Adventures in Carson City

by PAUL GEORGE

The drive from Reno to Carson City is enjoyable. After passing through some Reno traffic, the road clears, only a few travelers, and the view of the mountains is spectacular. While driving there in my red, ragged Chevy Corsica, with a smashed passenger door, I am reminded of Nevada’s natural, rugged beauty. The Monday drive calms me, allowing me to focus on what I want to accomplish as part of the Nevada Media Alliance. Like any journalism senior, my priorities are completely selfish: I want clips to show potential employers. And I also needed one more journalism class – this one – to graduate in May.

But I also believe Nevadans need to know what is going on at their legislature. As a voter, I will never have access to the president of the nation. U.S. senators and representatives are difficult to contact. But on a state level, getting to know your legislators is much easier, and the issues they deal with affect us much more directly.

My job, I believe, is to make what happens during committee meetings relevant. One way of doing this is by finding the people proposed laws would affect. On my personal blog, I frequently write about the importance of the polis – the people as active citizens. As a student journalist, finding the time to locate these people is a challenge. But being ready for anything while in Carson City is a good way to start.

After my reporting partner, Molly Moser, and I finished observing a committee meeting, we exited the legislature building. We heard the sound of drums and chanting from the open court area in front of us. As we approached, we saw smoke and people dancing in a circle.

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A group of American Indians danced and sang while burning incense. Molly immediately got her pen and pad out. I pulled out our video camera and started documenting the event. This was not why we came. We were there to cover the Ways and Means Committee. Yet, the demonstration was exactly why we came, to make the legislative process relevant to Nevadans.

In the end, we wrote a daily article about the demonstration, which was in support of Senate Bill 82, which would make bear hunting illegal. We also produced a short video segment, something I enjoy doing but have had little experience creating. I hope to do more video work in the future. The demonstrators believed the issue to be important enough to come out to support it. That’s democracy. That’s an active citizenry. And that’s why I want to cover the Nevada Legislature.

Achievement Unlocked: Report the First Month of 77th Session

by MOLLY MOSER

I spent most of January studying the faces of each Senatorial and Assembly lawmaker. I also tried to force myself to understand some of the bills, but I figured it would be better to just get the idea of it and learn along the way (which I did, and it worked). Reporting on big Nevada politics is new to me, and I’m eager to learn more.

To be honest, I hate politics. I’m easily bored by the topics and the funny thing is, I’m a journalism student! However, I wanted to accept this challenge of reporting on the Nevada Legislature so I could overcome that boredom. I’d like to say that joining the Nevada Media Alliance is the best decision I’ve made in quite a while.

How is it one of my best decisions? Well, for the obvious purposes, I gain many journalistic experiences. I have expanded my mind on local politics, and it gives me stories to tell others who don’t understand what is going on in Carson. It’s something to enjoy during a long semester.

But honestly, it gives me a lot to look forward to and excitement. I have been carefully studying the majority of the lawmakers’ profiles, so seeing them in person is like seeing someone famous. Seriously! You know almost everything about them, so you grow to like them regardless of what party they’re representing. It’s pretty amazing to shake their hands and walk by their offices. One of the best things about being a reporter, you get to stalk the hell out of interesting people. You eventually grow some kind of “fangirl” feeling for all of it. At least that’s how I feel, anyway.

I know I’m not reporting for celebrity news stations like E!, but as a reporter when you have a famous figure for a story, you’ll do anything to chase them down. It’s just true dedication that I believe this entire team is practicing on. That’s why Lady Gaga’s Paparazzi lyrics seem to blend in so well with a reporter’s life – to an extent, at least.

One of my most interesting moments was meeting some loopy protestors that have five restraining orders that the public filed against them! And what I mean by loopy is that they go to extremes by blaming the Nevada government just because a constitutional officer ran over one of the protestor’s foot (and even law enforcement said their claim was a complete over-exaggeration). Nothing to be scared of though, except let’s just hope they don’t return protesting while doing the Harlem Shake (that’s scary).

