it was horrible. I would never get hired if that was on my reel. I mispronounced things and danced at the end of the clip, but it was meant to be fun and silly. 

I will definitely be going back to the Newseum. It was a great place to be inspired and motivated to become a great journalist.

Feb 4, 2014

By Melhor M. LeonorClick on image to enlarge or download: The island of Hispaniola, divided into Hati and the Dominican Republic. Photo provided by NASA.Click on image to enlarge or download: The island of Hispaniola, divided into Hati and the Dominican Republic. Photo provided by NASA. 

Let me start with this disclaimer: I am Dominican and am an immigrant in the U.S.   

Tuesday, I attended a discussion at the Center for Strategic International Studies on the relationship between the Dominican Republic and Haiti; recent developments in Dominican law pushed the topic of immigration to center stage.   

Much like the United States, the Dominican Republic has long grappled with illegal immigration across its only land border, which the country shares with Haiti. It’s one small island – 29,530 square miles to be exact – divided unevenly between the two nations.   

Puzzling is one word to describe the stark contrast on each side of the border. The Dominican Republic, while containing a large number of poor, has seen growth in agriculture and tourism for decades. Haiti’s soil is largely unfarmable, and high levels of crime detract from its marketability as a tourist destination. Adding insult to injury, the 2011 earthquake that struck Haiti left little for its people to survive, much less thrive on.   

It is then no surprise that thousands of Haitians, millions over decades, have crossed into the Dominican Republic looking for work. For the most part, these immigrants are extremely poor, uneducated, and now conform as much as 10 percent of the total population of the Dominican Republic. 

And now, here we are. In September 2013, the highest court in the Dominican Republic ruled that Dominican citizenship only belonged to those with at least one Dominican parent. The ruling will apply retroactively – those born in Dominican soil to undocumented parents will in essence inherit their parents’ illegal status.   

Anibal de Castro, Dominican ambassador to the United States, defended the ruling at the discussion, conducted in Spanish, before a few opponents.   

De Castro’s arguments: the ruling is only an interpretation of existing laws and the Dominican Republic is sovereign and can decide how to deal with its immigration issues.   

He compared the issues the Dominican Republic is facing with immigration in Canada and the United States.   

In Canada, he said, most of the population lives by the border, with many more resources than those of our small, shared island.   

“Is immigration a problem for Canada? No,” De Castro said. “Immigration does present a problem for the Dominican Republic.”   

He then juxtaposed the number of immigrants in the U.S. to those in the Dominican Republic. Currently, the undocumented population in the Dominican Republic is estimated as roughly 10 percent. Translated to America, that would equate to 30 million undocumented immigrants. The discussion in the United States continues to intensify over 11.7 million.   

But take a look at the other side of the coin. The retroactive nature of the ruling affects three generations of Haitians in the Dominican Republic. Think America without the 14th amendment, where children born to undocumented parents are left without a way to obtain essential documents such as passports and identification cards.   

De Castro affirmed that no Haitians have been deported or have had their citizenship taken away. Domestic and International cries have prompted the government to begin the “Plan de Regularization, or regularization plan, to assist Haitians in obtaining legal status in the Dominican Republic. This week, though, leaders from both countries agreed that Haiti would have to provide these immigrants with passports and other documents.   

Thousands of them are not able to read or write.   

The U.S. is clearly not the only country grappling with issues relating to immigration. Globalization has given way to migration in large numbers and now countries experiencing large influxes have no option but to question its effect on its territory. In the end, immigration is half a question of politics and economics, and half a question of identity. Nationalism versus economic viability.

Feb 3, 2014

 

Click on photo to enlarge or download: Here I am with the other Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns as we waited to get into the House Press Gallery. By this time, I had been hanging out in the press gallery all day. Photo by a House Press Gallery staff memberClick on photo to enlarge or download: Here I am with the other Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns as we waited to get into the House Press Gallery. By this time, I had been hanging out in the press gallery all day. Photo by a House Press Gallery staff memberBy Caitlin Turner

I remember sitting in my high school government class and thinking, “This whole Capitol Hill thing seems simple. Republicans and Democrats argue. Someone wins. The end.”

