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The Time I Got My Own Seat

By Makena Kelly

A few weeks ago, after I had straggled my way back from the Federal Communications Commission, my editor walked up to me and said, “Welcome back. I have another story for ya’.”

Whenever my editor tells me that I get excited.

He assigned me to cover an Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on anti-doping. A little boring—not really in my jurisdiction. I don’t know much about no sports. But, more excitingly so, 28 gold medalist Michael Phelps was going to be testifying.

What?

They’re sending the intern out to do this?

Yep. They sent me.

So, that Tuesday I went to work a little early and did a little pre-write because I knew I wouldn’t be able to focus throughout the entire thing. I studied past legislation. How much money does Congress appropriate to the Olympics? Who are all these people who are not Michael Phelps? How do I turn this into a policy story?

I rolled up to Rayburn House Office Building that Tuesday morning wearing an outfit I was proud of. Who knew if I was going to be on TV?

In the corner of the press section was a little chair with a white piece of printer paper. It said, “Reserved: Makenna Kelly, CQ”. Ok. They spelled my name wrong, but having a reserved seat in a packed house of fanatic Congressmen was pretty cool.

And, the hearing began. It was the standard Chairman and Ranking Member remarks. These Congresspeople didn’t have any specific policy-centered questions prepared—you could tell they had this hearing just so they could meet Phelps. Eh, I don’t blame them.

Leaders from various Olympics and anti-doping organizations spoke and gave sly, grief-ridden remarks to each other out of the corners of their mouths.

Michael Phelps gave his personal testimony. It was pretty standard to say the least, but the press went bonkers. Camera people were all over the place; ESPN, C-SPAN, CNN. You name it, they were crouched on the floor looking for the perfect angle of the most-adorned Olympian of all time.

And throughout all of the hubbub, I had to write my story and have it in before the hearing was over.

There’s something you learn on Capitol Hill after a few months that no one really tells you about. You learn how to stop listening. At some point, you need to be able to close your ears and write, because Congresspeople love to say the same things over and over again.

So, that’s what I did.

And by the end of the story, I realized there was no policy angle. This committee invited Michael Phelps to the Capitol with no plan for legislation. I was angry. They seriously just wanted to have a cool hearing with an Olympian.

Right when I was thinking that, Chairman Murphy adjourned the hearing and the press secretary walked over to my seat and said, “Press availability afterwards.”

So, I threw my computer in my backpack in an angry fit thinking, “I am going to have a clip where I quote Michael Phelps, God damn it!”

And, I rushed to the front of the press pool. The reporters in front of cameras asked questions first—all focused to Phelps. And after a few questions there was a little silence and I blurted out, with ESPN and C-SPAN cameras pointing at me:

“Excuse me, Chairman Murphy, what does Congress plan to do though? What is the next step in enforcing these anti-doping rules?” I asked.

Chairman Murphy said something to the effect of, “Oh, we’ll have another hearing in a few months and see what happens.”

In typical Congressional fashion.

I wrote my story, spoke with my editor, and threw together somewhat of a policy-oriented lede and it was published.

And now, I get to say that the most decorated Olympian in history, Michael Phelps, had to step aside from the limelight so I could be on television over him. Just so I could ask a question to a Congressman.

Now I Know How to Make Copies

By Madi Bowers

So, it’s not only a copier, apparently, it’s a copier/printer/scanner. 

My direct supervisor at work, A, asked me to make copies of 43 pages of important business documents. She said the copier is self explanatory and just to be sure that I kept everything in the same order as she had given it to me. Easy enough. I seriously thought it would be a simple task to get me away from the computer and spreadsheets I had been working on for the past 2 weeks at my internship. So, of course, I happily carried the paper pile down to the copy room in the back of our office space.

The room is typical, with cabinets and boxes of files and bins of markers and pens surrounding a huge grey machine, complete with ceiling lights that are motion-sensor. After waving my arms around like a lunatic trying to get the lights to turn on for a minute or so, I casually strolled up to the copier machine and put my pile on the open space where printed documents come out.

