Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Yesterday’s election was the first presidential election I’ve covered as a photographer: In 2008, I wasn’t even halfway through my political reporting stint in the Missouri statehouse. But I’ve covered elections in York County before — in fact, I think my second day on the job at The Daily Record was a primary election night — and yesterday, I went all over the place.

© 2012 by The York Daily Record/Sunday News. D.L. “Lucky” Wright departs his polling place at Princess Street Center in York after voting in the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012.

One thing to note about covering elections in Pennsylvania: Photographers are not allowed to make pictures inside polling places. I’m not sure how a photographer could intimidate or influence a voter in a way that the political candidates and volunteers right outside polling places can’t, but I’m pretty sure that we’re missing out on a lot of neat pictures inside those doors.

© 2012 by The York Daily Record/Sunday News. Stephen Kline holds the door open for Tricia Dashnaw as they enter Dover Fire and Hose Company to vote in the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012.

I was assigned to start working at noon, so I missed out on the early-morning lines and crowds… but I did catch a line further north in the county in the evening.

© 2012 by The York Daily Record/Sunday News. Jim Spontak, Nicole Hudson and her daughter Jenee, 4, Rick Shaffer and Kim Frischkorn wait in line to vote in the general election at the Newberry Township Municipal Building on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. They said they had been waiting in line for 15 minutes already, and poll workers estimated it would be a 45-minute wait.

And, finally, a friend has for several months waited for me to share my favorite election day photo. Here it is, David:

© 2012 by The York Daily Record/Sunday News. Jenn Klimchock holds the door of Zion Lutheran Church open for her husband Tim, daughter Emma, 8, and son Jack, 4, after voting for the general election in Manchester Township on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012.

Photographing Mario on election day? If you’re not covering the actual presidential campaigns, working on election day doesn’t get much better than a kid still wearing his Halloween costume.

Be sure to check out all the photos we YDR photographers produced yesterday in this slideshow.

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It’s Election Day Night! Godspeed to all my coworkers who are reporting, photographing, videoing and editing… and partying hard on Election Night food.

© 2011 by The York Daily Record/Sunday News. York City Council candidate Manuel Gomez answers a question about how qualified female- and minority-led contractors can be given a fair chance for city projects at a forum hosted on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011, at the Community Progress Council building.

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Last night was York City mayor Kim Bracey’s first State of the City address. In my pursuit of two other people’s names, I decided to leave the auditorium and venture backstage despite my not knowing my way around. In doing so, I happened to find the mayor waiting offstage.

© 2011 by The York Dispatch. York City mayor Kim Bracey waits offstage as York City Schools superintendent Dr. Eric Holmes introduces her prior to her State of the City address at William Penn Senior High School on Tuesday, April 12, 2011.

I tried making other pictures of the mayor before she took the stage, but it was simply too dark. I tried one photo with a flash, but put it away because using the flash would have been too jarring an effect and ineffective in showing her jitters. (“Is she nervous because she’s about to give a speech or because I’m making pictures of her?”)

Anyway, more photos from last night —


© 2011 by The York Dispatch. Keys to the city lie on a shelf in the William Penn Senior High School library on Tuesday, April 12, 2011, before they were presented to 10 recipients of York Awards at a reception prior to mayor Kim Bracey's State of the City address.

The arts:

© 2011 by The York Dispatch. Performing as the eponymous character of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Phantom of the Opera," Central York senior Danté Strange sings "Music of the Night" as William Penn senior Maria Houck performs as Christine Daaé, before York City officials and mayor Kim Bracey took the stage for her first State of the City address at William Penn Senior High School on Tuesday, April 12, 2011.

And an iPad oopsie:

© 2011 by The York Dispatch. York City mayor Kim Bracey bites her lips as she scrolls through her iPad after losing her place while giving her first State of the City address on Tuesday, April 12, 2011, at William Penn Senior High School. Bracey said earlier that she often uses her personal iPad to give speeches*, and that she always has her speech on a piece of paper as backup.

* This is what Bracey told me while we were offstage, before she gave her speech. When, 10 or so minutes into her speech, she paused for 30 seconds, I could tell from her arm motion that she was scrolling through her speech.

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It’s strange, reviewing my photos of the 2008 presidential campaigns. For example, two years and three months ago, I didn’t know who Sarah Palin was.

