Today marks my last day at MDN. I just popped in for about an hour to produce a story on the repeal of proposition B.
I'm not interested in radio as a career, but I'm glad I was able to immerse myself in another journalism outlet. I believe the more versatile a journalist is and the more outlets he or she has worked in, the more valuable it makes them. I've learned a lot along the way, so take a look at my radio stories and see what I've got to show for it!
The semester is quickly coming to an end and today marks one of my last days at MDN. With one more day left, I've been working on finishing up my story on the repeal of Prop. B.
This semester has been rewarding to say the least. I've learned things I didn't even expect to learn. Working hands on, communicating with "strangers" on a daily basis to pull a story together and trying to get ahold of different people has been the most rewarding learning experience. I've been able to develop my own journalistic style and figure out some tricks and strategies that work best for me, whether it be getting a hold of people, writing stories, searching for story ideas, etc. Through trial and tribulation, I've got a sense of my boundaries and I've learned there aren't any as far as tackling a story goes. I've done things I didn't think I was capable of doing because I pushed myself, I pushed past my comfort zone. And looking back on how much I've grown, the stories I've produced and my all around accomplishments gives me the most rewarding sense of satisfaction.
I learned another valuable lesson today... always be optimistic. It was a slow news day, so I figured I could do an extensive story on the repeal of Prop. B. Senator Bill Stouffer proposed the repeal of Prop. B and I thought it would be great to get ahold of him for my story. I almost didn't call him, becuase I figured he would be impossible to reach- most politicians usually are, especially the ones who are in the spotlight. However, I convinced myself to give it a shot anyway. I called his office and to my surprise, his staff invited me to go to his office at 3 p.m. for an exclusive interview. Phill was so proud of me! And, if you've worked for Phill, you know it's a good feeling to make Phill happy ; ) Stouffer invited me into his office, doors closed and we talked for nearly 30 minutes about Prop. B and the repeal. It was great, I got some good sound bites and learned a valuable lesson- never doubt anything. You never know until you try and as a journalist, you've just gotta go for it, because if you don't-someone else might beat you to it.
I shoul've known better, because about 3 months ago I was working a nightside reporting shift for KOMU and I needed an interview with a judge for my story. Working nightside can be tough, especially when you're doing a story where you need to get ahold of an official. Most officials are out of the office by 5 p.m. I had no luck in getting ahold of anyone. But, I kept trying and you know I got in contact with anyway? Not a judge, but a supreme court judge. At 8 p.m., Missouri Supreme Court Judge Mike Wolff called me on my cell and gave me an interview. As many people out there don't want to talk to journalists, there are plenty who do. So, no matter what- always give it a shot, just in case!
Continuing research on the homeless youth today and haven't found a whole lot just yet. Still calling people and looking for a story. I'm hoping to stumble across something interesting.
Missouri State Auditor, Susan Montee, released an audit today in a press conference and I attended that. The audit was on the Missouri Technology Corporation. Montee said she and her staff found several issues involving conflict of interest with board members. Montee said after she and her staff members began the audit, MTC later put into place a conflict of interest policy in June 2009. She also said they found issues with misuse of money, involving travel expenses. The corporation also did not meet it's goal of securing investments in technology-based companies.
Montee described the audit process as a painful and unpleasant experience, describing MTC as hostile. She also went on to talk a bit about her future post-auditor plans. It sounds like she's dabbling with the idea of executive director or chairman of the Democratic party. She said, "I've been a member of that group for a long timea nd I share the thought with a lot of the state party members that there needs to be some changes and it really comes down to the state party, what direction they'd like to go."
The press conference was held in Montee's office where about seven members of the media attended. With no mult box to plug in the marantz, I just held the microphone out for audio and to my surprise, the audio didn't turn out too terribly; it was actually usuable!
I have found in my time here at the Capital that when working on stories, you expect to find something, but you almost always find some new unexpected information about a story. Last week I was working on a story about the Environmental Protection Agency and some pesticide companies in Union, Missouri. The pesticide companies and the EPA had reached a civil settlement where the companies agreed to pay the EPA $51,850 for violating federal pesticide regulations in 2005 and 2008. The companies will also pay an additional $22,712 civil penalty that had gone unpaid by the previous owners of the company.
I got in contact with the EPA and the owners of the pesticide companies. The EPA basically told me what their press release said and so I went on to get the other side of the story and spoke with the owner of the pestide companies. The owner told me they had been selling a pesticide that was registered by the EPA, but then the EPA had unregistred the product without notifying the company, so they were continuing to unknowingly sell this unregistered pesticide product. This was great news for me as a reporter, because I knew I had the opportunity for a deeper version of this story. I wondered how accessible the EPA made the list of registered and unregistered pesticides and if other businesses had been faced with the same problems. I learned if a "boring" press release comes in, always dig deeper, because you just might find an interesting story.
The toughest part of reporting is getting ahold of people. In a perfect world, all contacts would be readily available, but that's not the case.
I'm working on a Susan Montee campaign profile piece and it's been nearly impossible to get quotes from people. One of Montee's opponents, Libertarian Charles Baum was the only source I was able to get to. He told me despite Montee's qualifications, (background as a lawyer, CPA, and her past three and a half years as Missouri's State Auditor) her qualifications don't matter. He said he doesn' t think Montee is the one running out and doing the audits. He said Montee has a lot of people working under her and he sees the State Auditor as someone who is orchestrating the audits, rather than than doing them.
The problem with having Baum as my only source is that the story then seems to be about Baum, rather than Montee- when the entire basis of the assignment is to creat a profile of Montee.
Montee served on the 1998 St. Joseph City Council and I contacted all council members from that year, including the mayor- only to come to another dead end. No callbacks, no interviews, no quotes, no story. I'll just keep calling until someone decides to speak with me.
I was assigned my first feature story today, but I'm still trying to figure out what exactly it's going to be about. I researched some interesting topics, including issues with adoptions and home schooling regulations. I'm thinking with the research I have accomplished today, I will most likely end up working on a feature story with some type of an adoption angle- this has been the toughest part of today.
I've learned that sometimes you can't jump into a story with an already assumed angle, because it may not even exist. What I mean by this is I had planned to do a feature story on adoption agencies having trouble placing children with disabilities and after making many phone calls, I found that it is actually not an issue. So, now I'm working on a new angle.
The number one thing that I have realized in these past two weeks is, I've got to work faster! I know this will come with time, especially since I'm still new and waste a lot of time just figuring out how to use some of the equipment.
Deadlines are so important in journalism and I'm really eager to advance to the point where I can work at a fast pace while still paying attention to the quality of my work.
One of the major things that set me back on time is getting interviews. Today I spent an immense amount of time calling people, leaving voicemails and waiting for them to call me back and tracking down the right sources that when it came down to the nitty gritty, I was in a time crunch to get my audio recorded, edited and my three wraps written. Everyday brings a new lesson!
Missouri Digital News is produced by Missouri Digital News, Inc. -- a non profit organization of current and former journalists.