5 Tips and Tricks I Learned from a Political Journalist

Monday, February 22nd, 2016 @ 11:46PM

We love featuring the voices of alumni. After graduating from the Junior State of America, Monica Sampson (AZ ’14) now attends Arizona State University at the Walter Conkite School of Journalism as a college sophomore. She double majors in theatre. We’re featuring her guest post on jumping up from her JSA experience into the world of media, and she shares cheery advice for other aspiring pundits.

On Saturday, July 19, I made my way to the Phoenix Convention Center where the progressive conference Netroots Nation 2015 was alive. I was bustling to meet with Arturo Garcia, an editor for Raw Story, a progressive American online news organization.

Because of Roxanne Cooper, the publisher of Raw Story and a fellow former Junior State of America alumna, I got to experience this event. My connection to this experience was through the Junior State of America. I’m an alum of Arizona JSA and a former Junior Statesperson of the Year, and in high school the organization allotted me incredible opportunities to further understand politics, government and civic education.

With the internet accessible to everyone, technology has become an asset and has blurred the line between professional journalism and public conversation. “Technology is key,” Garcia said as he began to show me political stories on his laptop and tweets on his phone from the day’s events.

“As little as ten years ago carrying a cellphone was a luxury,” said Garcia. As two journalists, Garcia and I talked about the craft—everything from citizen journalists to net neutrality.

Monica Bernie SandersAfter my interview with Garcia I decided I would put his tips to the test. I got on Twitter to see what was trending around me. I saw a young man who looked like a journalist. I was curious, so I walked over and we began talking about political journalism and the day’s events. Turns out, the man was Arun Chaudhary, the first official videographer of the White House. He was in Phoenix covering Phoenix Social Media’s wildly talked about Bernie Sander event.

Chaudhary told me that Sanders was about to come out of his hotel, and sure enough Sanders came out surrounded by his team and rushed across the busy street. Seizing the opportunity, I asked Mr. Sanders two questions, the first being, “May I take a photo with you?”

The second, directly after the photo, was, “How can we put a focus on funding arts education?”

Sanders looked back with a brief smile, nodding his head in acknowledgment before being directing into a closed room. It was a short interview that I was lucky to seize on and my mind was racing with other potential newsworthy questions. This interaction would not have happened had I not paid attention to the five new tips and tricks I learned from a political journalist.

To help the modern journalist rise above the ranks of mom-blogs and internet rants, here are the best five technology and industry tricks I learned from a political journalist.

1) Twitter
This little blue bird used to be considered only a play-thing, but now it’s what the public uses to access breaking news. Garcia references the Charleston shooting and Sandra Bland, two news stories which initially received attention on Twitter. Live tweeting helps reporters take notes in real time. Websites such as Storify.com let you collect tweets for later reference, and through Twitter, the public is able to see exactly what you’re doing and where you’re reporting.

2) Vine
“People want to share information,” said Garcia. “The upside of this latest wave of the internet is that there are many more ways to spread that information.” Garcia talked about a future for journalism where more people and sites are able to integrate the written word with audio-visual presentations. This means that Vine has a bright future for the media.

3) Keep your cool
Garcia mentioned that when he worked at a newspaper in Kansas, they received hate mail every day. “It just comes with the territory,” said Garcia. “The job can be hard at times, but I’ve always found it rewarding.” Garcia has covered everything from border issues to the San Diego Comic Con. Keeping your cool allows you to stay objective and maintain your rapport.

4) Pay attention
At Netroots Nation, Garcia was able to catch Governor O’Malley simply because he was speaking in the room next to him. “I was a little bit lucky,” said Garcia. It’s that keen eye modern journalists need to look beyond their iPhones and notice what’s going on. We’re journalists because we want to dive deep into our writing stories for the people, but it’s important to remember to pay attention to every group of people and the world around you. Often that’s where the best story can be found.

5) Listen to what everyone is saying
Garcia mentioned that every time he gets a phone, the first thing he does is download a voice recording app. However, the concept of listening goes beyond just tuning in. It’s about becoming aware of what’s going on in the world and reporting on what everyone is actually saying in core meaning. Listening is a key skill great journalists like Edward R. Murrow, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein used to gain critical information, and it’s a trait modern journalists should learn and practice.

To all my fellow future journalists:

Keep the faith—and your technology up to date—because you never know where the next political news opportunity might find you.

We thank Monica for sharing her story, and cheer her on as she paves the way for our young JSA students in their quests to have their voices heard!

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