SUBSCRIBE to Capitol Fax      Advertise Here      Mobile Version     Exclusive Subscriber Content     Updated Posts    Contact
To subscribe to Capitol Fax, click here.
Question of the day

Friday, Jan 4, 2013

* The Daily Herald’s Mike Riopell posted this on his blog the other day

Today we add another reporter to the Springfield bureau team until the end of lawmakers’ spring session in May … or however long it takes them to approve a budget this year.

Doug T. Graham is a graduate student at the University of Illinois Springfield and an alum of Eastern Illinois University.

We recently gave some solid advice to incoming legislative freshmen, so I thought maybe we could do the same for the new crop of Statehouse PAR interns.

* The Question: What advice would you give these new Public Affairs Reporting interns?

And no snark, please. Thanks.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - walkinfool - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 11:08 am:

    Make friends with the secretaries, and visit with legislators in their offices for a few minutes to introduce yourself. It will make your job easier over time.

    They’re not afraid of you yet.

  2. - UISer - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 11:09 am:

    Take as many classes with Ron Michaelson and Kent Redfield as possible.

  3. - Andy M. - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 11:22 am:

    I’m paraphrasing another PAR alum, Kevin Lee, who told the class after mine to memorize the flow chart Charlie Wheeler hands out showing how a bill becomes a law… and then throw it away, because there are things called “Shell Bills…”

    On a less snarky note, take care of yourself. Get plenty of rest when you can. Eat healthy, get exercise, and when you can, spend quality time with your classmates. Some of these guys will be your friends for life.

  4. - Cincinnatus - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 11:25 am:

    Go back to school and get an MBA.

  5. - Are Ya Kiddin' Me? - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 11:26 am:

    Go out with Rich Miller one night….you might have a huge hangover the next day, but you will get the best tips, quotes, insight, ect.

  6. - The Captain - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 11:28 am:

    Nurse a beer in the beer garden at Boone’s, you’ll overhear and learn more about what’s really happening than any newspaper will tell you.

  7. - Advice - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 11:28 am:

    Become friends with the spokespeople.

  8. - W13 - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 11:29 am:

    Be nice to gatekeepers - secretaries, pages in the House, staff on the floor and at the LRB, junior media staff who take messages.

    Learn the Capitol geography. You don’t want to get lost trying to find an interview.

    Find a niche and become an expert (or figure out who they are).

    Follow Bill Holland’s advice: Be skeptical, not cynical.

  9. - CircularFiringSquad - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 11:35 am:

    Try writing without the context of some grand political struggle.

    Don’t quote an academic who has no real world experience.

    Have some fun.

    Always check the real credentials of “experts” quoted elsewhere ( i.e. one new group made a expert out some out of state prof who wrote one paper — a cut and paste job on state laws — on state pensions) Usually thin stuff.

  10. - Reality Check - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 11:36 am:

    It’s all here, from Philip Seymour Hoffman as legendary rock journalist Lester Bangs in “Almost Famous”:

    In short, Don’t make friends with the band.

  11. - Yossarian Lives - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 11:42 am:

    Don’t parrot the governor’s press releases when he takes credit for a bill he signed. Unless the governor’s office initiated the bill and worked it, they weren’t behind it. Take the time to figure out who was.

  12. - Dan Vock - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 11:44 am:

    Don’t be shy. Ask questions. Tell people when you don’t understand their answers. Then make them explain it again. (One of the greatest lines for reporters goes something like: “For my readers / listeners who aren’t experts, what does this mean?” It helps you understand AND leads to better quotes.)

    Remember that your audience (most of it, anyway) is not in the Capitol. Describe things simply, like you would to your family. Use examples of everyday people. The palace intrigue is fascinating, but most Illinoisans care less about the gamesmanship between the governor and the speaker than about their taxes going up or their schools falling down.

    Lose your ego. Practice, practice, practice. Listen to advice (especially from your bureau chiefs). Take thankless assignments. Develop sources. Write features. Soak it up.

    Get back to Charlie quickly when he asks you for your update for the Christmas newsletter.

  13. - Past the Rule of 85 - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 11:44 am:

    Use the lesson from Woodward and Bernstein: Follow the money.