So far, the first month of reporting has been kind of quiet. We’ve been basically covering the simple stuff, which is absolutely great. I think things will start to fire up more once March and April take over and I’m looking forward to it.

Anyway, I’m incredibly proud of what my team and I do. It’s like I’m playing a Brenda Starr video game on Xbox and I beat the first level; completing the first month of reporting of the Nevada State Legislature. Huge deal. Except, these accomplishments are made in real-life.

My One Second of Fame

by S. LANEY OLSON

I knew little about broadcast up until Feb. 14 of last week. However, when the opportunity for me to shadow Brent Boynton from KNPB arose, I jumped at it without hesitation. I had always been interested in broadcast but had focused my attention on print. This was opportunity to expand my horizons.

Boynton was working along with Vegas PBS’ Mitch Fox to make a special “A Conversation” focusing on major players in this sessions legislature. My task, with the help of my teammate Natasha Vitale, was to aid Boynton throughout the one day shooting and editing process.

We met up with him and his crew in the Old Capitol Building around 10 that morning. They were just finishing the set up of cameras when I walked in. Immediately, I was put to work. Our assignment was to research Speaker of the Assembly Marilyn Kirkpatrick and brief Boynton for his interview with her.

The schedule for the day was to do five interviews, film and introduction and conclusion with Boynton and Fox, tear down, drive back to Reno and edit the show that would be aired the next day.

A lot of the day consisted of waiting around, making small talk and Natasha and I questioning Boynton on everything he knew. Then, a legislature would walk in the door and the room was filled with excitement. Everyone rushing to get the cameras ready and the mics properly placed. The interview would begin and for the last three interviews, I would stand behind the camera with a timer and cue Boynton and Fox on how much time they had left.

Jokingly, I asked Boynton if they would give Natasha and I credit for our expert timing skills. Boynton said, “That’s not a bad idea,” and began writing new credits for the credit guy.

Finally, the interviews wrapped up around 4. Natasha had left by then, it was just me and the four man crew to start tearing down the equipment. We drove back to the KNPB studio in Reno.

Once we got there, Boynton gave me the grand tour of the building. I took a quick break to run home and grab dinner then headed back to watch the editing process. It was fascinating for me to watch. I had very limited experience with FinalCut and they navigated through it, effortlessly.

At 8:30 p.m., I had to call it a night — it was Valentine’s Day and I still had to celebrate. I thanked them and left.

The next night, I was making pancakes with my friends when I remembered the show had aired. Luckily, I had recorded it. I ran to the t.v., fast forwarded through the whole show until I got to the credits. There it was, my name, “Production Assistant: Laney Olson, Natasha Vitale”. My one second of fame.

Follow S. Laney Olson on Twitter: @S_Laney_O

How to Chase Down a Senator

by STEPHANIE GLANTZ

Well, the first couple weeks are all done! And, oh my gosh, have I learned a lot. For some reason I thought the assemblymen and senators would a lot easier to access than they are. I think the reporters we talked to before this started made it sound really easy. Some are pretty friendly about talking, but others are a little harder.

Last week I knew I was going to need a senator’s opinion on the bill I was writing my story on, but as the committee meeting was coming to an end I was realizing how close it was to 11 a.m., which is when the Senate meeting was due to start. Finally the committee meeting let out right at 11 and I knew that none of the senators were going to want to take time to talk to me. I remembered Sean Whaley giving us advice in the beginning and saying sometimes you just walk with them to their next location because even if its just a minute, it’s a minute you didn’t have with them before. I knew that if there was any chance of getting a quote I was going to have to walk with them. So right as the meeting adjourned I jumped up and ran after the first senator I saw, Senator Scott Hammonds. I introduced myself and asked if I could walk with him and ask him a couple questions; he agreed. So there I was walking down the hall with him (at a pretty fast pace I might add), sticking a microphone in his face as I asked him about his opinion on Senate Bill 71. The whole time all I could think of was this video and trying to make sure that didn’t happen to me. Especially because on that 45 second walk we ventured around many corners, and also a set of stairs.

