Thursday, January 29, 2009

It's not much, but it's a first step to the Pulitzer.

Got an e-mail from the chair of the journalism department.

"Megan Wilson, who is interning for Scripps-Howard News Service in Washington, D.C., this semester, has captured 11th place in the Hearst National Writing competition for in-depth reporting.

She competed again 95 students from the Top 55 journalism programs in the country.

Her story on drunken driving and law enforcement was published in the Chico News and Review in October.

Read the front page feature here. I took the photos, too. CN&R is the one that messed with 'em, though.
This is the sidebar story that I wrote as well.

Good Night, and Good Luck. No, seriously. You're going to need it.

While it's no surprise that Michigan tops Gallup's top ten worst job market (sup, GM?), California ranks No. 8 and DC hits the charts at No. 10. The results were tabulated by asking 100,000 employees if their employers were hiring, who were keeping their workforces the same and who were laying off.

"The figures reported here represent the net difference between the percentage reporting an expansion and the percentage reporting a reduction in their workforces," the Gallup Web site says.

I wonder if DC made the dismal list because of all those out of work Bush loyalists.

The news about my home state is particularly troubling, where unemployment has reached 9.3 percent, the highest since 1994, Newsweek reported. All that, and California is supposed to be the eighth-largest economy in the world, circa 2007. I mean, now, who the Hell knows.

The news comes as a copy of H.R. 1: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (aka: The $819 -- and climbing -- stimulus bill, prepared specifically for me by the Congressional Budget Office, that's right) sits looming on my desk. The 647 page bound document is a clusterfuck of measures to aimed to (hopefully) keep us from careening to our collective deaths as an empire society.

To keep my head from exploding, I have limited my daily intake and output of analysis on the document. Of course, some things are good -- but some things make you go, "Holy fuck." And that's a direct quote.

But, I digress. Gallup also listed the ten BEST markets. At first glance at the spiffy chart, a reader may inquire, "Why WYOMING?" (Note: Any other state on the list, with few exceptions, can replace the example.)

I had a similar reaction, actually. But it immediately became clear to me that the states on the list are such boring, homogenious states that industry thrives. They're practically begging people to come live there. For example, Wyoming has a larger pronghorn (a deer-like creature) population than it does human residents. Seriously.

At least California's cool. We're poor. But damn, we're cool.

Bonne nuit, et bonne chance.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


"Who's there?"

Oh, nobody, just Mickey Rooney. He called me at the office and gave me his Superbowl pick.

His answer is confidential, but he tried to be all impartial and get away with not picking a team. Or a score. His wife is hilarious, I could hear her from the background: "Give the nice lady a team!" And, when he waffled she'd yell, "Just pick one!"

When he became even more diplomatic, refusing to offer an exact score, she said, "Just make one up! Stop wasting the girl's time!"

"I don’t want anybody to get up in arms over me, so I just say the best team will win, " he said, before his wife and I double-team peer pressured him.

Best office phone call to date.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Walking on marble floors for eight hours does not a comfortable girl make

Imagine my surprise this morning as I noticed a very fresh blanket of snow on the ground. The weather always calls for snow flurries -- well, this time they meant it. I felt an odd mixture of childish wonderment and terror as I navagated the 2-inch layer of puffy, frozen water in three-inch heels. Naturally.

Walking to the Rayburn building (of the Senate) I could feel people within a ten foot radius making bets as to when I'd fall over completely; the non-existant amount of traction on my shoes let me slip a little on the sidewalk, or crossing the street, and people began to pull out their wallets in anticipation.

Suckas, I'm a pro.

And thanks to the somewhat subversive underground subway system that connects the House, Senate and Capitol buildings, I didn't step outside for another eight hours. Instead, I watched Secretary of Defense Robert Gates testify in front of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, wherein I saw John McCain. When he reads to himself, he reads from his lap so it looks like he's asleep. It's adorable.

Then, I situated myself in the Senate Press Gallery like a baller real journalist and wrote a story. I bought a five dollar cheeseburger from one of the Capitol kitchens (to answer your inevitable question: good, but painfully small.)

Showing up a half an hour early to the House Rules Committee was a good idea, because there were like, 20 chairs. I was one of the only media people able to get in. There may have been MAYBE two other journalists. Suck it.