  14. - Barton Lorimor - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 11:47 am:

    Everything that has been said here plus:

    Get the quotes you need, and then put the recorder or notepad away and see if the person you’re interviewing is willing to talk to you on background. If they give you information, it’s not for print. Consider it a little assurance you won’t produce anything wrong or misleading.

    Always have more than enough extra batteries, a spare pencil, and a few granola bars.

    The best stakeout spot when your chief wants a quote from the leadership during budget negotiations is along the 2nd Floor Rail opposite of the Governor’s ceremonial.

    The best way to get your story linked to on Capitol Fax is to have something unique.

    Happy hunting this semester!

  15. - Joe Bidenopoulous - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 11:48 am:

    Figure out which lobbyists are in tune and make nice with them. Some know much if not all of what’s going on, even if they’re not involved, and could be good sources.

  16. - Joe Bidenopoulous - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 11:49 am:

    Oh, and definitely follow CFS’ advice

  17. - PARalum - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 11:54 am:

    Don’t take anything personally! If you don’t have thick skin, fake it ’til ya make it. You should always be polite and address lawmakers & officials by their titles - but you’re not there to make friends. (If you haven’t ticked someone off by the time you leave, you probably didn’t do the best job you could.) Also, making sources out of lobbyists can be just as beneficial as trying to get anything out of staffers. Finally, no matter what, take comfort in the fact you are going to leave with an awesome group of actual friends that you made in your class.

  18. - walkinfool - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 11:57 am:

    Listen and learn the difference between:

    a “hedge” — (I’m keeping my options open)

    a “dodge” — (I don’t want you to know)

    a “babble” — (I haven’t a clue)

    and a “statement” — (I’m hoping this will sound good)

  19. - Yossarian Lives - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 11:58 am:

    – Also, making sources out of lobbyists can be just as beneficial as trying to get anything out of staffers. –

    Staffers should probably take that as a compliment…

  20. - Enemy of the State - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 12:00 pm:

    Learn to drink heavily, especially if some one else is buying.

    Know that when things make sense, you need to keep working.

    Be nice to the little people.

    Remember, just outside of Chicago, there is a place called Illinois.

  21. - Bill - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 12:24 pm:

    Get a real job.

  22. - Rx-PAR - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 12:26 pm:

    Don’t sleep with a lawmaker or staffer. Eat the free food and drink the free booze at open receptions while you’re broke enough to justify it, but don’t let a source but you anything more than a beer. Leave rown with five good clips and a recommendation from your bureau chief,

  23. - Kirsten Adshead - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 12:34 pm:

    You’re not there to make friends, but don’t treat everyone as the enemy, either. Be courteous, respectful, fair.

    Watch and learn from other, more experienced reporters. But find your own reporting style and writing voice.

    Anytime anything makes you go, “Huh,” “That’s weird,” “Really?”, etc., it’s probably a story. Even if it seems minor, chances are 1. No one else is going to take the time to follow-up on it, so you’ll probably have an exclusive story, even if it’s a minor one, 2. Half the time, it’s not a minor thing, it’s just something that’s being glossed over, and 3., Even when it is a minor issue, asking questions about it will lead you down a trail toward a story/issue you otherwise would not have known about or covered.

    Appreciate Charlie. He keeps the program running and watches over the PARs like a proud and protective dad. Remember to thank him for that.

  24. - Not It - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 12:37 pm:

    Don’t automatically believe what you see in someone’s press release, but that is a no-brainer.

    Know the difference between a real bill and a shell bill, committee amendment and floor amendment, and how they all move through the process.

    Don’t take it personally if people don’t want to have a conversation with each other while you’re standing there. Even if you say, “I’m not working” too many of us have been burned by reporters who later forget they weren’t working, either on purpose or by accident.

  25. - wordslinger - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 12:40 pm:

    Read, read everything. You’ll be a lot smarter than the average bear and it will inform your reporting.

    Start with the U.S. and Illinois constitutions, every word. Then, everything that the Auditor General puts on paper. That’s a crew of serious people who know everything and don’t spin.

    Read the papers, especially the downstate papers. They follow state government a lot more closely than Chicago does.