In the end, I didn’t run into anything, and I got my quote. But it was definitely a good experience on doing anything you can to get the interview- something that is key in good journalism. And I thank you Senator Hammonds, for letting me stick a microphone in your face and interview you during your one-minute break before your next meeting.

Back To My Original Approach

by NATASHA VITALE

On the sidelines as Brent Boynton interviews Sen. Debbie Smith for KNPB / Photo by NATASHA VITALE

On the sidelines as Brent Boynton interviews Sen. Debbie Smith for KNPB. Photo by NATASHA VITALE

A simple question Brent Boynton asked me as I was shadowing the KNPB crew last Thursday really made me think about what lies ahead for me career-wise. He wanted to know what emphasis I was most interested in: newspaper, broadcast or radio. I used to know the definite answer to that question, back when I identified myself as a reporter and a writer. Working with the Nevada Media Alliance has brought me back my original approach to journalism before choosing an emphasis at the Reynolds School of Journalism: Do everything to the best of your ability and make sure your equipment batteries don’t die while you’re getting the story.

Being a newbie reporter covering the Nevada Legislature has solidified that approach. On my first day in Carson I thought I knew what to expect only to change plans last minute and end up running after Assemblyman William Horne, trying to keep up with the professionals, and simultaneously get audio and photos for our daily story. Of course that is the moment that the batteries in my audio recorder choose to die, but luckily my partner was able to climb over an armchair and plug it the equipment in so we could get the soundbite we needed.

I’m now trapped second row between a professional cameraman and the wall. There’s no way for me to get out and get multiple angles for my photos which was what I wanted to do, plus I can’t leave the audio equipment behind.  So I tried to ignore the photographer, presumably for one of the newspapers in town, getting the angles that I wanted since she was free to move around the room. I had to make do with getting a shot that wasn’t blocked by another reporter and possibly getting a shot with Horne looking in my direction, which wasn’t very often since the reporter from the NBC station was very persistent about getting his attention in the opposite direction. Once I realized I wasn’t going to be able to get a shot without the press in it to some degree, I realized they actually help set the tone of the photo which is how I ended up getting my favorite photo of the day.

It was an exciting beginning to covering the legislature in Carson City and my experience since the first day has been the same. I’m learning a lot about everything from how to use the equipment, how to get lost, how to ask for directions and how to get the best response from the person you’re interviewing. I’ve realized that there is a positive side to my reluctance to being only a reporter or only a photographer and it’s that I’m going to come out of this experience knowing how to do a lot of things and hopefully be able to do them well.

Is It Too Soon For a Retrospect?

by ALEX POMPLIANO

Photo by ALEX POMPLIANO

The Nevada Media Alliance touring the Nevada Legislature building. Photo by ALEX POMPLIANO

It’s become somewhat of a cliché, saying in a retrospective astonishment that something began as an idea. In theory, everything begins as an idea. But I’ve never been a part of something from the very beginning that would eventually lead to a fully realized organization like the Nevada Media Alliance, so you’ll have to forgive the cliché.

So, it began as an idea. Sometime around October of last year, if my memory serves me correct. I was in Michael Marcotte’s office and he mentioned something about creating a new independent study at the University of Nevada, Reno that collaborated closely with local media. I said I thought it was a great idea. After mulling it over a bit, I thought it to be a brilliant idea. Coming as a fairly recent undergraduate, I knew this would opportunity would provide something really beneficial and exciting for J-students: real world experience.

In a week’s time the idea was put down on paper, peppered with comments from all of the other Reynolds School of Journalism staff. With the hodgepodge of input from all the brilliant minds of the UNR Journalism professors scribbled all over that white sheet of paper, the idea suddenly seemed to grow legs.

Fast forward to February. We’ve now been calling this idea the Nevada Media Alliance and there’s eleven other aspiring journalists signed up for it. In the meantime, we’ve also partnered with some of the best media organizations in Reno: KUNR, KNPB, and Reno Gazette-Journal. But most importantly, in the past months, we’ve been meeting feverishly to make sure all of our ducks are in a row before the 77th session of the Nevada Legislature begin.