Alaska governor Sarah Palin greets a crowd of 20,000 supporters at a rally at the Missouri State Capitol Building on Nov. 3, 2008 -- the day before the election.

“Had you ever heard of this Sarah Palin, before he picked her?” I asked my roommate after John McCain announced his running mate in late August. (Having not heard her name before, I pronounced it “paw-lin” until my roommate corrected me.)

Weird, huh?

Looking back at my photos of the presidential campaigns of 2008 has made me realize just how much has changed since then. I didn’t start naming my files and embedding caption information effectively until the fall. Also, it goes without saying that the political landscape and the characters who populate it are now jarringly different.

For example — remember John Edwards before his affair made tabloid headlines?

Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., campaigns at the Carpenters Union building in St. Louis on Jan. 19, 2008. In his speech, Edwards called opponents Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama "celebrity candidates."

Or how about John McCain’s campaign, pre-Palin?

As Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., waits to give his speech, Cindy McCain describes how her husband welcomed a young Bangladeshi girl she brought home to Arizona for adoption. Cindy McCain called John "a good father" before John took the stage in the JetDirect hangar of the Spirit of St. Louis Airport on Feb. 1, 2008.

Because Missouri was a swing state, four presidential candidates — Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney and McCain — made appearances in St. Louis in the weekend prior to Super Tuesday. Those hectic three days, as well as Edwards’s and Clinton’s rallies in January and Obama’s and Palin’s in the days before the election, helped make 2008 a tremendously exciting year for me as a student photojournalist.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney fields questions from the press during a campaign event at Dave & Buster's in Maryland Heights, Mo., on Feb. 3, 2008.


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I’m pleased to present my final capstone project — my last project as an undergraduate here at the University of Missouri.

In the House of Representatives press gallery.

You can view my video/photo project in one of two places:

My website


My Vimeo page

What exactly is this project, anyway?

As I’ve hinted previously in this blog, the scene is the Missouri state capitol building, and the characters are various statehouse newspaper reporters. As for the story — well, let’s just say that as the economy takes its toll and the journalism industry continues to shrink, state capitol bureaus are suffering.

Last spring, The American Journalism Review published a survey whose results showed a more than 30 percent decrease in the number of newspaper reporters covering state capitols full-time over a period of six years. This survey was released while I myself was reporting in Jefferson City, the capital city of Missouri, so it seized my attention and I kept reading similar reports (such as this March 2009 article in The New Republic). A month ago, as I was searching for a story idea for my capstone project, I remembered the survey and reports — and contacted a few reporters and asked if I could follow and interview them.

I’d like to thank Chad Livengood of The Springfield News-Leader, Virginia Young and Tony Messenger of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jason Noble of The Kansas City Star and Phill Brooks of Missouri Digital News for their immense help with this project.

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The Missouri State Capitol building in Jefferson City.

Here’s a (kinda) sneak peek at my final capstone project. It’s my last undertaking in the Missouri School of Journalism since, in exactly one week,  I’ll be graduating and hightailing it to the Poynter Institute as one of its 2010 College Fellows. So — what exactly am I doing for my project?

Well… I won’t disclose everything right now. But here’s the cast of characters.

Chad Livengood, a Springfield News-Leader reporter who is currently reporting on his third legislative session in Jefferson City.

Virginia Young, who directs the Jefferson City bureau for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and who's been reporting there for 20ish years.

Phill Brooks, director of Missouri Digital News...


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Required by law!

For all the marketing and buzz that the 2010 Census has generated, it was one of the most boring forms I’ve ever filled out. One question (Question 10 on the first page) didn’t even make sense to my roommate and me, since we’re currently living in “college housing” but don’t live here all the time.

Fortunately, through Twitter, I found the answer as to what students at college should do. Thanks, Pew Research!

You're welcome.

So yeah. For all the hype, commercials and privacy concerns that have surrounded the Census this year, it was one of the most painless, boring forms that I’ve ever taken five minutes to complete.

I’m almost disappointed.

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90ish days of summer

During coffee with Claire on June 25, Sen. McCaskill first welcomed everyone in the crowded conference room and then opened the floor for a few questions.

A woman named Hope Tinker introduced herself and asked a question.

I think Jeff’s ears must have pricked up, because later he said to me, “I wonder if Mary Beth is here!”

Jeff and Mary Beth Tinker are basically best friends.