    Ignore TV and blabbermouth radio. They can drive the process for a few days, but they’re not in it for the long haul. It’s just noise.

    Cultivate a couple of goombahs, folks who will let you know what’s really going down. I had Hastert and Ronan, and those dudes gave me an education that money can’t buy.

    Earn Steve Brown’s trust. If I have to tell you why, you don’t understand what I’m talking about.

    Every chance you can, engage with Charlie Wheeler and Mike Lawrence. Don’t talk, listen.

    John O’Connor is the Marlon Brando of his time. Let him know that, and he might throw you a crumb now and again. The dude is a killer and one of the best guys you’ll ever know.

    Rick Millard knows everything. He won’t tell you everything, but if he trusts and likes you, he might tell you something you need to know, at just the right time. He’ll look out for you. The coolest of cool cats.

    Whenever you can, travel the state, preferably in a car, and especially on state and county roads, where you can see how the folks live. Go to the Wabash, the Rock, the Kankakee, the Ohio, the Mississippi, everywhere.

    When you do, don’t eat at fast-food chains, find the local diners and taverns and engage with the folks (I have recommendations from Galena to Cairo). The state is brilliant, beautiful and rich and you have to see it to appreciate it and know it.

    Park your POS college car in the governor’s spot at the Dome on weekends. Take a picture. It’s hilarious.

    Explore and enjoy the Dome. It’s magnificent.

    Here’s the tough one: check your cynicism at the Dome. Watching sausage being made is ugly and brutal. But it’s real and it’s necessary.

    Be cool to everyone you meet. It’s just the right thing to do. But in your own self-interest, understand the Dome runs on trust and friendship. You’re in the information business, and everyone you meet knows something important that you don’t. They might share it if they like you.

  26. - Sunshine - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 12:51 pm:

    People do business with people they trust; not necessarily with people they like. Earn their trust.

    Before telephones, a person used to have to lie to a person’s face. Try face to face when you can. It helps reveal the truth.

  27. - Quizzical - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 1:27 pm:

    With regard to most of the important issues, only a few people really know what’s going on, and they got to their positions by not being the type of people who share information willy-nilly.

  28. - Publius - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 1:41 pm:

    Know that many of the people you meet now will be around for years and years. Then they will disappear and pop up some place else in other roles for the rest of your life

  29. - Dean Olsen - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 1:49 pm:

    Realize how important the job of a journalist is, and resist the urge to jump ship for more money in public relations. So many PAR grads become flaks, a fact that is so frustrating, though I know the current state of journalism is accelerating this trend.

  30. - Langhorne - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 2:16 pm:

    Read “mostly good and competent men, at least from of ogilvie forward. ESP if you are from out of state

    Don’t sleep with anyone who can help you, or hurt you.


    Get your sources right–Charlie’s how a bill becomes law flow chart is likely from the LRU

  31. - D.P. Gumby - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 3:32 pm:

    Learn the law! Don’t think that you can understand the bill by reading it. Take some legal studies classes.
    Read Understanding the Illinois Constitution–

  32. - anon sequitor - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 3:34 pm:

    Don’t follow the usual cynical pack journalism in Springfield. There are far too many predictable stories that anyone could write. The story behind the headlines is always more interesting.

    Study the writings of the late Bill O’Connell. No one has ever covered the Capitol better than he did. He told simple, informative and accurate news stories.

    And if someone wants to buy you a beer and a burger, let ‘em. You’re being paid poverty wages. Besides, if anyone thinks you can be bought for a beer and a burger, you’re either selling yourself cheap, or they are a fool.

  33. - Rich Miller - Saturday, Jan 5, 13 @ 11:06 am:

    When spokespeople tell you something, make sure to take it with a grain of salt. For example

    ===As a side note, Phelon also refuted a report in Wednesday’s Capitol Fax political newsletter that her chamber was close to cutting January’s possible eight-day session by more than half. “There hasn’t been a clear-cut agenda, a to-do list emerge yet [for the lame-duck session],” she said. “I suspect once that’s clear, we’ll know whether days should be knocked off our schedule. I suspect if there are, it could be one or two days off.”===

    One or two days off, eh? OK. Whatever. Totally refuted.

