By Jessica Wray
It wasn’t long ago that my college newspaper editor assigned an extremely shy and very scared freshman reporter to cover then-senator Richard Lugar’s discussion with Franklin College students.
The Indiana Republican met with students to talk about education and to answer questions about international relations and his work with former Soviet Union countries to dismantle weapons of mass destruction. But after the discussion, The Franklin, my college’s student newspaper, sent one reporter and one photographer to interview him in a one-on-one meeting.
And my editor elected me to go.
I will never forget how nervous I was walking out of the discussion into the small meeting room where Lugar and his public relations staff were waiting. I had my list of questions and recorder ready to go.
The interview passed in a blur. I remember asking questions, taking notes and nodding. I also painfully recall my voice nervously pitching to unknown high-octave levels. Lugar was incredibly nice to me and patient whenever I tripped over asking a question. He treated me like I was a reporter from any other professional news outlet. He was never condescending. He never once acted as though he didn’t want to be there talking to me. Overall, it was like any other interview I had ever done.
I was writing for my newspaper and Franklin’s student wire service, the Franklin College Statehouse Bureau (now called TheStatehouseFile.com), so I knew my copy would go through two different editors.
I was a ball of nerves and anxiety about the editing process.
But it all ended up being OK. I got good feedback from my student editor and a thorough critique from one of our bureau editors, Eric Bradner, now a reporter at Politico Pro. The finished product had a lot of edits pertaining to story structure and phrasing of transitions, but all the information I had put in was there, and the original framework and set up of quotes was too.
It’s the one story I’ll always remember from my freshman year.
And now I feel like my college career has come full circle.
In my internship in Washington, I think the most memorable story for me will have been getting the chance to cover the Medal of Freedom ceremony – when Lugar was one of 16 people to receive the award.
The ceremony itself, held in the White House East Room, was an incredible event to be able to attend. It was also amazing to have the chance to connect with reporters from Indiana news outlets.
But it was talking to Lugar after the ceremony with the other Hoosier reporters that meant a lot to me. It was like I got a re-do on my first interview with him. It wasn’t a one-on-one meeting, but I was significantly less anxious. My voice sounded much more normal and less like a dog’s squeaky toy.
And as the semester winds down, I know I still have a lot of work ahead of me, but I feel like I’m at peace with my college career coming to a close. I feel like I’ve grown as a reporter from my first Lugar interview to my last one. And I look forward to growing as a journalist even more in the future.