That isn’t exactly the case.

As a political junkie, I’ve reported on state and local politics in Ohio, so I thought I had this whole, “bill becomes a law” thing figured out. I was wrong.

While there are some similarities, reporting on the House or Senate involves a greater understanding of not only how the process of government works but also how politics ties in.

Back in Athens, Ohio, I reported on the city council. It was easy because in Athens, the entire council is composed of Democrats. The largest argument I ever heard any of them have was whether homeowners could keep chickens as pets.

The House is a different animal. It is majority Republican, but I quickly found out that being in the minority does not stop Democrats from debating the merits of a bill.

As I sat in the House Press Gallery all day to report on the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” I watched hours of debate before the final vote.

The House passed the bill, which now goes to the Senate. I doubt it will go much farther because Democrats appear to be strongly opposed. No Democrat voted for the bill in the House.

On the same day, I watched the president deliver his State of the Union speech. From the standing-room-only section of the gallery, I could only see President Barack Obama walk in and out of the chamber. Darn my short legs, one day I will grow.

It didn’t really matter though because seeing the reactions of the members of Congress was the most entertaining part of the speech. When people talk about the division between the parties, they aren’t kidding.

Unless it was something about soldiers or the president’s mention John Boehner, Republicans hardly ever stood to clap.

The entire experience was something I will never forget. Rubbing shoulders with reporters from the New York Times, the Washington Post and other notable new outlets was great (especially since I just went for fun, I didn’t report on the speech except to tweet).

I can only hope that this will not be the last State of the Union speech I attend. Just being in the same room as the president, the first lady and Willie Robertson from “Duck Dynasty” was such a privilege.

 

Jan 31, 2014

 

Click on photo to enlarge or download: Andra Rush, CEO of Detroit Manufacturing Systems, says that being recognized by President Barack Obama was "amazing." SHFWire photo by Cathryn WalkerClick on photo to enlarge or download: Andra Rush, CEO of Detroit Manufacturing Systems, says that being recognized by President Barack Obama was "amazing." SHFWire photo by Cathryn WalkerBy Cathryn Walker

Last week I applied for graduation. Cue the dramatic music.

The last four years I have been counting down to the distant month of May 2014, but now it’s  creeping up on me. Friday, I received a certificate congratulating me that my business minor is complete. My degree audit shows that I am 100 percent finished with my studies. None of these announcements surprised me, but seeing them on paper was still surreal.

Despite feeling nervous, fearful and excited, witnessing my college career coming to a close makes me feel even more fortunate that I am spending my final semester in Washington.

This week I attended events in Washington that I would never be able to attend anywhere else. A  friend texted me to ask what my favorite part of living in Washington is so far, and I replied, the opportunities. 

On Tuesday, I attended the President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address, where I was surrounded by other established journalists. I even ended up sitting next to one from Texas. Last year when I was watching the address from home on TV, I would never have guessed I would  be in the Capitol this year. Listening to the speech and live-tweeting it was invigorating and made the five-hour wait in the press gallery worth it!

Click on photo to enlarge or download: Holly Smith, a human trafficking victim, says she would not have been able to turn her life around had it not been for her teachers. SHFWire photo by Cathryn WalkerClick on photo to enlarge or download: Holly Smith, a human trafficking victim, says she would not have been able to turn her life around had it not been for her teachers. SHFWire photo by Cathryn WalkerThe day after the State of the Union, I interviewed Andra Rush, an entrepreneurial business woman whom the president mentioned as an example in his speech and who sat with first lady Michelle Obama. After founding a successful trucking company, Rush opened Detroit Manufacturing Systems Ltd. in 2012. After its first year of operations, the company became the largest manufacturing employer in the city in decades, providing jobs for hundreds of unemployed people. After talking with her, I understand why she was chosen to represent an example of hard work and determination.