  34. - Dan Vock - Tuesday, Jan 8, 13 @ 9:10 am:

    While we were doing this, folks in Minnesota were offering advice to Capitol newbies there. Many of the same lessons apply:

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

* Pressure builds on Alvarez, McCarthy
* Final day to file!
* SEIU claims court victory on health insurance
* Question of the day
* So long, Kurt!
* Will "right to work" pop up again?
* A little bit of what's at stake this week
* More poison pills
* Time heals most wounds
* NYT looks at Griffin, Rauner
* LaQuan McDonald case: Three suggestions for state action
* Yesterday's blog posts

Visit our advertisers...







Search This Blog...

Search the 98th General Assembly By Bill Number
(example: HB0001)

Search the 98th General Assembly By Keyword

* Eddy Cue Discusses Why Apple Made a Pre-Installed News App
* LG V10 bundle promo is back with just a bit less love
* Samsung Mobile chief steps back to focus on long-term growth
* Shin gives way to Koh as Samsung mobile communications president
* You can now save images to folders within Google image search on mobile
* Tengami is a beautiful puzzle game now out on Android, on discounted launch
* Apple v. Samsung: the iPod patent art blunder

* Avila eager to wage 'friendly' AL Central rivalry
* Non-tender deadline looks familiar for White Sox
* Detroit Tigers make AL Central's first big splash with Jordan Zimme...
* South Side Sox' SB Nation MLB Awards voting results
* Starting Pitcher Rankings: Chris Sale and Jose Quintana maintain st...
* Scouting profile: Adam Engel
* Alex Avila will try to shed limitations with White Sox


Main Menu
Pundit rankings
Subscriber Content
Blagojevich Trial
Updated Posts

November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004

Blog*Spot Archives
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005


RSS Feed 2.0
Comments RSS 2.0


* Rauner, Dem leaders plan Tuesday budget summit .....
* Rauner, Dem leaders plan Tuesday budget summit .....
* Rauner, Dem leaders plan Tuesday budget summit .....
* Rauner, Dem leaders plan Tuesday budget summit .....
* Rauner, Dem leaders plan Tuesday budget summit .....
* Rauner, Dem leaders plan Tuesday budget summit .....

* Officials: Prep football championship crowds close to 30,000
* Huntley Historical Society raising money for new museum
* Bionic thumb allows Illinois man to 'do fantastic things'
* Rauner, Dem leaders plan Tuesday budget summit
* Prosecutor: Abuse victim couldn't identify accused commander
* Demonstrations continue in police shooting of black teen
* Student in custody for allegedly bringing gun to school
* Correction: Closer Look-Government Consolidation story
* Man dies after trapped in central Illinois corn dryer
* Judge orders Illinois to pay home health workers' insurance

* Cities, counties demand action amid Illinois budget mess
* Two file to run against Rodney Davis as candidates rush to beat Monday deadline
* Candidates rush to beat Monday filing deadline
* Judge orders Illinois to pay home health workers' insurance
* Cities, counties struggle during Illinois budget mess
* 'Pot doctors' pushing boundaries in Illinois, other states
* Burger King manager: Police erased video of Chicago shooting
* Local free community college plans may be template for U.S.
* Rauner faces challenges in move to block refugees
* Vendor Payment Program suspended due to budget impasse

* Peoples' new owner urges no slowdown in high-cost pipe program
* CEO leaves struggling Broadwind Energy
* Illinois Obamacare insurer halts new small-biz enrollees
* Chicago cop's lawyer says he may post bond soon
* Chicago officer Jason Van Dyke posts bond, leaves jail

* Black pastors press Trump on his tone in closed-door meeting
* Source: FBI finds Burger King video not altered in Laquan McDonald case
* Brown: Voters can decide whether Alvarez has to go
* Ald. Harris quietly files to challenge Dorothy Brown
* A pair of young Blackhawks players made a trip to see Santa Claus
* Time for Blackhawks to shut down Jonathan Toews, the fighter
* Top-heavy Blackhawks still seeking a depth charge
* Cop who shot Laquan McDonald due back in court
* Cop charged in Laquan McDonald case bonds out of jail
* Is Anita Alvarez losing her Hispanic political base?

