Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Everyone is busy, so we'll let the intern do it.

I was at my all-time favorite shift this week (7:00 a.m. on Tuesdays)...and you know if I'm writing about something that happened that early in the morning, it has to be good. Or, at least, it sounds pretty cool when I say it.
One of the reporters was supposed to do an interview with the Lieutenant (see, I'm a journalism major--I spelled that right, first try) Governor of Maryland. She wasn't going to be in the office at the appropriate time, so she passed the interview to a different reporter. He had to step out to cover a story, so the assignment got passed a few rungs lower on the ladder--to me.
This is the amazing thing about being allowed to play with all of the equipment. I get to hit all the buttons and I know how to work the phone (that one took a bit of practice, I'll admit) and I get to log into ENPS at my own desk and play with Adobe Audition. And, now that I've been the intern for several months, the management knows that, technically speaking, I know what I'm doing.
So got to interview the Lieutenant Governor of Maryland. OK, that title could be a little more impressive. I'm thinking you might be gasping more if the "Lieutenant" was dropped from the title or if Maryland was actually New York or California or, while we're dreaming, the title was "President Obama". But still, I'm a junior in college. Plus I'm an intern, not a real reporter.
I got a little nervous. How do you address the Lieutenant Governor? Do I even know anything about this man? the best I could do was read up on the subject matter of the interview (mental health resources for veterans).
The thing about important people, they have staff. The call came through to the newsroom. It was a woman (secretary? PR person, I have no idea). she asked for my full name. Then, she connected me to the room where the Lieutenant (OK, now I'm showing off) Governor was sitting. Another woman said something like "Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, you are speaking with Caitlin Hillyard from WTOP Radio". Now the pressure's on. He knows my name so there's no running now.
I had five to eight minutes to get this done, the press release said. So we talked about Maryland's new initiative for veteran support services. I asked him what was new about the initiative, why he thinks it's going to be a model for other states, whether he thinks it's difficult to get veterans to seek help for mental health concerns, what his personal connection is to veterans, what he hopes to see in the future, etc.
I'm pleased with the interview. I passed the saved audio onto the reporter who was supposed tp write the story. I'm always a little nervous about this part. My interviewing style is a pretty personal thing. Here I am, subjecting my questioning style, the sound of my recorded voice, and the information I was able to gather on to a professional. In retrospect, I think I got the Lieutenant Governor to say a lot. At the same time, I feel like we were both a little stiff.
So I have my goal for next time--warm up a little. Don't be nervous, it's just a person on the other line, someone with something he cares about to say. And yes, there's probably press secretary whispering in his ear the whole time. And yes, he's probably already talked to a dozen seasoned reporters today and will talk to several more after he hangs up with me. But, I figure, that's the only way to learn. I jumped in there, I did it, and now I know what I need to work on.
Next Tuesday? Who knows? Maybe I'll get to chat with Obama's dog groomer or something.

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