As a new denizen of the inner beltway, I have been partaking of the many activities this city has to offer. The museums, parks and other interesting haunts are cultural salve for someone from the culture-free zone of South Georgia – unless you count Saturday night frat parties on Frat Row!
When I first arrived, everyday was a new adventure. Armed with my pop-up map of DC, I would make my way through the maze of the Metro aimed at a new museum to visit that day. Since being here, I have seen:
The titan plant at the US Botanical Gardens in DC. According to the literature from the USBG, the plant is said to have a strong odor. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, the odor dissipated by the time I visited on 7/22/12. The line was long, but moved quickly. It was an awesome experience. I recall having seen a story on the news about this type of plant before, probably 15 years or more ago. I always wanted to see it. It was worth the wait.
Last evening’s fading light casts its fading rays on the stunning Bartholdi Fountain.
The DC gays threw a huge party as I arrived yesterday. Pretty boys, hot women and police handing out condoms. What an amazing time! My new friends, Jim and Michael, took me under their wings and led me to a path of all things rainbow. Near the mall, thousands of people joined together to welcome me to the city — that’s the story I am telling anyways. I met new people, enjoyed food and drinks, and listened to my favorite singer, Eric Himan. What a day! Thanks DC for making me feel at home, or at least in Oz!
After all the meetings, I am back home and reflecting on what we accomplished and what we didn’t. We were asked to speak to the Foundation board members on Friday and tell them of our experiences.
It’s easy to go back after the fact and see the strengths of the program and those items that would require a bit of adjustments before the next crop of new faces hit the DC streets.
The communication within the organization was tremendously on target. We consistently received emails from the organizers that kept us ‘in the know.’ However, there were a few missteps in the communication. At one point, we received an email that appeared to change our focus from gun control to another issue. As it turns out, this was in line with what the foundation members were working on and caused a bit of confusion – for me at least.
Because of the sequestration cuts, our White House visit was nixed and something else replaced the visit. That was certainly not something that the organizers could possibly have foreseen. The schedule changes required us to be flexible in our meeting time requests with the political offices. What caused difficulty was the amount of time traveling and walking to and from places, especially Capitol Hill. While a three hour time-slot for senate and house visits may have seemed enough, the time needed to check in through security and to find our way to the various offices was not long enough. We were often moving from one appointment to the next with less time than was necessary to complete the task. Or at least not enough time to travel from place to place.
One of the things I found in need of retooling was the scheduling in advance of our arrival. When the email arrived stating that we needed to contact our senators and house rep, I reached out to several of the politician’s offices and only received responses back from one. Certainly it didn’t surprise me, as I am currently working on a class project that required us to contact our state representatives and my classmates and I received a very low rate of return communication.
It is one of the issues of being a journalist, according to more than one of my mentors, that we wouldn’t necessarily receive a return call from a contact’s office. As a matter of fact, I was told that my house representative’s staffer would speak to me, but only off the record. As a journalist, I was rather put off by that request. Interestingly enough, we were held up in a meeting with the VP’s press secretary and I had to cancel the appointment after all.
One of the mentors, I want to say it was Doug Anstaett, held a conference call with his students he mentored to discuss the upcoming event. I think this would have been a great way to start the program and get all members on the same track. Additionally, it would have offered the students the opportunity to ‘meet’ one another and begin a dialog between each other and their mentors.
The hosted events at The Newseum, the Gallup Poll and the National Press Club were the highlights of the visit. These are definite keepers for future events. For me as a journalist, the Newseum was a great way of bringing the focus of journalism into one spot and allowing me to see the history of my chosen field. The Gallup Poll meeting was an interesting way to provide budding journalist with another tool in their research. As one of my professors would say, it makes us a half inch taller than our competition having that tool in our toolkit. The National Press Club visit should continue to delight any budding journalist for its history and how it plays a large part in our landscape for press conferences in DC.
The greatest aspect of this program was the introduction of a mentor into the mix. The expertise and advice of each member was paramount to the understanding of the tasks and expectations. Their wisdom and guidance provided each of the students with a lifeline into the crazy political waters of DC. Each brought an individual style and strength to the program. Stan Schwartz and Mark Magyar both had great knowledge of DC and were both eager to share stories (how lobbyist got their name was the best). Doug Anstaett’s wisdom and humor kept us enlightened and laughing. Liz Parker became the mother figure for all of us and was the intellectual center for the group. When we were able to see him, Allen Beerman became the center of our universe, sharing stories and providing us with the benefit of his experience and connections.
In all, I feel that the program was very eye-opening into the way politics and the press maneuver to create relationships for their individual gain. In as much as I think that the journalism aspect of DC would be extremely exciting, I can see how developing those relationships can be challenging.
It is my hope that this program will continue to grow and allow other students the benefit of this experience. Maybe one day I will be one of the mentors and can share this experience with a future journalist.
The wonderful and talented Mr. Allen Beerman arranged a breakfast meeting with the Gallup Poll senior editor, Steve Crabtree on Friday morning. The fellows and mentors taxied their way to the Gallup building to meet with Crabtree. The office building was pretty outstanding, as it was a new section built adjacent to an older brick wall within the building.
Mr. Crabtree provided an informative Powerpoint presentation on the Gallup Poll, explaining its history and how it has come to be an important part of our understanding of the world around us. We reviewed current polling data on our topic of gun control, as well as other interesting polls about quality of life and other data that Gallup provides to customers and the world through its internet service.
After wrapping up our time with Mr. Crabtree, Mr. Beerman headed back to the capitol while the rest of us grabbed a cab to the hotel.
We were to have lunch with the National Newspaper Association Foundation. This was our final event as a group. The five of us fellows were asked to speak to the foundation members, telling of our experiences and what we learned. For some reason, the ladies in the group decided that I was to be volunteered to go first. (Thanks friends!)
I expressed my gratitude at the opportunity to be a part of this pilot program. The opportunity to meet with staffers and have a mentor provide us with the benefit of their experience was the best part of the trip for me. To be able to learn from these experienced journalists, teachers, publishers and newfound friends was a highlight that none of us would soon forget.
As we wrapped up the luncheon, we were able to meet with various members of the foundation. I tried to make sure that I thanked everyone that had been involved in this process. If I ultimately forgot someone, that is my error and I apologize.
In my college career, I have been given many opportunities to work with amazing people. The 2013 Fellows program has been the pinnacle of my college experience. In the coming years, it is my hope to see this program continued for other college students. Ultimately, I would like to be a mentor to others, much like those we had on this trip. Through the hard work, dedication and teaching abilities of our mentors, we five learned much about this process called journalism.
Be sure to give me a call next year, maybe I can be of service.