By 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.
Plan. 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.