Writing now, nearly two weeks into the session, I can say that no amount of meetings and planning can prepare you for the moment your website goes live and the organization becomes a legitimate resource for local news. It happens and all one can do is hope that things go swimmingly. Now, with our story production and social media in full throttle, I feel great about everything we’ve created in the past four months. That’s why you’ll have to excuse me that I choose to write about our fledgling organization with a retrospect.

Launch Week

by RILEY SNYDER

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned about myself during my very short career in journalism, it’s that I love to cover politics. Over last summer, I did everything from arguing with editors at my internship on the value of driving hundreds of miles to cover a candidate’s stump speech, to doing some of the area’s only coverage on school board elections, and live-tweeting City Council meetings for hours on end. I have an insatiable appetite for covering elections, governments, and everything in between.

And so when I first saw the flyer for the Nevada Media Alliance, my interest was piqued, and sure enough, I was on the road to Carson City bright and early on February 4 for the start of the legislative session. Though I’ve been actively tweeting about Nevada politics for the better part of two years, it’s something else entirely to walk into the actual press office and see all of the journalists I’ve been reading and following for years. The Nevada Press Corps are small in number, but huge in talent, and I’ve always admired their work ethic in covering what Jon Ralston calls the “Gang of 63.”

Photo by RILEY SNYDER

Photo by RILEY SNYDER

Even though I’m sure that the excitement will dissipate as the session drags on, being on press row in the Assembly chambers was a hectic jungle of television cameras, random equipment and what seemed like just about every journalist in Nevada. I loved the chaos—I was tweeting along with everyone, sending pictures and audio to Media Alliance partner and KUNR reporter, Kate McGee, and just being in the midst of what will be the biggest news for the next 120 days.

It’s a fabulous learning opportunity, buttressed by the friendliness of reporters in the capitol and openness of legislators in both chambers. Though I’ve only been in the state for three years, I’ve slowly been enchanted by what Nevada has to offer in the world of journalism. There’s a reason that I constantly bug freshmen and sophomores at UNR to change their major to journalism; there are just so many opportunities and so much fun to have.

3-2-1, Blast Off!

by MICHAEL V. MARCOTTE

As I pen this, three UNR grad students are leading eight undergrads in the final planning of the launch of the Nevada Media Alliance. I may be supervising this experiment in news partnering, but these eager, ambitious journalism students will be deciding — and doing — much of what goes into it.

If it succeeds, many will benefit. The students will get real-world experience. Our founding professional partners — KUNR-FM, KNPB-TV and the Reno Gazette-Journal — will get much-needed content. And the people of the Nevada will enjoy more news and have more say in their civic affairs.

It takes courage and innovative thinking to arrange and fund an on-going project of this sort. Give credit to the dean and faculty of the Reynolds School of Journalism for that. And our partners. And our initial funders: The Hearst Foundations, The Charles H. Stout Foundation, and The E.L. Cord Foundation. It takes a village to reinvent journalism.

The Nevada Media Alliance on the steps of the Nevada State Capitol (left to right: Scot Jenkins, Molly Moser, Lindsay Toste, Jeri Chadwell, Abbie Walker, Stephanie Glantz, Alex Pompliano, Riley Snyder, Paul George. Not shown: Natasha Vitale, Laney Olson.) Photo by Michael V. Marcotte.

This first semester of the Nevada Media Alliance has us setting our sights on the 2013 session of the Nevada State Legislature. That’s as important a target as there is around here. Ensuing semesters will see the Alliance aim elsewhere, but for now, we’ve got 11 aspiring reporters and editors ready to descend on Carson City (which just about doubles the size of the capitol press corps!).

So, wish us luck and let us know how we’re doing. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. And send us suggestions. If the students and I know one thing going into this project, it’s that journalism is a fast-changing field and we need to adapt quickly to these exciting times. We hope the Nevada Media Alliance is a quick step in that direction.