Posted 05/02/2011: It was 9:47 when my mother texted me, "osama bin laden is dead."
What? I couldn't believe it. In fact, I didn't believe it for an hour or so. I figured there was a place I could turn to that would give me some insight: twitter. I logged on to twitter and literally every single tweet was about the terrorist leader's death. Could this be real? I still was skeptical. I anxiously awaited President Obama's press conference with the hope that I would get more information. I did. I looked at my twitter a couple more times and got even more information about the death and the world's reaction. Here in Columbia, celebrations began. Fireworks, chants, and mobs ensued in the streets. For my parent's generation it was the Berlin Wall coming down. For mine,
it is Osama bin Laden's death. I will remember where I was, how I
reacted, and how the rest of the world reacted. I know I'm supposed to remain neutral, but I couldn't help feel that justice had prevailed and felt overwhelming admiration for those who bravely carried out the operation, and those serving our country. While at the event, I managed to send out a couple of tweets and twitpics about what was going on. Apparently, others did to. Our celebration ended up on CNN and NBC, as well as in the local news. I went from tweeting about the news to being a part of the news. This goes to show how twitter is becoming a more viable way for journalists to find stories and reach a very local audience. Over the course of eight hours, virtual every newspaper has a front-page story about bin Laden's death; every website has a story. This begs the question, did this start with a tweet?
On Tuesday I covered Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder's news release about his travel costs. Kinder had spent over $35,000 for hotels in the St. Louis area since 2006.In the news release Kinder said he will pay back the money and doesn't want to have an ounce of suspicion on his record. Many lawmakers as well as Missourians seem highly interested in this, seeing as it came just one month after the Gov. Nixon's travel expense controversey. But, Rep. Jamilah Nasheed D-St. Louis wants to see more of a focus on Missouri's economy and job creation. At a time when government shutdown is looming, it seems pertinent to focus on this, and other important government matters instead of how lawmakers are spending money, especially when Kinder said he will pay back the money. In no way am I saying the way government officials spend taxpayer's dollars isn't important, but rather saying it seems like a lot more people care about this over other issues like Prop. B or funeral protesting. More people will focus in on the negative things an official does and remember those things rather than praise the person for good things.
On Thursday I went to a public hearing about a bill that would make members of the St. Louis police department pay more out of their salaries for pensions. Just about every representative from St. Louis was in attendance. The fact that I can recognize representatives and even know some of their names impresses me. On another slightly unrelated note is the fact that I can tell my mom and friends interesting political things that happen at Missouri's Capitol that will potentially affect them. I digress. Anyway, back to the St. Louis police department. I was initially confused about the bill, the jargon seemed to read like some sort of business textbook. After going back and trying to figure out what was going on, I still was confused. I finally came to my senses and went to visit the sponsor of the bill. He was more than willing to talk to me about what the bill was about, as well as where he sees it going further the road. There are some times, not just at the capitol but in general, where I will be confused about something and need clarification. I've finally learned that this it is perfectly ok, as long as I seek clarification and am about to present the news to listeners in a concise manner.
AP says it is the fifth largest since 1990, CNN says it caused "tremendous damage", President Obama says the U.S. will help.
The coverage of this huge earthquake in Japan has been extremely uncensored. While watching CNN before my morning class, I see the damage, I see people crouching down, bracing for the aftershocks, I see goods in grocery stores falling of shelves, I see the aftermath of this natural disaster. Overall, the journalists seem very sensitive when reporting about these issues. No one is shoving his/her camera in a person's face or pressing for answers. The few, if any, ways to improve this coverage could be telling (or showing) the audience how the missing people will be found, ways for others to help (overseas), and the next steps for recovery.
While Japan is feeling the aftermath of this earthquake, a man feels the aftermath of losing his son five years ago.
On Tuesday, I will interview a gentlemen whose son was defending our country when he was killed. The Westboro Baptist Church threatened to picket at his son's funeral. For reporting on this issue, much like reporting on a large disaster, sensitivity is crucial.