* Teen dead, 4 others hurt in shootings
* Girl hurt in northwest Indiana shooting
* Cop in Laquan McDonald's shooting freed from jail on $150,000 bond
* Student with gun, ammunition arrested at Barrington High School
* Coca-Cola workers authorize strike at plants in Niles, Alsip
* U.S. Senate, state's attorney's races take shape on last day of filing
* Man charged in threat at University of Chicago linked to Laquan McDonald shooting
* Man convicted in 1994 shooting seeks new trial
* Prosecutors: Alleged victim of cop assault unable to identify him
* Rauner, Madigan to meet, but little progress expected on state impasse

* Cities, counties demand action amid Illinois budget mess
* Kathleen Parker: The pathology of Trump-itis
* Two file to run against Rodney Davis as candidates rush to beat Monday deadline
* Judge orders Illinois to pay home health workers' insurance
* James Durkin: Compromise needed to restore Illinois' standing
* Bernard Schoenburg: Book on Blagojevich impeachment lets reader 'be right there'
* Andy Shaw: It's time to crack down on no-bid contracts
* 'Pot doctors' pushing boundaries in Illinois, other states
* Burger King manager: Police erased video of Chicago shooting
* Kristina Rasmussen: Relying on one another, not the government

* N-G Top 10: Boys' basketball (Dec. 1)
* Monday's highlights: SJ-O girls outlast Tuscola in OT
* Boys' basketball games, tourneys to watch this winter
* Illinois' bumpy November in review
* UI volleyball ranked 21st in final poll
* UPDATED: UI chancellor: 'We needed some stability'
* Cubit's squad could qualify for bowl
* Ballot Breakdown: Men's side sees shift
* Tate: Time to cut Groce some slack
* Three arrested, fourth sought, in burglary spree

* Daily Herald renews Believe Project for 31 days of December
* Ravens win as time expires on blocked field goal return
* Warriors win 19th straight, 106-103 over the Jazz
* District 15 critic Sriram resigns from board
* Noah still providing spark for Chicago Bulls

* House lawmakers overcome hurdle on key tra...
* Rodney Davis talks funding with Bloomingto...
* The agency that fought Illiana gets a new ...
* Rep. Dold takes educational cruise down Ch...
* Lawmakers decry high turnover rate of VA h...
* CBD Oil, and politics
* Simon considering state Senate bid
* Killer Congressman Tom MacArthur trying to...
* Shutdown? State may not notice
* Rep. Bob Dold

* Legislation proposed to reform H-1B and L-......
* Tightening L-1 Rules in Grassley/Durbin Bi......

* Syrian refugees become issue in Illinois S......
* Syrian refugees become issue in Illinois S......
* Syrian refugees become issue in Illinois S......
* Syrian refugees become issue in Illinois S......
* Syrian refugees become issue in Illinois S......

* Paying for incarceration? What stops demands for better accommodations?
* Maryville Vote Took Place Tonight, Results Tomorrow
* Chicago Winter Overnight Parking Ban Starts Tonight
* Officer In Laquan McDonald Shooting Released After Posting $1.5 Million Bail
* Judge: State Must Make Payments For Home Health Care Worker Insurance
* Obama's State Of The Union Address Set For January 12
* Politicians Join Call For Anita Alvarez To Resign As Laquan McDonald Case Unfolds
* Democrats make bid to take over Chicago Republican Party
* Michael Malatesta interviewed on NTNM
* 7th Subcircuit race getting crowded, other last-day filings

* Emergency Management Officials, National Weather Service Encourage Winter Preparedness - November is Winter Weather Preparedness Month in Illinois
* Keep Your Family Safe This Winter - November through February are leading months for carbon monoxide related incidents
* Governor Takes Bill Action
* Illinois Department of Labor Director Hugo Chaviano Awards Governor’s Award for Contributions in Health and Safety to the Illinois Refining Division of Marathon Petroleum Company LP
* State Regulator Elected Treasurer of Interstate Medical Licensure Compact

Hosted by MCS SUBSCRIBE to Capitol Fax Advertise Here Mobile Version Contact Rich Miller