Jeff and Mary Beth Tinker, in Sen. McCaskills office. Jeff usually looks this awkward in real life.

Jeff and Mary Beth Tinker, chattin' it up in Sen. McCaskill's office. Jeff usually looks this awkward in real life.

That’s right, the Mary Beth Tinker of Tinker vs. Des Moines Independent Community School District. The Mary Beth Tinker who wore a black armband to school in protest of the Vietnam War, was suspended from school, sued the district in defense of her First Amendment rights and won the case in the U.S. Supreme Court.


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90ish days of summer

On June 25, 2009, Jeff and I had coffee with Claire.

L-R: me, Sen. McCaskill and Jeff. This photo was taken by an official Senate photographer and e-mailed to me from Sen. McCaskills office.

L-R: me, Sen. McCaskill and Jeff. This photo was taken by an official Senate photographer and e-mailed to me from Sen. McCaskill's office. Jeff does not look this awkward in real life... generally.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., has 9 a.m. coffee with constituents every Thursday while the Senate is in session. Upon learning of this weekly meeting via Twitter and finding out that I would generally have Thursdays off during my internship at washingtonpost.com, I knew that Jeff and I had to visit with Sen. McCaskill at some point.

So we did.

Some slight exaggeration may be involved here, but I partially credit Sen. McCaskill for embroiling me into Missouri politics and, what the heck, political reporting in general.


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Classes and my senior year of college don’t begin until tomorrow morning, but I’m excited for this semester nonetheless. Today, I had two meetings that have determined how busy this semester will be — and it will be very busy.

The first meeting was the staff photo meeting at The Columbia Missourian, a morning city newspaper affiliated with the MU School of Journalism and staffed completely (except for certain editorial positions) by students. I’ve been a reporter for The Missourian for a year, during which I reported on now-attorney general Chris Koster’s general election campaign, the state budget and other such state political and economic news.

Now, I’m one of several staff photographers. I’m looking forward to this, mostly because I haven’t been on the field and behind a camera since freshman year, when I shot for The Maneater student newspaper. (In sophomore year, I was the Maneater photo editor, and last year I was doing political reporting for The Missourian.) I’ve talked to a few now-alumni who were also staff photographers at The Missourian. Among other things, they urged me to be enterprising and proactive in what I shoot.

“Take advantage of that press badge, and work your stories,” one told me (I’m paraphrasing — that conversation was several weeks ago). “Think of one story you want to follow all semester, and work toward that. It’s good exercise for you, good for The Missourian and good for your resume and portfolio.”

Which is exactly what the Missourian‘s new director of photography, Josh, said.

During the staff meeting, Josh reiterated the importance of being proactive, even if it means getting just a standalone photo published. He repeated his desire/the need to make The Missourian more visual.

“We die if we don’t have ideas,” he said. “The balloon deflates, and the reporters take over.”

Fortunately for me, I’ve already got a leg up on being proactive. Last semester, my Jefferson City editor Phill Brooks gave me a long-term article I never completed or even began: an in-depth look at rural poverty.


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90ish days of summer

Just a big ol’ dish of D.C. potpourri:

TODAY is my first sick day this summer. I’m not sure where I caught this minor bug, but I have a slight fever, my eyes hurt, my nose is runny, the back of my throat is tickly and I feel generally fatigued.

I think part of it has to do with the nature of my internship at washingtonpost.com: I spend almost entirely eight hours on the computer every day I’m in the office. Now, I am accustomed to spending inordinate numbers of hours on my laptop every day, but not eight hours at a time and day after day. So even though my monitor’s backlight is dimmed as I type this post, my eyes hurt just looking at it.

TODAY is also roughly the 20th anniversary of the crackdown in Tienanmen Square. I say “roughly” because the crackdown began on the evening of June 3 and ended sometime on June 5.

So much has already been said about how the Chinese government has deleted the crackdown out of its history books and shut down foreign news Web sites and other sites such as Flickr and Twitter, so I won’t add redundant noise to that conversation. Suffice it to say that of course, as a journalist in the Western hemisphere and a fan of the First Amendment, I think it’s despicable that the flow of information and the people’s inherent right to protest and free press are being disrupted and restricted.

Some interesting links relating to Tienanmen Square:

TOMORROW, I will be at the office at 8:30 a.m. to do a special gallery, but I’ll be getting out early. Some other interns — from the Post and other news outlets — and I will be going to the Sculpture Garden for wine and jazz during tomorrow’s happy hour!