The lesson learned is no matter what nation a journalist goes to, or event a journalist covers, or years passed since the event happened, a good journalist must be able to sense the delicate nature of the issue, adapt to the environment, and focus the story.
There's a time and a place to press for more answers, but life-changing events require a different type of reporting. Even when the initial event is over and the chaos ceases, the aftershocks are still felt...and they still hurt.
Another issue discussed Thursday has received national attention. What am I talking about? Funeral protesting. Two days ago the U.S. Supreme Court ruled damages for a civil lawsuit, or suing someone (or a group) for emotional stress is not a viable argument in court. In an 8-1 decision the high court said the first amendment protects funeral protesting. In Missouri's House, lawmakers want to place restrictions on picketers. Some of these restrictions include not protesting within 500 feet of a funeral two hours before and two hours after the event. The bill got overwhelming approval seeing as only 14 representatives voted against it. The bill goes to the Senate now. This issue of funeral protesting is something very interesting to me that I hope to cover in the future. The nature of the issue makes it imperative to respect people's arguments against and for protesting while getting the real story.
Finally, I had my first live report (I'm not really sure what to call it) to KCOU on Thursday. It nerve-wracking but gave me some good experience. For next time, I think I need to remember to breathe while I am reading my story.
As Gary Grigsby wisely said, "Technology will make you crazy." I had this first-hand experience while at the House speaker's press conference.
After the Thursday House session I waited for the press conference thinking I would get some insight into the recently discussed and passed bills. I had a story lead and wanted to run with it, and I knew this could be a great opportunity to hear not only House Speaker Tilley, but also the House Floor Leader and legislators sponsoring various bills. I hurriedly set my mrantz, the audio levels looked good, my microphone was set up, and the red light was on. I was recording. I was so immersed into everything that was being discussed, rising gas prices, the Governor's travel budget, farmer's legislation..., that I did not realize my recorder stopped working. So, what to do now. I let myself freak out for five minutes and then I went on with life. Yes, my story would have been great with the extra sound bite but, there are some things that cannot be changed.
After the technology tried to bring me down, I went back to the newsroom and tried to produce some stories and decipher what I learned while in the House. The recurring theme for me this week was confusion. The issue is, I get slightly confused about the legal jargon found in bills, most would. The solution to this, Phill nicely explained to me is very simple: just ask the legislator sponsoring the bill what is going on. That is it. And if I still don't get it, ask another legislator, and then another. I am glad this is something I am capable of fixing for next time and will not happen again.
Outside of the Capitol the weather was getting kind of nasty. It was sleeting/snowing/raining. Phill and the TAs wanted us to get safely back to Columbia so we left rather early in the day.
On Tuesday I covered the House session. This is my third time in the House so I'm starting to feel a little more comfortable reporting about what is going on. The only struggle I face is always remembering to write down who says what. It is almost like a game of hide and seek. Someone goes to a microphone, speaks about x bill or x resolution, and I have to follow that person with my eyes until they go to their respective seat. Once at his/her seat, I have to quickly look at the seating chart we have, get the information such as district number and name, then look at the other pamphlet we have showing pictures of the legislators to make sure everything matches up. Phew.
The key is to remember what legislators look like, where they sit, and to never guess who is speaking. On Tuesday I had a good sound bite from a legislator arguing against the resolution to submit an official application from Missouri for the calling of a federal amendment convention. But, I wasn't quick enough and couldn't figure out who he was. So, I couldn't use the bite. I do however think I am getting better at identifying legislators, but only time will tell.
While in the House I really enjoyed listening to the debate that lasted for one hour and 44 minutes. It was interesting to hear the pros and cons of the resolution I mentioned earlier. I have never heard debate quite like this so it was interesting to listen and try to learn the major components of what was going on.
I am interested to see what happens with this resolution. (And hoping my voice returns for Tuesday).