Saturday, November 10, 2012

Election Night @ the Burlington Free Press!

Hey guys!

So, this past Tuesday night I was given an amazing opportunity along with a few other SMC students...

We got to work at the Burlington Free Press for election night!!! Literally, we were able to be real reporters on one of the biggest news nights in the country. This is a journalism major's dream come true..too cool for words.

Well, maybe not too cool for words...because I actually had to write up a reflection about the experience for my Investigative Reporting class. So, I just decided hey, why not post it so everyone else can read about how awesome this experience was. 

Here's my word-for-word reflection of the night:

            Arriving at the Free Press on Tuesday night was extremely nerve-racking. Having never set foot in a newsroom before, I was unsure of what to expect. Initially, I imagined a large crowded room with reporters running around and papers flying in the midst of election night chaos. What we found was almost the opposite. After walking up a flight of stairs, we entered the newsroom, where few reporters were hovering around a table with a vast display of sandwich makings and snacks.  We all sat around the table and filled out paperwork so we could be paid for that night’s work.

At the Free Press, eating and waiting for our assignments!

            Professor Donoghue began handing out assignments to students with cars first, so they could drive to the polling places at further distances. I was given Ward 1, which was in the Mater Christi School right near Fletcher Allen in Burlington. I was dropped off at 7:00 p.m., left to fend for myself, feeling somewhat lost and unsure of where to begin. I grasped onto an ounce of confidence and strode through the front doors of the school, walked up to a woman who looked like she knew what was going on, and said that I’m from the Burlington Free Press and need to speak with the Town Clerk/Chief Election Officer.

            The ward clerk’s name was Sue, she was a short old woman with shoulder-length wispy white hair. She assured me that as soon as they had any polling results, she would let me know, but that it would be at least an hour because they had over 100 absentee ballots and many of them had been faxed in. I had serious doubts that faxing them in was even legal, but apparently it is, so I tweeted about it.

            I sat myself if a dark wood chair outside of the gym where ballots were being counted. A reporter from channel 3 sat next to me and started reading a seafood cookbook while we waited for poll results. How can someone sit for an hour and read fish recipes? I tweeted about it. He later told me he is a weatherman and news anchor for channel 3, he was very friendly and we talked a little off and on. This made the situation a little less intimidating and I started feeling more comfortable being there.

            Eventually, all of the ballot results were tallied up, and we both went inside to ask Sue for the numbers. She got flustered and didn’t know where to begin, so I said start with the president. We went through all of the categories and it was actually much easier than I thought it would be. I managed to keep up and get all of the numbers down. Then, I decided to tweet some of the important/interesting numbers: the presidential winner in Ward 1, the legalization of cannabis yes vs. no vote, etc. Then I called the Free Press and reported all of the numbers back to one of their staff reporters. He said I did a great job and thanks for all of my help. This inspired my last tweet, about how happy I was to have been a real reporter on election night thanks to the Burlington Free Press, which was responded to by a few Free Press reporters.             

           This experience was probably one of the best I’ve had yet as a journalism student. The chance to be a (somewhat) legitimate reporter is one of the best jobs you can have on election night, and I feel very lucky to have had the privilege to work for the Free Press. This experience has also confirmed in many ways why I love my major and why I am excited to graduate with a degree in journalism. Although I plan to go into magazine journalism, the opportunity through the Free Press made me feel as though I am truly becoming more and more prepared to enter the real world as a journalist, and I hope to have many more positive experiences like this one in the future. there you have it! I had a great time and this was such a huge learning experience. Also, opportunities like this are just another reason why I love St. Mike's...Professor Donoghue, a journalism professor here who is also my advisor and a staff reporter at the Free Press, offered this job to students in the journalism department. We have endless opportunities thrown at us constantly here, and I'm glad I took advantage of this one!


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