This week I also attended a hearing that addressed concerns with sex trafficking at the Super Bowl. Representatives and charities discussed strategies to combat the sex trade while Holly Smith, a victim of child sex trafficking, spoke about education tools that can prevent experiences like hers. I admire both women’s stories and couldn’t help but feel inspired.

Access to these exclusive stories represents how education goes so much further than the classroom.

Although my semester will also be filled with the anxiety of submitting job applications, scheduling graduation photos and ordering my cap and gown, having this experience in Washington away from the routine of campus life is a relief. I know my time in Washington is one of the best ways to develop skills necessary for the post-grad world, no matter how unsure I may feel at times. I’m ready!

Jan 24, 2014

 

Click on photo to enlarge or download: Here I am in front of the U.S. Supreme Court at the end of the March for Life. By now my hands and feet felt like phantom limbs. SHFWire photo by Cathryn WalkerClick on photo to enlarge or download: Here I am in front of the U.S. Supreme Court at the end of the March for Life. By now my hands and feet felt like phantom limbs. SHFWire photo by Cathryn WalkerBy Caitlin Turner

“I’m from Ohio. I can handle this,” is what I told myself as I geared up for the two marches I covered this week in frigid temperatures.

I’m not one to complain about the weather. In Ohio, it can be 65 degrees and sunny one second, and pouring down freezing rain the next. Ohioans are prepared for all of Mother Nature’s quirks.

Yet, when my boss sent us all an email warning about four inches of snow coming our way, I wore flats. Feeling like the smartest person alive, I went to Payless Tuesday morning with Alejandro to get snow boots before we went to shoot video of March for Life groups in front of the White House.

Those boots were the best money I’ve spent in a long time. They would keep me warm(ish) for the remainder of the week.

On Wednesday, I went out to cover the March for Life on the 41st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.

In what felt like 10 layers of clothing, I arrived at the National Mall with a tripod, my camera bag and several pencils because there was a possibility my pens would freeze. The high temperature for that day was about 20 degrees.

I have to say, witnessing the March for Life made me proud to be an American. Whatever you believe about abortion, it is encouraging to see people who are so passionate about something that they travel across the country to protest it.

Click on photo to enlarge or download: I found this tiny snowman outside the Supreme Court holding a sign reading, “I am the Pro-Life Generation.” It seems that even snowmen can demonstrate their First Amendment rights. SHFWire photo by Caitlin TurnerClick on photo to enlarge or download: I found this tiny snowman outside the Supreme Court holding a sign reading, “I am the Pro-Life Generation.” It seems that even snowmen can demonstrate their First Amendment rights. SHFWire photo by Caitlin TurnerAs a journalist, I love the First Amendment. I love it even more when people use it.

Another thing that surprised me about the march was the large number of young people there. I’ve heard people say my generation is anti-social and immune to the news because of all the technology we possess. That we hide behind our keyboards instead of interacting with those around us in person.

But there they were, thousands of teenagers and twenty-somethings, braving the snow and freezing air to support their cause.

This realization helped the feeling that had left my fingers and toes return as I ran along with the march snapping pictures and talking to participants.

Getting back to the office felt like being pushed next to a raging fire, (it was that cold, people).

All of the interns had been out covering the march that day. Each of us returned with material and we got to work writing, editing video and pictures, and putting together audio slideshows.

I am so proud of the end result. We made a beautiful multimedia monster of a story.

I feel like, through the story, I got to know my fellow interns better and we learned how to work as a team. I hope this will set the stage for excellent reporting to come.

In the meantime, I’m going to focus on staying warm and applying for jobs near a beach. This Ohioan is looking for sunny places where the lowest temperature is the drink in her hand.

 

Scripps Howard Foundation Wire
1090 Vermont Ave. N.W. - Suite 1000
Washington, D.C. 20005
202-408-2748