I clicked, “Copier,” on the touch screen (high-tech but slower to respond than I was as a teenager being asked to do chores) and was immediately confused when it asked for the code. What kind of copier requires a password?! I’m not trying to get into a frat party or use meal swipes, I’m just trying not to screw up the simplest task I’ve been assigned.

Accepting defeat, I asked another intern how to use the copier, to which she quickly laughed and replied, “Good luck.” I thought I would have to admit to my supervisor that I, a tech-wiz millennial, capable of creating and sending documents on my phone in seconds, had never learned how to use office machines.

This is when the hero of the story, K, walks in and without a word, points to a paper directly above the copier that says, “How to use the copier.” I’m sure I turned a shade of red unknown to even the depths of the universe because she giggled, told me it would just take some time, and left me with my pile.

As it turns out, the password is 888 (I feel like you can have this information because it’s posted on the wall above the machine anyways). After you click those magic numbers, the copy screen loads, displaying 3 different sizes of paper, 2 preset options, and a variety of scary looking “Settings” options on the side of the screen.

Applying my recently acquired knowledge of acceptable resources, I looked up at the paper on the wall for it to tell me how to finish this task already. I clicked 2, for the 2 copies I needed of everything, placed my first of 43 pages on the copy/scan screen, closed the top, clicked Start, and was not even surprised to hear the machine scream at me in a high-pitched and monotone sound. At this point, I was so embarrassed and defeated that I didn’t care when K came through the door and began fixing my mistake before I could even get a word out.

To my surprise (and a smidge of delight), K didn’t know what the problem was either! Until she opened the top, of course, and saw that I hadn’t placed a piece of 8.5″ by 11″ paper over my much smaller paper so the scanner could detect it. I gave a sincere thank you, she left, and I continued on.

I am happy to report that I finished the adventure on my own, without misplacing a paper, forgetting a step, or stapling the finished documents incorrectly. Now, I’m not saying you should call me if you have copy room problems of your own at work, but I know a thing or two about how to read “How to” instructions. I have even learned how to print and scan! The point is, although it took at least a half hour longer than it should have, this millennial learned how to use an old-timey copier machine with a touch screen from those children’s iPads.

I feel pretty confident now in my copy room knowledge, as I can copy/print/scan anything on my own and in a timely fashion.

But this is only for the black and white machine. The color printer is another monster entirely.

Life as a DC Student in WMI

By Merdie Nzanga

It was April 4, 2014 – the day I received my acceptance letter to American University. Oh yay me! I’m going to Washington, DC! Here I was leaving my home in Seattle, WA and going all the way across the nation’s capital. Although I later left AU, I transferred to Howard University (also in DC) because I still loved living in DC.

Living in Washington, DC is so special to me because it is our country’s capital. It is so historically and culturally rich, and there are so many sights to see – from museums to national monuments, to restaurants!

While I’ve lived here, I’ve also had the chance to visit the Newseum several times.  The Newseum is a large, interactive museum that focuses on journalism and the media in our understanding of historical events, located right in the middle of the city. Every time I visit this museum it gets me excited about journalism.  My favorite place at the Newseum is the Vietnam War coverage presentation – the first televised war. It is amazing to me how much of an influence  Americans had on the war just by watching it on their television screens.

Because I could have a new experience and stay in DC for the semester, I decided to attend the Washington Media Institute. My experience at the Washington Media Institute has made my experience in DC even better. This semester I am interning at DC Witness where we track homicides in DC and write about them. I go to court everyday, and then I come back to our office and get to write . I like this internship because it has been helping my writing. During class, Amos, the director, and Jon, the associate director, give individual feedback to each student on their work. I’m being pushed more professionally than I ever have and it’s all thanks to WMI!

If you haven’t had a chance to visit DC, please come!