I won't bore you with the details of the meeting, which dealt with desired amendments to the $825 bailout package, but a killer story should be out soon.

It should also be noted that politicians like to compliment each other. A lot.
No, really. A lot, a lot.


Nothing says "rookie" quite like glitter eye makeup.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Everytime a Clooney speaks, an angel gets its wings.

People overcome with magnificent starpower often ask the most ridiculous questions.

I'm not going to lie, though; I love being a journalist because you get up close and personal with some of the coolest, most influential personalities in the world. Tonight, George Clooney and his dad, Nick, were on the bill. They were at the Newseum for a special showing of Good Night, and Good Luck. And upon inquiring about the rumored appearance, I accidentally got press passes.

Watching the duo on stage was straight up magical. The elder Clooney has a commanding voice and presence. His son has nearly the same voice, but a much more humble aura -- whenever he speaks, it's into his lap, occasionally making eye contact with the photogs, audience or his father.

Wit practically oozed from both of them.

After the movie and subsequent Q&A sesh, the audience rushed gently surrounded the stage. I ran down from the press box with Emily and finally gathered up the courage to jump on the stage myself. Having nothing better to ask either Clooney, Emily and I had already decided we were going to ask them for their Superbowl prediction, as part of the Scripps Howard News Service's annual celebrity Superbowl Poll.

We basically followed George backstage, but were rendered incapable of shouting demands at the illusive creature, which official-types were ushering to an unknown destination. You know you're famous when you can sign autographs and mingle while being shoved by a staff, who collectively doesn't make half of your income.

Witnessing it all was majestic, though. Two or three feet of air was all that separated us. We're pretty much married.

As if the Superbowl prediction wasn't vapid enough, though, some television reporter kept asking Nick Clooney the most idiotic questions. And then as he began to answer them, she'd interrupt. This came even after he had closed the show with a sentiment of how audiences would only receive the news and the television that they deserved.

If we continue to only care about celebrities and whether or not they wear underwear, he said, "we will go down into the dustpan of history as another empire lost."

Then the reporter asked about ER. And George. Like a proud papa, the elder responded happily.
But I felt like the overall message had somehow been lost. Even as I was preparing to ask about the biggest annual American sporting event, it seemed absolutely idiotic; As interns, we were there for fun. These people had stories and potential audiences and deadlines.

In the end, Emily and I got our prediction, complete with amazing quote. Mr. Clooney actually is a former Scripps Howard employee and engaged us in conversation like he'd known us for years. I shook his hand and he was whisked off.

Video and photos as soon as I upload.

Friday, January 23, 2009

New, New Year's Resolution:

Find my inside voice.

I don't think I've ever been quiet. (Except maybe the entire seventh grade.) Shushes are coming from all over the newsroom and a reporter allegedly is able to hear me from across the entire office.

Note to self: Practice whispering in the mirror.

Story and photo gallery update

To read these, you gotta sign up as a reader of Scripps Howard. Don't freak out. It's free.

Inaugural fashion
"We Are One" concert photos
Inaug Day photo gallery(some of these photos aren't mine, captions give credit)
My inaug story
My visit to the Senate Finance Committee vote on Timothy Geithner for secretary of treasury

Speaking of the latter, John Kerry is part of that committee. He's just so adorably and rambly in person, it made me smile. That four-minute time restriction musta been hell for him.

PS: Gotta take back what I said about North Dakota. They put the profile I wrote on A1.


Who got press access to a media-only Q&A with George Clooney and his father?

Answer: Me.

The Pelosi Files

It's pretty simple. Politics is all about appearances.

Even millions of people outside of Washington have figured this out; but encountering the concept in whirlwind of vanity is an entirely different story. I realized this while standing in the middle of a beautiful room in the Cannon building of the House of Representitives. About a hundred (or two) of Nancy Pelosi's constituents surrounded me. (Some people didn't get the memo about "image" in Washinton, as they showed up wearing sweatpants.)

She spoke about the election and how it signaled "how far America has come,"made some jokes and stayed after for about an hour, shaking hands and taking pictures with people. As I talked to people, I learned that they had merely contacted her about being in town for the inauguration, or wanting to be, and she sent them tickets. And an invitation to the event I was currently at called, "A Reception for Californians."