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Today, I definitely felt like a member of the Capitol press corps because today was the first time I spent a long period of time in the state House press gallery.

I also took photos to mark the closing day of the legislative session. Here are a few of them:

On closing day of the 95th General Assemblys first regular legislative session, Rep. Maria Chappelle-Nadal easily had the tallest stack of paper on her desk.

On closing day of the 95th General Assembly's first regular legislative session, Rep. Maria Chappelle-Nadal easily had the tallest stack of paper on her desk.

Minority Floor Leader Paul LeVota and Majority Floor Leader Steven Tilley share a fun moment in the rear of the House chamber.

Minority Floor Leader Paul LeVota and Majority Floor Leader Steven Tilley share a fun moment in the rear of the House chamber.

At the close of session, state representatives threw their papers into the air (a tradition).

At the close of session, state representatives threw their papers into the air (a tradition).

A family walks around the statehouse rotunda after the legislative session adjourned.

A family walks around the statehouse rotunda after the legislative session adjourned.

Members of the press set up equipment for Gov. Jay Nixons press conference.

Members of the press set up equipment for Gov. Jay Nixon's press conference.

A few more photos can be viewed at my Flickr page.

And with that, I close the door on this part of my life. Next semester, I’ll be back a few times, but certainly not on a regular basis or for day-to-day reporting — and anyway, there’s no session in the fall.

Tomorrow, I begin a new chapter of my life: I am going to Washington, D.C.!

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — As I’ve previously noted, today is my last day as a day-to-day (or, two-day-a-week) political reporter for The Columbia Missourian.

It is also the closing day of Missouri’s 95th General Assembly’s first regular session.

Needless to say, this session and reporting on it have been quite a ride.

My editor Phill Brooks has been reporting in this statehouse for about four decades, and he’s said several times that he has never seen a legislative session quite like this one.

Every statewide elected official is a Democrat, the exception being Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, and the legislative majority is Republican in both chambers. The session opened with everyone talking about bipartisanship and how that’s what the voters wanted. But promises of working across the aisle seemed to stop there on legislation varying from abortion to AmerenUE to the budget.

Reporting on this session has been one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever taken on. As I wrote back in January, I began covering the legislature with only a very basic understanding of the process and the faces who propel the motions. But I flew back two weeks early from Texas to report on the start of the session, and now I am here for the end of it. It’s been a tremendously difficult, exciting, energizing five months, and I’m glad I did it and glad it’s over.

Lessons I learned, highlights I experienced and low points from which I learned even more:

  • Wear comfortable shoes.

I learned this very quickly during a 14-hour House Budget Committee hearing, at the end of which the committee passed the 13 operating budget bills. When I arrived, it was standing-room-only in the hearing room, so I had to stand in heels and on a bum ankle for about eight hours. I was walking in my stocking feet the rest of the time.

  • I asked my first question at a press conference! …in May.

Uproar ensued after Speaker Pro Tem Bryan Pratt announced on the floor allegations of bribery by Gov. Jay Nixon’s office. Two Republican representatives later identified themselves to the press, saying Nixon’s staff offered career advancements in exchange for votes for the health care bill in question.

The Democratic caucus held a press conference upon adjournment, where reporters questioned them about the health care bill. That’s where I asked the first question I’ve ever asked at a press conference: “What is your response to the Republicans’ claims of bribery by Nixon’s office?”

You can view Minority Floor Leader Paul LeVota’s response at 2:11 in the below video:

  • Don’t be afraid to ask basic questions.

I became pretty comfortable with just going to Budget Director Linda Luebbering’s office and asking her if she could clarify a few budget-related issues for me. The same applies to a few other legislators, and I am very grateful that they didn’t mind explaining the basics to a student reporter.

  • Persistence is key.

It took me about seven weeks to get a certain interview, and another three weeks to get a certain photo. But they both happened, and you’ll get to see the published result on May 27.

Now, it’s 5:30 p.m. and I am still in the House press gallery. The session is to close in 30 minutes, at which time the representatives will throw all their papers in the air. Then it’s on to press conferences, furious article-writing and then — I’ll be done.

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Today is the last day of the first regular session for Missouri’s 95th General Assembly, and my last day of regular legislative reporting for The Columbia Missourian.