The nitty gritty of everyday court life

By Thamar Bailey

Going to court is not what TNT movies make it out to be. There’s not a mass crowd in the room, there’s no gavel calling for attention or crowd outbursts. As an intern for a homicide tracking blog, I’ve had the honor of going to court almost everyday and let me tell you there is definitely a break between reality and fiction.

For starters the judge is almost always late.

On a good day I leave my apartment in the morning around 8:45 and end up settling into a seat at the courthouse around 9:20 for a 9:30 case – only for the judge to stroll in anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes late.

And in that time delay I sit patiently watching lawyers walk in and out and court marshals talk about their night and catch up on how each other’s morning is going.

Also, in that time there has not been a case that goes by that I haven’t learned something I really didn’t need to know about a court clerk.

I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but there’s a seat to the left of the judges chair where the court clerk sits. The clerk essentially orchestrates the entire production. He/she tells the marshals when to get the inmate from holding, coordinates with the judge and takes in whether or not a lawyer or witness is missing.

One day a clerk got into an argument with the court marshals before the judge got in. This was after she had an over 20 minute conversation with her sister about how she wants to be a real estate broker because the commision is “crazy,” – her words, not mine.

According to this clerk, she runs the court, and even the court typist (the person who creates a transcript of every case) weighed into the argument, and agreed as she applied a full face of make-up.

The typist literally sat down, whipped out a makeup pouch the size of an elementary school pencil case, and pulled out so many different utensils you would think her pouch had some magical connection to the nearest Sephora.

By the time the judge finally appeared, the typist had miraculously put everything away and looked as if like she’d undergone a complete makeover.

So maybe I’m just too attentive and you’ve never really thought much about what happens in a courtroom prior to a case, but ever thought about what happens during the case?

From Law and Order I assumed that there was a serious amount of court jargon and strict formalities.

After a month of consensus I’d say that there’s a firm yes to the jargon and big no to the formalities.

I’ve witnessed a lawyer outright complain to the judge that her schedule was too busy to accommodate a speedy trial.

The day before I saw an inmate escorted into the room and declare to the room he was no longer angry with the judge – I didn’t know he was angry with the judge in the first place.

As for the lawyers, some of them are super nice and strike up conversation. Others will give you the side eye until you remove yourself from the front two rows of the pew. And if you stick it out and sit in “their space” (they only have rights to the first row) then you’ve just made an enemy – or at least that’s what it feels like.

Overall, the next time you head into the D.C. courthouse make sure you sit away from the lawyers and bring a notepad (electronics are prohibited in courtrooms) because the amount of things you hear will be priceless stories for the future.

A Clown Wearing Heels to Work

By Makena Kelly

I look like such a buffoon in Washington. You might as well stick a clown nose on my face and give me unicycle to help me commute into work.

It’s not like anything horrible has happened. In fact, these past two weeks have been the most fun I have had in a long time. However, I’m a girl from Lincoln, NE. I travel frequently so it’s not like I’m incompetent, but there are a few things I have noticed about myself that make me go, “Oh, crap. I’m that girl.” – you know, that girl who obviously is not from here.

For one, I’m trying way too hard to look like I know what I’m doing. I’ll wear pretty heels into work and by the end of the day, I’ve tripped and scuffed my knees while going up the infamously steep Woodley Park Metro elevator. Heels that click on tile make me look like I know what I’m doing; when I fall in them, it
just looks like I need medical attention.

Walking around the city is the best means of getting anywhere. A fluorescent man means “go”, but apparently a flashing red hand also means “go” when it’s 5:30 pm and you’ve had a busy day and you don’t care whether or not you live or die. Let God decide whether or not you matrix your way out of traffic as other pedestrians watch you dodge cars like Morpheus dodges bullets.

Escalators are here to help—not here to haul. And, if you want to be hauled and herded, stay on the right hand side. Otherwise, I will grumpily huff at you from behind at a volume that doesn’t disturb you, but lets the people around me know that I hate you. I want everyone else around me to also recognize my escalator strife.