"You're our bosses," she told the people.

Waiters hovered around the people, wisking away old plates of food. On multiple tables, steak, salad and other delectables were available family style. There was even a dessert table, with tiny cupcakes, finger cakes and (my favorite) a delicious chocolate moouse that you needed a tiny spoon to eat. I put raspberries on top and was in heaven.

I found out about the event nearly three hours before, made some calls to her press secretary, and before I know it -- I was in. I interviewed people, met a nice journalist who offered her cell phone number and stuffed my face.

Although appearances can be everything, sometimes it's nice just to believe that someone's actually, really nice.

(pictures coming soon)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Rule # 547: Journalists love free food.

I'm going to the Hill to party with Nancy Pelosi at an exclusive gig for Californians, you know, no big deal. Having journo connections/rights blows my mind.

PS: I haven't seen any rainbows yet.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Motheruckin' North Dakota

For the inaug, everyone is coming up with cool angles, covering cool areas. Me? I've been assigned North Dakota -- the place where everybody goes when they give up their dreams. It's shaped like a nearly perfect square. How fitting.

Free love may actually exist. Maybe.

So, yesterday was the Welcoming Ceremony for President-elect Barack Obama (watch it on HBO here). Pretty much anybody who's anybody performed or read speeches. While it was at the Lincoln Memorial, my colleges and I found ourselves nearly a mile away at the Washington Monument, watching it on Jumbotrons. But you were hardly able to tell.
(See my photos I took here, and the story about the concert here.)

Thousands of people filled the park surrounding the monument. And you would have thought that the very concert was going on right in front of them. Electric energy eminated from the masses.

There was no shoving, no animosity to be found. Police reported no arrests. People were only glued to the moment, as if to say, "I know I'm witnessing history."

(It's all very profound until you realize that people may have just been psyched to see Bono. Or Denzel. No one would openly admit that God's gifts to mankind were the real reason for their elation; but, that's a given. Which is why Barack invited the two [among others, see: Shakira & Beyonce]. Obviously.)

Breaths drawn, very few audiene members could be seen sans Obama gear. I almost feel like tomorrow -- at midnight -- the world is going to be transformed into a magical wonderland. An Obama presidency means rainbows of hope and at each end? Chocolate-coated bundles of change candies. Evolution will spontaneously produce unicorns. Global Warming will think twice about existing.

Only time will tell. Until then, let's hope that this overwhelming dose of optimism isn't fleeting. It's a good vibe to have around.

(To read the stories and stuff, you have to create a username and password with Scripps Howard. But it's free, so chill out.)

Just posted today: Read my inaug fashion story here.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

So, what's up with this chick?

Washington DC is a strange land of tall buildings, where politicos are celebrities and celebrities become politicos. The District, as I'm coming to find, has rules. It's not for the weak of spirit or mind.

I'm a California girl trying to figure out how the hell humans live in temperatures under 50 degrees. I'm a Chico State student, but most importantly, I'm in Washington as a wannabe journalist. And if you're not Brian Williams, so are you. An equal combination of writer's block, procrastination and overall exaggeration exhaustion has prevented me from blogging at, arguably, the most important time. Until now.

In the past week, I've seen President-elect Barack Obama (my roommmate, Emily is a baller for throwing up her camera and getting this shot), walked past future Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Capitol and "Droopy the dog" impersonator, Joe Lieberman (yeah, I took this). I've seen Roland Burris sworn in by -- that's right -- Vice President Dick Cheney. Much to my dismay, he didn't go "meeeh," after a word or make that quacking sound.

Oh! And my personal fave sighting just might be from the Vermont (and Dark Knight) senator, Patrick Leahy. While a buncha journalists were waiting to see Barack, press-types and other Capitol staffers were walking down the hallway where he was scheduled to appear. With all the PJs (see: photojournalists) taking test shots, these extras often got caught in the crossfire. Good 'ol Pat, however, decided to duel.

"Two can play at that game," he muttered, and took out a (surprisingly nice) Nikon SLR taking photos of the ragtag troop of photogs. As it turns out, he used to be a PJ. Mad props, yo.

Pat lost the battle. Chin up, sir. You got the war on lockdown, journalism's dying.
(Just kidding, journos! Kindof.)