REPORTER'S NOTEBOOK: LESSONS LEARNED
Friday, January 18th, 2007
Friday, January 18, 2008
With two full days of campaign coverage now under my belt, I’ve learned a very interesting lesson about political journalism: Be a lazy reporter.
That stalwart moral-of-the-story comes from driving around Reno on Thursday looking for undecided caucus goers.
See, here’s the thing: I started out with all these grandiose ideas of finding the perfect undecided voters. So I did a little research, and found a Reno non-profit that helps the Hispanic community with health care referrals, and other similar services. Exactly what I’m looking for, right? Lower- and middle-class Latinos, the clear target of both the Obama and Clinton campaigns. Well … not so much. I did talk with one staff member for about half an hour (Gabriela Mendoza), and she had some really interesting things to say. But everyone else either didn’t want to talk, wasn’t caucusing or – in some cases – wasn’t a U.S. citizen. Of course, it didn’t help that I don’t speak Spanish, either. (Hey, it’s on my to-do list, I promise!)
Next up: a barber shop. That’s the total cliché for finding locals who like to talk, right? Barber shops and diners, anyway. Well, it was my bad luck to walk into a shop without noticing the sign on the door: No solicitors. So much for reporting being a public service…
I then went next door to a gun shop. It was actually the first gun shop I’ve ever been to in my life, so it was a really interesting experience. I did talk to a very nice man behind the counter, but couldn’t get any customers to talk.
After going back to the Hispanic non-profit to try again, I checked out a couple of promising sites nearby: a St. Mary’s community-based health center and a Boys & Girls Club. St. Mary’s wouldn’t let me talk with anyone without going through their central PR person, and none of the adults at the Boys & Girls Club would talk.
Getting tired of reading about this yet? There’s more: two urgent health care clinics. After zero success with patients or workers at the first one, I find a second one on the outskirts of town – it’s called Fastercare. And there I finally find some people willing to talk: two patients who aren’t caucusing and the woman behind the front desk, Gloria Stanley. Gloria was my other really good interview.
So now it’s after 3:00 in the afternoon, and I’ve got two good interviews and a couple other assorted scraps to go on. I have a 4-minute feature due on the air the next morning.
What do I do?
I go to a political rally. John Edwards was nice enough to hold an event at a nearby carpenters union house, not far from my hotel. Problem is, the listed start time was 6:15, and I still had to cut my tape (that’s radio-slang for finding my sound bites) and write, edit, voice and produce the story. So I got to the Edwards rally early, and within 20 minutes had talked to several people – and some were still undecided. I even found an extremely nice mother-of-two who not only loves Capital Public Radio (for those of you who don’t know, we have a sister station in Reno/Tahoe City, 90.5 KKTO), but hasn’t made up her mind. And the best part: She’s seeing all three candidates in a 24-hour span, starting with Edwards. I didn’t quote her in my Friday morning feature, but I’m going to follow up with her to see what she decides.
So, let’s recap: Five-and-a-half hours of driving around desperately searching for the perfect undecided caucus goer, and 20 minutes of interviews at a campaign rally.
Hence the moral of the story: Be a lazy reporter.