Yesterday, the House adjourned abnormally early — just after 4 p.m. — especially since that was the penultimate day of session. As I learned via Twitter updates (courtesy of @ChadLivengood, @Missourinet and a few others), the House is waiting for the Senate to pass House Bill 191, which has been called the “economic development bill” by some and the “jobs bill” by others. Either way you call it, it was filibustered in the Senate last night, as were several other ecodevo/jobs bills that the House has sent to that chamber.

As of 10:44 a.m., the Senate is still third-reading that bill.

No matter what happens, though, the gavel goes down at 6 p.m., and in the House at least, the legislators will throw their papers in the air. I’m excited and hope this closing day will go out with a bang.

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My most recent article published in The Columbia Missourian received a pretty heavy-handed comment wherein the author wished a snub-nose revolver be fired. At me.

The comment has since been deleted, but it was in response to my article about the then-latest status of the concealed-carry House bill. The Missouri Senate Judiciary Committee held a public hearing for a bill that would expand the castle doctrine and remove provisions that prohibit concealed carry on college campuses. Five witnesses gave public testimony, all of whom were in favor of the legislation.

One of the witnesses was Isaiah Kellogg, a Ph.D student at the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, Mo. During his public testimony, Kellogg said he has carried a concealed-carry license since 2005, keeps his gun in his car trunk while he is on campus and wants to be able to carry his gun on campus since he intends to teach at universities after finishing his degree.

After the hearing adjourned after 10 minutes and with no executive session (i.e., vote), I literally jumped out of my chair to catch Kellogg so I could ask him a few more questions.

Near the bottom of my article, I wrote the following about Kellogg:

Isaiah Kellogg, who has spent 10 years at Missouri S&T and intends to teach at a university after earning his degree, said he supports the bill because it would increase campus safety.

“I am going to be in academia for the foreseeable future — that will be my career — so I will be on university campuses for most of my life until I retire,” Kellogg said in his public testimony. “So this is very important to me, to have the ability to protect myself.”

Kellogg has held a concealed-carry license since March 2005 and usually carries a snub-nosed revolver, which he must keep in the trunk of his car when he is on campus. Kellogg said Missouri S&T’s code of conduct does not allow concealed weapons on campus, and if the legislation passes, the university is not obligated to change its code of conduct. But if the bill passes, Kellogg said students can argue for concealed carry with the university board.

“We’ve taken down the legal barrier,” Kellogg said, speaking hypothetically. “Now, we have to take down the code-of-conduct barrier.”

The first comment I received is the comment in question. The author wrote the following:

Kellogg has held a concealed-carry license since March 2005 and usually carries a snub-nosed revolver, which he must keep in the trunk of his car when he is on campus.

I’m sure that Mr.Kellogg appreciates this reporter letting criminals KNOW where to get a free gun whenever he is on campus. Let’s just hope that the first person that has to face this weapon is the “reporter” that so willingly disclosed this information.

Someone wants me dead.


I understand the author’s point, but I absolutely don’t think it’s reason to want me to face a lethal weapon. And even if the comment wasn’t meant to be taken completely seriously, it’s still out of line to wish death upon someone. My editors agreed, and so — after I alerted them to the comment — the comment was removed.

My immediate editor, Phill, called me after he read my e-mail and said he requested the removal of the comment for two main reasons.

  1. The comment was directed at a student who is preparing herself for a career in which, unfortunately, many professionals are constantly under fire and in danger of harm or death.
  2. The Missourian should not have allowed such a comment advocating the injury or death of one of its reporters to be published on its own Web site.

I can’t really argue against either, but I’m also biased.

On a tangential but related note: Normally, I despise prior review/censorship of content in journalistic publications, regardless of whether that content is an article or reader-submitted. But also normally, I think readers should submit only content that they don’t mind their grandmothers reading.

So, do I agree with Phill’s second point? Again — I’m biased. But I’m not sure that a system wherein a Missourian editor filters all the incoming comments before allowing them to be posted is the best solution, either.


It’s perhaps worth noting that the article published by Columbia’s other daily paper, The Columbia Daily Tribune, led with the fact that Kellogg keeps his gun in his car trunk while on campus:

JEFFERSON CITY — Isaiah Kellogg, 27, carries a snub-nosed revolver for personal protection, but when he goes onto the campus of the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, he stores it in a safe bolted to the frame of his car.

