Thursday, September 30, 2004

Washington reporting

I was marveling at the extensive coverage of the new D.C. baseball team in today's Washington Post, when the team hasn't been named and doesn't have a manager.
Meanwhile, the gay marriage amendment and the 9-11 legislation are rightfully hot topics in Congress. We've got a candidate debate tonight and an election in a little more than a month, and there was a blimp hovering over the Pentagon yesterday that could supposedly zoom down to street level and evaluate us all as potential terrorists.
But they want baseball, just like they wanted the new American Indian Smithsonian Museum. And that's because these stories aren't politics.
They really know how to overkill politics up here. In Washington everyone is chasing after the same story. There are stakeouts in the Capitol -- in front of the senators-only elevator and at the Ohio clock -- where reporters can nab senators in hopes of getting that one quote, that one reaction, for that one graf that will seal the deal on that one story. And so they cluster there between velvet ropes, while the guards keep an eye on them and the senators hurry past.
The journalists move around in a great network of press conferences and phone trees. They know one another, because they're at the same events. Sources know what to say to them, because they've already said it to plenty of their colleagues.
And in an effort to not overkill politics for the day, they end up overkilling stories like baseball and the Smithsonian when the opportunity arises. We interns are the ones who don't understand why newspapers are sending teams of reporters to cover these lighter pieces and only one reporter to watch people like John McCain and Hillary Clinton work on legislation, like they do every day. Facing a throng of reporters staking them out at elevators and clocks for that one quote for that same story, like they do every day.

As a side note, I went to my first White House press conference last week. I wrote about it on the J-School homepage, so I don't want to overkill it (haha). But here's a link to the brite that ran in a few of our papers: http://www.jour.sc.edu/people/students/bird/release1.html

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