When I grabbed my credentials to get into the Capitol building with CQ Roll Call, I realized why they call them “Press Galleries”—they’re actual art galleries. George Washington on the Potomac? That painting is bigger than my apartment.

When I was headed down to the cafeteria in the Capitol, I saw Senator Tammy Duckworth and threw my hands to my face. The man who was pushing her wheelchair looked at me like I had just had a stroke.

I also thought it was a brilliant idea to leave for the presidential inauguration at 4 am. I emphasize idea, because I woke up at 5:30, threw on a pair of hole-y jeans and froze my butt off waiting for a parade of motorcycles and flag-twirlers to lead President Trump from one end of the street to the other.

I’m bound to make mistakes while I’m here. I’ve been fortunate enough that my mistakes haven’t resulted in jail time, but just a couple bruises and confused looks from strangers. Washington is wonderful and it’s an absolutely crazy time to be here. It has only been two weeks, but I’m already certain that it will be an equally as enjoyable four months.

Spending My Last Semester of College in DC

By Tja Shorr

I never thought I would find myself in the middle of the election season in my last semester of college standing in the heart of Washington, DC.

But here I am. And I couldn’t be happier. 

The CU in DC Media Track program – that partners with the Washington Media Institute – has been one of my most fulfilling, enriching, extensive and exhausting semesters of my college career, and I have loved every moment of it.

I love how busy I am throughout the day, interning from 10-5pm and then walking home through the colorful leaves and cobblestone streets. I like to admire the brick and pillared houses, some with leftover Halloween decorations and some already decked out Christmas décor, while I head to class.

It’s a non-stop energy – and yet every part of the day is filled with something new, something challenging, something exciting, and something important.

I’ve toured most of the museums, seen the Gettysburg battlefield, and explored the Capitol. I’ve hosted exclusive events at Moncler, a Jill Kargman Book Signing Party, Bethesda Row, The Hepburn, CityCenterDC, and Room & Board through my internship at BrandlinkDC. I’ve met famous authors, fashion bloggers, painters, and news reporters through my classes and internship. And I can say I have done all I could to take it all in and soak up the sights and scenes so unique and special to Washington, DC.

This semester is so different because it packages and delivers so much in one program. I have learned tech skills and how to create video projects that, as a News Editorial major, I never thought I could learn to do. I’ve held responsibility at an elite public relations internship where I learned that I was capable and confident undertaking complex tasks with lots of pressure attached to it.

It’s been a hard semester, but definitely worth it. It’s so different from being at CU Boulder – where I have attended the last 3 years – because it’s a completely different place, different schedule, different people – all with such a cool, upbeat energy here in Washington, DC.

I share a unit with 4 other girls who also attend CU Boulder, and together we’ve become great friends – sharing laughs, hanging out, and going on weekend explorations in the city. Nearing the end of the program, I can see how much I’ve grown and how much I’ve learned here – maybe even more so than I have from a year at CU Boulder.

I graduate after this semester, so I feel like I’m halfway in between going to school and getting a full time job – and this program has been the perfect stepping stone. The Media Track program has given me a semester of challenges, adventures, and true friendships that have allowed me to graduate feeling especially accomplished and deserving.

No, this program is not easy – it’s not a stroll in the park, partying and clubbing every night like one might expect out of a semester abroad – but it’s an adventure and it’s challenging and it’s so, so much more interesting and relevant to thriving in the changing world of media. Through this program, I’ve learned skills and I’ve learned things about myself that will allow me to go out into the world and really make an impact and a career out of something I’m passionate about. Those are things not taught in school, but definitely accomplished through the Media Track program.

So if you’re up for a challenge and an adventure and something totally new and out of this world, I say go for it and do this program! I sure did and it made all the difference.

Originally posted December 8, 2016

My Time at Monumental Sports & Entertainment

By Mark Couch

A couple days before I left to begin my semester in D.C., I thought about how I would be interning for Monumental Sports & Entertainment and getting to see the D.C. sports scene first hand. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, but I figured it would be a good time.

