Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Tracie Mauriello is headed to Tampa to cover her first political convention. She’s agreed to share her challenges and triumphs with NPF Newsbag readers. In her first post, she zeroes in on the closest Tampa Starbucks, but scores a zero with a DNC star. Follow Tracie on Twitter (@pgPoliTweets) for links to her work for the Post-Gazette and Newbie posts for NPF.
In just a few hours, I’ll be headed to the Republican National Convention in Tampa and then on to Charlotte for the Democratic National Convention. Did I do enough prep work? Will I be able to find the key sources I need to flesh out my planned enterprise? Did I pack the right clothes? Did I remember my phone charger? My backup phone charger? An umbrella? Scratch that. They don’t allow umbrellas near the convention center. Two plastic dollar-store rain ponchos: check.
I’m a first-time convention-goer and overwhelmed by the whole thing already. I recently started searching around on the Interwebs for first-person blogs of reporters who’ve covered other conventions. Wouldn’t it be great to see how they planned their days, how they snared the big interview and when they found time to sleep. I recently complained to NPF’s Maha Masud and Linda Streitfeld that I could find no such thing. They suggested I fill the gap by writing one myself. I love the idea, but wonder when I’ll find the time to do it on convention days that will sometimes start with 7:30 a.m. delegation receptions and end after receptions for Pennsylvania politicians at 2 a.m. Nonetheless, I’m going to try.
I’ve got a coverage plan mapped out; six enterprise pieces (half reported); and a loose-leaf binder full of phone numbers, convention schedules and travel confirmations. I’ve printed directions and maps to the policy briefings, protests and other events I want to hit. (I have scoped out the nearest Starbucks!). I don’t think a reporter can ever be totally prepared for these things, especially knowing there’s a fair chance of being forced to ditch carefully conceived coverage plans because of breaking political news or because of a hurricane that could interrupt the entire convention. (Where is the blog about transforming yourself from a political reporter to a weather reporter overnight?)
My tasks for these conventions are to write several broad issue pieces, to provide coverage of the Pennsylvania delegation that Post-Gazette readers won’t find elsewhere, to provide posts to our politics blog (www.post-gazette.com/EarlyReturns), to try to produce a few publishable photos and to Tweet like crazy. (Follow me at www.twitter.com/pgpolitweets.) I’ll also be writing short web bursts on the major speeches each night while my colleague Jim O’Toole, who has lots more experience covering politics and attending conventions, will write the lead story each day for our print edition, putting the speeches into broader context. It sounds like a lot because it IS a lot.
That brings me to my No. 1 worry: That I’ll be too unfocused to do anything well. I’ll have to multi-task, but I don’t want to be scattered. (Lucky for me, I’ll be hanging out at least some of the time with Karoun Demirjian so I’ll have a chance to see a master at work. Karoun can juggle a camera, a notebook, a video camera and a recorder like nobody’s business. She works for the Las Vegas Sun and I met her last year through NPF’s Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellowship.)
My No. 2 worry is that I will fail to recognize somebody important, miss out on a great interview and look like a fool. This concern isn’t unfounded. Earlier this summer, I was at The Washington Post for a party to celebrate the launch of the new David Maraniss biography, “Barack Obama: The Story.” I chatted a long while with a guest who introduced himself as Terry. Later, my reporter friends at the party wanted to know what great scoop I had gotten out of Terry McAuliffe. Yes, that Terry McAuliffe, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Talk about a missed opportunity.
Earlier Blog Posts
Journalist Hacking Raises Awareness for Cyber-Security
August 10, 2012
How Can Journalists Start the Talk on Guns?
July 25, 2012
Gen. Custer and the U.V.A. Board
June 29, 2012
Book on Special Ops Points to the Future
June 6, 2012
Company Trains Journalists How to Protect Themselves…
May 7, 2012