Reporting for the Student Voice this semester was everything that I had hoped it would be. It was exhilarating, challenging, fun, and easy.
Now when I say it was easy, I don’t mean that I didn’t run into sources that were rude, that didn’t want to divulge information or that disregarded my emails. I also don’t want to convey the impression that I completed my stories on time each week and was never stressed.
What was easy for me was information gathering, the essence and foundation of every story. Covering an institution like UWRF provides a journalist with great tools for them to conduct their work.
For one, there is a handy directory on the UWRF website that provides contact information for nearly every faculty and staff member as well as those within the administration. In terms of triangulating the story, there are numerous “experts” that are most likely willing to provide information about a certain topic.
Connecting with my sources was very easy for me and I was certain that if I contacted them Monday-Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. I would be able to eventually speak with them.
This world in which I lived for a year is not the reality however. Most likely, journalist cover a wide variety of institutions and topics and there won’t be one single website in which to resort. Contacts will have different hours and all the news stories will not be centralized to one geographic location.
I feel like I am ready for the challenge and will approach it with as much gusto and enthusiasm as I did this year.
One of the more memorable stories that I wrote this semester was about the budget repair bill and its potential impact on state employee’s retirement benefits.
Throughout the semester, several of my contacts would inform me about newsworthy issues that they thought I should write about or at least look into.
Around mid semester, one of my stories fell through and I was anticipating not writing a story that week, because it was Wednesday afternoon. However, as I was “working” in the political science department, Professor Wes Chapin told me that there could be a massive exodus of staff and faculty leaving UWRF before spring break because they feared losing some of their retirement benefits.
Obviously shocked and interested, I quickly got to work trying to procure as much information as possible.
I immediately got on the phone with human resources and set up an interview for later that day and also called over to the human resources director at UW-Eau Claire and managed to get some very useful information from her. Still clocked in, I then ran down to the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences to try and get some information from him. He wasn’t in his office but I talked with the assistant and she provided me with information and other contacts. I followed up with a few more staff members and had the story written by 9 p.m.
This semester there have been several breaking news events that I reported on and put onto the Student Voice website. The first news story that I covered occurred during finals week of fall semester. I was in Columbia Missouri visiting my sister when I was notified by the previous assistant editor, Kirsten Blake, about a possible bomb threat in Kleinpell Fine Arts building. Feeling compelled to report, both because I am the assistant editor and because I had the urge to find out the truth, I immediately called the Police Chief, Richard Trende and was able to write a brief story. Anther news event that I covered on the fly was when faculty and a union representative drove to State Sen. Sheila Harsdorf’s house to deliver a resolution signed by Faculty Senate that opposed Governor Scott Walker’s budget repair bill. I was aware that faculty members were planning on driving to her house because of my previous reporting on the budget repair bill. I drove with a lecturer that teaches in the Math department and was able to interview the cops that we waiting at the top of Harsdorf’s driveway. I also broke the story about a student death in Prucha Hall and the job elimination of Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Enrollment held by Alan Tuchtenhagen.
This semester, I had to cover campus sports and the administration. I feel like I covered my beats well and I was never short of stories to write about.
Oftentimes, I had to write stories that were not pertinent to my beats. One example was a story about an organic farm that is about five miles from campus. I pitched the story to the editors and they gave me the green light. I think the article was a nice addition to the paper that week because it was a story that wasn’t directly associated with campus.
Throughout the semester, I was in communication with several people within the administration. Whenever I was requesting information via email, I always received a response and everyone was very helpful. There was one source in particular that was very accommodating. He sent me several documents that provided me with background information and we emailed several times to ensure that I had the right information and quotes.
I really enjoyed covering the campus community this semester and learned so much about UW-River Falls.
This is my first semester of practicum and so when I was assigned my first story, the process was still very new to me. I was told by the editor to write a story about the lab farm fire that occurred in July. I was very excited and started my interviews right away.
The following day, I drove to the Pierce County Courthouse where I obtained information about the pending case. I didn’t have a problem getting the information I needed. The amount of time that I worked on the story was not a lot. I also did not think overly hard about the story either. It just came together very nicely.
I think that story is the best story I worked on all semester, which is confusing to me sometimes because of the lack of time and energy that it required. I really enjoyed working on that story and am very proud of it, especially because it is the second story of mine that has been published.
Currently, I am writing a story about the attempt by several faculty at UW-River Falls to unionize under AFT-Wisconsin. Ever since faculty were granted collective bargaining rights in the 2009-11 state budget, two UW schools have voted for a union. According to a source, faculty support for a union at UWRF should be strong which will trigger an election. As I have been interviewing faculty, it has been effortless for me to find information from faculty about why they support a union. In order to make the story balanced and free from bias, I know I need to try and find a faculty member that is against unions.
During an interview with a faculty member in his office, another faculty member came in. After being informed about who I was and why I was there, he told me he was against a union but wouldn’t talk to me about it. He said he has been in enough “trouble” and has learned to listen to himself so he can avoid getting himself into a “situation.” This faculty member was a department head which puts him in a higher position at campus and perhaps more prone to scrutiny from administration. Another faculty member provided me with her positive thoughts on unions but wanted to stay anonymous. I realize that I will come across these situations in the future and it will take time to make myself known that I am credible and a honest reporter. Perhaps then sources will be more apt to divulge their thoughts to me.