My experience at Monumental has been everything I thought it would be and then some. I’ve gotten to meet and talk to some of the most high profile athletes in sports; there’s nothing like going into work every day and wondering who I’ll meet next.

First I met John Wall, Bradley Beal and the rest of the Wizards. They’re a fun team to be around and all the guys have great senses of humor. The fans love to come out and support their franchise point guard, John Wall.

Next, I met all the Capitals. That was extremely exciting for me because I’m a huge hockey fan. Meeting Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie and the rest of the guys was amazing. I was able to work the Rock the Red Carpet event at their home opener in October and that was a blast. Hearing those guys joke around off the ice was a fan’s dream and being able to watch them play two-touch every night in the tunnels of Verizon Center is truly a privilege.

I’ve also gotten to meet three-fifths of the Final Five, the U.S. gymnastics team that won gold in Rio over the summer, when they stopped at Verizon Center during their Tour of Gymnastics Champions. I had the pleasure of meeting and talking to Simone Biles and Aly Raisman, as well as 2008 Olympic gymnasts Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin.

Thanks to WMI, I’ve had the opportunity of a lifetime to be able to work in sports and meet all these incredible athletes and role models. Creating a relationship with some of the Capitals and Wizards players has been amazing, and I’ve truly created memories that will last a lifetime.

Originally posted December 5, 2016

Getting out of my comfort zone and never going back

By Chandler Gould

I do not get outside of my comfort zone. I have always tried to push myself, and I have, but all inside of my bubble. When I first heard about the Washington Media Institute, I knew I had to apply. It had the perfect mix of politics and journalism, and it wasn’t in another country like other programs.

When I first moved out here, all I could ask my family was, “What if this is a mistake?” I was worried about being too homesick. I was worried that I wouldn’t get along with anyone in my program. I was worried that I would do terrible at my internship. That feeling lasted for maybe the first three weeks, slowly fading all of the way.

Quickly, I realized how wonderful my roommates were. We all have the same sense of humor, and we became friends easily. Nothing beats all of us coming home from our various jobs and laying around sharing the craziest things that had happened that day. The best part is, when this is all over, we will all go back to the same school together.

My internship with WJLA ABC7’s Good Morning Washington has started me on the career path I have been striving for in college. I have been able to write copy, create graphics, assist in producing, edit video, write blogs for the website, and I have even produced my own segment. Every single day is something different, and each show is filled with amazing people that teach me more about life.

I have learned that I can succeed outside of my comfort zone, and that I can handle a little pressure. I get to learn applicable skills from my courses, develop in my career, all while seeing national monuments and museums. This experience has been amazing for me in regards to my education and my career. Even more, it has been amazing for me in regards to myself.

Originally posted November 15, 2016

DC Has Restored my Faith in American Ideals

By Amanda Cary

When I shared with friends and family that I would be spending my fall semester in Washington, D.C., most thought I was making a good choice in my development as a young professional. However, I noticed a recurring theme: people seemed to have something cynical to say about politics, media, and the future of the United States.

Usually, these comments were just jokes. “Are you going to set straight the politicians in Washington?” But as I dig a little deeper into it, it seems nearly everyone I know holds the notion that government workers are lazy, politicians are greedy, the media is the problem – and America is doomed.

I’ve got to admit, it’s a little difficult not to think that way right now.

To make matters worse, the presidential election is pretty much a disaster. I mean, come on – there are over 319 million people in the United States, and these were the only two we could choose to run for president? Not only does present-day America seem pretty bleak, but the future ain’t looking too bright either.

In times like these, it is easy to point fingers. And, for many, the most logical place to point is right at Washington, D.C. To some extent, that makes the most sense. Maybe if we had better laws, better politicians, better government workers, better coverage, things would be … better.

But this is not the full story, and I’ve seen it firsthand.

In the two months that I have been in Washington, I have met with individuals who should be “lazy government workers” or “biased journalists”  – except they are hardly ever any of these things.