Kellogg, a doctoral student in mechanical and ceramic engineering, would prefer to carry the gun on campus, too, for his own safety. Last night, he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in favor of a legislative provision that would allow the carrying of concealed weapons at higher education institutions.

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — On Saturday noon, I will be in Washington, D.C., with ten days to spare before my internship at washingtonpost.com begins.

This means I have four-ish days to write two articles, do an audio slideshow, complete the final group project for Advanced Techniques in Photojournalism, take my sociology final exam and pack up everything in my room/kitchen. In addition, I’ve scheduled coffee and meetings with about four or five different people throughout the week.

But in five days, I’ll be in Washington, D.C., where I’ll begin 92-96 days of summer (depending on my end date). Hence, “90ish days of summer” will be the running title/motif.

I haven’t had time yet to determine specific goals for this summer. Right now, I’m waiting for the Missouri Senate to adjourn so I can report on a 6 p.m. Senate committee hearing. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t started thinking and daydreaming about Washington.

Things to look forward to on this blog in the next few days:

  • Reflection on the 95th Missouri General Assembly’s first regular session
  • Reflection on reporting on abovementioned legislative session
  • Goals for the summer

In the meantime, I’m going to do my best to keep my head above water in this final week in Missouri.

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Today was such a strange day in the Jefferson City statehouse. I can’t/won’t go into too many details because of several ongoing developments, but suffice it to say…

  • Least productive Wednesday since the beginning of session? That could be a fair assessment. Today, the House, Senate and (the self-titled) “Kinder Mafia” played softball, so everything adjourned abnormally early. I suspect this is why the big bills (stimulus?!) weren’t brought up — because what’s the point of starting the floor debate if everyone’s going to engage in healthy athleticism in the early evening?
  • I really hope Monday is the last day I need to haul my camera bag to the Capitol building/would finally get to take the photos I need. I’d like to think I’m tough, but carrying a camera bag, thick leather portfolio, big handbag full of budget books and my laptop can be a bit much for me to handle all at once, especially when I’m in heels.
  • Today’s lesson for some of the bureau reporters: If you’re going to stake out the hearing room where the majority caucus is having a closed-door meeting, make sure you cover all the doors. Two teams of two reporters each waited outside the two main/public doors to Hearing Room 3. The legislators made it out into the halls without the reporters’ catching them. Nobody knew how this happened until I pointed out the back door designated for legislators and legislative staff only.

But hell, if the sunset wasn’t pretty as Abby and I left the Capitol building today!

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Yesterday, the Mizzou College Republicans hosted the Central Missouri Tax Day Tea Party in Jefferson City.

Yes, it was a tea party event — one of many in the national movement spurred by Rick Santelli’s call to action in February. Local legislators and several attendees spoke at the podium on the south steps of the state Capitol building. All but one were Republicans or like-minded as such.

I somewhat reluctantly covered the event for The Columbia Missourian.


That’s correct.

I’d heard about the event a few days ago and knew I would have to check it out and probably write up an article about it. But until I heard my editor Phill ranting and raving about the event and then found out The Missourian did want a story, I wasn’t very serious about covering the tea party.

Let me make this clear from the start: My reluctance had nothing to do with any of my personal political affiliations or fiscal beliefs, both of which I always do my absolute best to distance from the quality and breadth of my reporting. (Side note: as a political reporter, I make a point of not revealing either my political affiliations or fiscal beliefs in public forums.)

Rather, my reluctance was due to the nature of the event. Whether Republican or Democrat in nature, politically-oriented rallies hold very little journalistic attraction for me. Providing coverage to such rallies seems almost like providing free PR and media attention to politically like-minded people who happen to be exercising their First Amendment right to free speech in a public area.

Or, as Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, put it:

It doesn’t have any meaning. The whole reason they did it was so you and I would have this conversation. And you are buying into that by having the conversation. So it’s a clear media manipulation. You have been successfully manipulated.

Again — I cannot emphasize enough that I would agree without Rep. Kelly about political rallies organized by either Republicans or Democrats. My reluctance truly goes either way.

It’s a strange line to try and tread, that line between journalism and PR. I feel the same reluctance when I discuss certain bills or other kinds of legislation. One of the best ways for me to resolve any natural slant for the political party whose views are being strongly promulgated via a rally or legislation is to include comment from the opposing party. But it can be difficult to prevent the article from becoming simply a political crossfire.

