Well we’re headed into our end-of-the-year class publication period now, but before I give you all the juicy details (and links!) about that, I wanted to update you on a VERY BIG learning experience I had on March 8th.
I. Covered. Question Period.
That’s right! Me! Little miss ” I’m from Saskatchewan,” up on Parliament Hill covering the big times! The experience was REALLY scary and , admittedly, a little unsuccessful. But looking back on it, I really did have fun and I learned a lot about a new aspect of covering the federal government (I had never even been inside Parliament before!)
What’s even more interesting is that my class and I got the chance to talk with a hip CBC Televison reporter and Carleton alumnus Rosemary Barton. I love Rosemary’s hourly news hits for CBC and I find her really informative to watch, so I was thrilled to get to meet her (and even delivered her a thank you gift from all of us– yay! A Carleton thermos!)
Here’s how it went down.
The Assignment: Sit in the public viewing section of the House of Commons and try to somehow make sense of all the sqwawking and squabbling going on in question period enough to gather a 500 word story out of it. Run home and complete the story by 9 p.m.
The Story: We covered question period on International Women’s Day, and as such, the Opposition was filled with criticism for what they saw as the Harper government’s inaction on “women’s issues.” ( If you can call them that– it’s a debated term I know.)
What I learned:
First of all, let me come out and say it. I had a really hard time with this, my first real exercise in deadline writing. We usually have a week to complete our stories, so having around four hours ( by the time I got home) was stressful, to say the least. I was really disappointed in myself that I didn’t do better handling the deadline, but it was my first time, so I have to give myself a bit of a break.
After fixing up my story with editing and comments from my prof, I have taken away a few things to remember:
– covering parliament is a lot like watching a tennis match. If you aren’t careful, you’re story will end up simply whipping readers’ heads back and forth without allowing them to see where that little green ball is. (Pick a narrow focus and don’t jump back and forth between opposition and government so much).
– My prof, the lovely Kanina Holmes, gave me advice that I will definitely follow through with next time: As journalists, it’s our job not only make a record of what people are saying in the House, but also to add value and analysis. My tight deadline didn’t allow much time for research, but with a little background digging and perhaps a narrower focus, my story may have turned out a bit better.
– If you can charm your guide/someone at Parliament into sending you a copy of the “blues” (official question period transcript before it is officially released) you are basically in reporter heaven.
** Note to self: keep up your dedication in French class. Almost half of question period was en français!)
Hopefully, I’ll get the chance to use these tips and new pieces of knowledge again soon in covering Parliament. (I may even go down there on my own for a bit of practice!)
Until then, I’ll post my revised story here, if for nothing else than a keepsake of my first time inside the hallowed halls of Parliament!
read, (be gentle!) and enjoy!