University students travel to capital city

Published 11:00 pm Thursday, February 14, 2013

Written by Gabrielle Pack, intern with The Messenger

Troy University students visited Goat Hill in Montgomery on Wednesday to prepare for their upcoming reporting projects. Always remain a good and fair reporter and always hustle, were just a few tips the students received from legislative staffers, reporters who cover the Legislature, lobbyists and legislators.

Steve Stewart, assistant professor of journalism at Troy University’s Hall School of Journalism and Communication, took his advanced reporting class to visit the Alabama State House to help prepare the students for future careers in multimedia journalism.

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“The students are participating in a reporting project for local newspapers about the legislator or legislators who represent the communities that those newspapers serve,” Stewart said.

He said it would give students the opportunity to see how the Legislature works up close. In addition, Stewart felt working journalists and lobbyists could give students realistic views on how laws are made and how to report that news.

The students began the trip with an orientation session with Clay Redden, the public information officer for the House of Representatives. Redden spoke to the students about his time being a reporter at the Decatur Daily and his experiences in covering public hearings and committee meetings.

“Try to make the story interesting, but you cannot turn it into a fairytale,” Redden said. “Using metaphors catches the reader’s attention, but don’t over use them.” He explained the importance of remaining a good reporter and staying fair. It pays to report the truth and all sides of the story, he said.

Phillip Rawls, veteran Associated Press political writer, gave the students simple tips to compete in competitive multimedia markets. He said to print your own business cards, always arrive early, jot down cell phone numbers and keep them forever, make sure you understand the jargon, and don’t be afraid to sit on a story if you don’t feel comfortable.

“Always hustle, pay attention to whatever is going on, and ask questions,” said Mary Sell, capital city reporter for the Decatur Daily and the Times Daily in Florence.

The students were more than appreciative to get hands on experience with interviews from public officials for their reporting projects and for their overall experiences on Goat Hill.

“This trip was a fascinating experience as I was able to see firsthand into the life of a legislative journalist,” said Andrew Clay, senior print journalism major from Rochester, Minn.

Kelsey Vickers, a junior print journalism major from Ashford, said the experience was really rewarding and it gave her helpful tips from real reporters.

This legislative reporting project was funded in part by a grant from the Alabama Press Association Journalism Foundation and Troy University.

The Messenger will run two of the projects from intern Gabrielle Pack and former intern Tyler Spivey in upcoming editions of the paper.