Thursday, June 9, 2011

Why politicians make our jobs so damn easy

Many young reporters think covering politics is a difficult business. In reality, it's probably one of the easiest beats in any newsroom.

Why? Three reasons:

-Politicians think they're bullet proof. The laws don't apply to them, they can get away with anything, cheat on wives, steal, cook the books, knock up the maid, or send lewd pictures to women.

-Politicians are egomaniacs who love the sounds of their own voices.

-Every politician has enemies, both in the opposing party and their own.

So, you're a young reporter. All you need to do to cover a political beat is remember the following:

-Always follow the money. There's always a paper trail in any illegal activity.

-Keep a politician talking. Eventually, he'll say something stupid. Or give you a clue that something fishy is going on. If a pol answers a question and you want something more, say nothing. Trust me, they'll keep talking.

-Be friendly with members of both parties. Don't have an agenda. Now you have sources who live to dump dirt on other politicians, and they'll trust you when they need to deliver said dirt. These people know all the backroom deals, and they love to backstab. They need a messenger.

-Arrogance is a dead giveaway that something's amiss. When a politician gets testy if you ask about a certain subject, start digging. And you can start by calling the politician's enemies.

-Bear in mind that not all dirt you receive is the truth. That's where your reporting skills come in. You have to verify which version of political mud is the good stuff.

-Be fair. Believe it or not, politicians respect journalists who don't have an agenda more than they do those who are simply mouthpieces for their own party.

-Don't be swayed by a charming politician with an agenda that fits your own. Bear in mind that the number one priority of every politician isn't health care, foreign affairs, or the economy. It's getting re-elected.

-Keep in mind that there are sleazeballs and crooks in both parties.

-

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Grape,
First of all, love your blog. It's the highlight of my day.

Question for you... I'm a morning producer and weekend reporter trying to get a gig as a full time reporter. My only problem is that my reporter reel is thin on hard news. Would it be unethical for me to rework a hard news package by piecing together file footage and interviews of old packages from my station? I'd completely rewrite it, "storytelling" style of course, possibly pop in a standup and maybe some flashy editing.

What do you think? Lead me, Grape.

-Small Town News Girl

-The Grape said...

Small Town Girl,

First, thanks for the compliment and glad I can "make your day" with some of my ramblings.

As for your dilemma, you need to knock out a real story. You may have to actually come in on your day off... or, find a legit hard new story on the weekend.

Now if you're saying, "We only cover festivals and fluff on the weekend," well, then you need to plan ahead. For instance, if some school is having a fundraiser on Saturday to raise money to keep paying an art teacher, you'd need to visit the school during the week, get your b-roll, show the art teacher in the classroom, etc. You can get 90 percent of your story before the weekend, then just set it up with the Saturday activities.

Many people think they're trapped because they work weekends, but you can easily tie in a weekend activity into something harder. Just find your story in advance so that you can gather what you need.

Hope that helps.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Grape! Will work on it. You're the best.