At my internship at the U.S. Department of Education, I have been amazed by how exceptionally talented and passionate the employees are. From the interns and temporary employees to the Secretary of Education himself, each individual is so dedicated to providing an equal and quality education to every student in the United States.

One employee told me that she consistently works past normal business hours, on weekends, and on holidays. Her reasoning? “Every hour that I spend away from my job, another student gets left behind in their education.” If you ask me, THAT is the epitome of a hard working, passionate government worker.

These experiences are not limited to the walls of the Department of Education. From speaking to journalists who cover politics, to meeting with some of the politicians themselves, I have been taken back by how humble and genuine these people really are. 

It says a lot for a congressman to take time out of his busy schedule to meet with me, a 20-year-old intern who is just trying to figure what to do with her life – but it happened. My state representative, Ken Buck, sat and talked with me like a normal human being, offering advice on how to make the most of my college experience. It didn’t matter if I donated to his campaign or if I agreed with him politically. He met with me because I am his constituent and he cares about what I have to say – that’s leadership.

There’s something special when a well-known CNN journalist, Dana Bash, can Facetime a college class 20 minutes before her live shot to talk about the business of journalism, where it is going, and what her own job is like – that’s kindness.

We should expect the best out of our government and the people that report on it; they do. It is so important to hold them to a high standard and to criticize when needed in order to make improvements. But, we should also value, appreciate, and admire the people who take the brunt of all of our complaints. We should understand that it takes a special type of person to go into public service; these people are willing to sacrifice sleep, pay, travel – simply because they want to make American lives better.

Of course, there are corrupt politicians, there are inefficient government workers, and there are biased journalists. However, if you never leave your living room to discover for yourself what these professions are really like, how will you ever know the truth? You cannot fully judge the media and the government until you meet with the individuals who are behind the screens, behind the laws, behind the regulations.

Beyond that, we take for granted living in a country that allows us to participate in our democracy and enables us to have access to information. As crazy as politics can be, we are fortunate to be Americans – to have rights, to have a voice, and to know there are people in Washington, D.C. advocating for us.

I urge you to get involved with your political system before making any judgments. I hope that you have the chance to meet a journalist and understand what they do and what they care about. You may just discover real, genuine human beings who are truly the lifeblood of American democracy.

Originally posted November 8, 2016

Life in the Sports Office

By Patrick Wilson

Let’s be real, who would not want to work in sports for a career? You get paid to literally watch sports and go to games all the time – doesn’t that sound like an awesome job to have? The answer, however, is not that simple.

Currently a month into my internship in the sports department at WJLA, I have a whole new understanding about what a career in sports is like as a member of the media. Quite simply: it’s pretty challenging.

My first day at WJLA I was thrown straight into the fire because one of the anchors was out sick. I saw firsthand the daily stresses that my coworkers go through because television is 24/7, and when you have a show scheduled, you better have a show ready. That day, WJLA had three sports shows, so the mood was tense.

Working at WJLA, I’ve seen just how hectic producing content for a television show can be. I’ve seen how it can be even more hectic when your stories are often completed – sometimes only minutes –  before you need to talk about them live on-air. In the case of the High School Sports Wrap-up show, our producer will be in a room waiting to sort through highlights of games for three hours before the show. It is a very high stress, high pressure job that these producers make a career from.

In my experience, a common misconception of the sports department is that it’s a lazy department. This could not be further from the truth. On a weekly basis a sports reporter needs to find and edit content for the show, create web content, create social media content, and at WJLA, anchor up to three different shows per night. This includes being live in the field and working seven days a week.

When I go to work on the weekends, other than a few other reporters, the sports department is the only department in the office. There is never a day off in the sports media business, and I’ve seen the sports department put in some of the longest hours in a news station. If you are looking for, I have learned that no matter what your job title is, a “dream career” in sports requires a lot of time for the job.

Originally posted October 20, 2016