August 27, 2011 § 1 Comment
Below is a list of the stories I wrote this summer (2011) for VTDigger.org.
- Scott, House GOP agree with Democratic governor – Vermonters are taxed out
- New law makes “complete” streets a priority
- Shumlin signs veterans tax credit legislation
- FCC report ranks Vermont 38th in broadband access
- Shumlin’s decision to veto water safety bill perplexes proponents
- Welch: Flood relief for private companies, homeowners not likely
- Sanders proposes bill to end oil speculation
- August is the soonest VTel can roll out fiberoptic cable
- State officials urge homeless advocates to find efficiencies
- Seventy five percent of Vermont primary physicians adopt electronic patient records
- Activists placard Vermont Yankee’s “emergency planning zone”
- Lack of cell coverage hampers electronic monitoring of Vermont inmates
- Lawmakers approve rule to prevent gaps in treatment for drug addicts
- Rural Vermont, Agency of Ag spar over on-farm slaughter rules
- Digital Media Festival joins technology with nature
- Campbell says Vermont’s broadband initiative is on target, cell service lagging behind for 2013 deadline
- “Master facilitator” says Shumlin’s broadband promise is on schedule
- Welch introduces law to protect public from warrantless GPS tracking
- VTel files petition to add TV to fiber project
- Vermont Medical Society proposes business, research initiatives or doctors
- USDA rep says limited resources pose threat to hungry youth
- Welch: “No excuse” for federal debt default
- Consumer group says corporation charges 30 percent more for funeral services
- VPIRG delivers 7,500 comments to DPS on energy plan
- Gay brides sue Wildflower Inn on grounds of discrimination
- PACE program for home energy efficiency back on track
- In Profile: State’s chief technology officer says innovation is a “people question”
- Vermont Electric Co-op members vote to approve line upgrade
- From the archives to digitized: Historic Vermont newspapers get new lease on life online
- Standards Board, Vermont NEA at odds over “blank check” teacher waiver power
- Hunger Mountain Co-op reaches settlement
- Traces of Strontium-90 found in flesh of fish near Vermont Yankee
- Shumlin says Vermont Yankee not necessarily source of Strontium-90 in fish
- Hospital budget hearing draws handful of participants
- Barre task force members at odds over $600,000 offender reentry program
- Norwich grad among the SEALs killed in downed helicopter
- Shumlin asks for No Child Left Behind waiver
- State, local pols clash over Barre offender reentry plan
August 11, 2011 § Leave a comment
My first story for VTDigger.org ran on May 11, 2011. Twelve weeks, 37 bylines, and 25,000 words later, my internship is finished.
I’m not in journalism because I aspired as a young boy to spend my mornings in the Vermont State House covering three-hour policy meetings and listening as lawyers debated for over 30 minutes the meaning of a single phrase.
But walking the streets of Montpelier and the hallways of state office buildings or wherever our governor’s next press conference might be, I learned my state from a different angle. One hopes that politicians see issues from the same side of an issue as everyone else, but they don’t. Lawmakers and lawyers will fight over the meaning of one simple phrase for 30 minutes because while it’s only a phrase to me, it’s the quality of life of hundreds or thousands of people who look to them, the government, for an answer.
I learned to see the governor, one of only fifty in America (an obvious fact that still brings me pause every time I step into the room with him), is human. A man who can make mistakes, but more importantly, make decisions because he feels in his gut – without always looking at numbers or bulleted lists or commission reports – that people need this. I grew up 0.47 miles from the governor’s office, but it took me 21 years and the right internship to realize this.
If I had to guess how many times I heard my editor, Anne Galloway, say “If you only take away one thing from this summer…” it’s definitely be more than just the once. But if I only take one thing away from this summer, really, it’s that no matter how much research I do, how many interviews I conduct, or how many meetings I attend, I’ll never write the perfect story. Writing alongside my fellow intern Eli Sherman (literally – we shared a desk), Anne, and the other journalists covering Vermont policy and politics, I saw stories written three different ways about the same thing. And I saw stories about three different things all come from a single event. Sometimes I’d see a story about an event I’d passed up and realize it would have been the best story I wrote all summer. The good stories aren’t always where you expect them, and the good become the best sometimes by chance and sometimes because of that one extra phone call.
People on the outside of VTDigger know Anne by her byline, the back of her head in press conference footage on the local evening news, or her phone calls. The only way to truly know an editor, though, is by dragging your chair into their office, sitting over their shoulder, and watching them tear apart – with a precision that to the untrained eye looks remarkably similar to reckless abandon – your day’s work. It took me a good few weeks to write a lede (the first sentence of a story) that Anne didn’t promptly delete. It was painful to watch much of the time, but the education I got looking over Anne’s shoulder as she restructured and reworked my stories was the best journalistic education I’ve had so far. And I go to a journalism school for upwards of $40,000 a year. Anne has an uncanny precision and ability to articulate exactly what the story is without sounding too convoluted or worse: making an incorrect statement in an effort to be direct. I feel lucky to have written for her this summer.
I learned more about photojournalism than I thought there was to know in the arena of taking pictures of press conferences and political meetings from Josh Larkin, VTDigger’s head honcho of technology, design, and photo (and cool hats, but he doesn’t put that on the business cards).
The newsroom, despite being roughly the same size as some of the jail cells we saw on our prison tour of Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield, Vt., was the best place I’ve ever worked. Walking in every morning, I was ready for something new and different. Almost every morning, I got it. From prison tours to digital nature walks to press conferences with the governor, every day was a new experience. If I began my summer with any doubt in my mind that I want to spend my life as a journalist, it has since disappeared.