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I promise I’m a balanced reporter.

By that, I don’t mean I’m trying to reassure you that I report on all possible sides of an issue, etc. (But that said, I do my best to report on all sides of an issue!)

Rather, I’m trying to reassure you that even though this blog has gone severely photo-heavy in the past few weeks, I’m still trucking along as a political reporter in Jefferson City.

I’d prefer not to disclose details, but my editor Phill Brooks has had me working on a few features. Those are to be completed before the legislative session calendars truly become congested with hot bills and fast-paced action. There are only five and a half weeks left in session, so that doesn’t leave me much time.

One of those features is something Phill wants me to drop for now and instead pursue next semester, as an independent study project. It’d be a complete package: written story/ies, photos, audio, multimedia, everything. And, if I can get it right, it could be a very compelling story.

I already discussed this possibility with my Advanced Reporting instructor Tom Warhover. Here are the considerations and consequences we agreed I need to keep in mind when I make my decision:

  • I’m already registered for 12 credit hours (four courses) next semester. To complete this project, which would be fairly time-consuming, I would have to drop one of my photojournalism electives.
  • I need to make sure I’d have enough time to do Staff Photojournalism (one of my three-hour courses next semester, but it would require far more than three hours of work a week). That is a course I simply cannot put off any further.
  • Transportation? It’d really help to have a car.
  • If I did pursue this project, this would be my third semester with Phill as my editor. Which isn’t a bad thing at all, but my development as a reporter could benefit from working with a different editor.

That said, I haven’t made up my mind, at all. I don’t think I need to until May or so. But it’s certainly something I have to consider very carefully.


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Photographers. We like to shoot and flash people.

With our cameras.

Sorry, I just had to throw that one out there!

Anyway. Our latest assignment for Advanced Techniques in Photojournalism was to use a single flash to overpower the existing light in our photo. We were to do this in two different takes:

  1. Bounce flash — This could be either on or off the camera.
  2. Direct flash — This had to be off-camera, meaning a shoe cord would be necessary.

I’ve done some flash work before, so I wasn’t as uncomfortable with this assignment as I was in the studio for our classmate portraits. Although I’d never used guide numbers and formulas to calculate how I should power up my strobe, I’ve done work with both manual and TTL flashes before. When I worked at Philmont Scout Ranch in 2006, the photo department was still using film (Pentax 6×7’s — what glorious old beasts!), which we developed and then printed ourselves. So of course any strobe work we did was completely manual, and I’m still very proud of a few exposures I made wherein you can determine that a strobe was used only by a few small shadows.

Most recently, I photo’ed senior portraits of my friend Chelsea’s brother Zak. In preparation for this shoot, I photo’ed Chelsea herself and was really pleased with how the below image came out, what with the sunlight acting as a hairlight and the flash acting as the main light source:

But for this class assignment, we couldn’t set anything up. So for my first take — in which I used the strobe as a direct flash — I went to open mic at Mojo’s on Monday. Here’s my select shot from that take:

Sam DAgostino and his daughter Anna perform together during open mic at Mojos on Monday. DAgostino - who used to manage Mojos and The Blue Fugue - and his family often play music in a group they call Pop Fiction.

Sam D'Agostino and his daughter Anna perform together during open mic at Mojo's on Monday. D'Agostino - who used to manage Mojo's and The Blue Fugue - and his family often play music in a group they call "Pop Fiction."

I had a really hard time with the direct flash take. All my images of the first few performers at the open mic section were coming out terribly, as if they were taken with a dinky point-and-shoot camera and not a DSLR and off-camera flash… that is, everything was overblown and just awful. Awful, awful, awful.

Plus, I was using my flash on manual mode, not TTL. Before I even began the class, my good friend Esten told me always to shoot on manual. I said I would only if I wasn’t under pressure, at least not until I became more comfortable with strobe work.

Well, I changed my mind. When former Maneater photo editor Ryan Gladstone and I shot the Missouri-Kansas mens basketball game in Lawrence, Kan., in January 2007, he asked me what mode I was using to shoot. I said I was shooting on aperture-priority, at which he shook his head and advised me to always shoot on manual. I said I would start trying that after the game. And I did. And I grew to like having complete control over my exposures, and now I can’t shoot any other way.


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