National Press Club

Dozens Get Political Tips From Workshop

October 29, 2009 | By Kate Hunter | kathleen.r.hunter@gmail.com

NPC board member and The Hill reporter Mike Soraghan moderates as Politico's David Rogers, PoliticsDaily.com's Patricia Murphy and Time's Jay Newton-Small share their expertise about covering Capitol Hill

NPC board member and The Hill reporter Mike Soraghan moderates as Politico's David Rogers, PoliticsDaily.com's Patricia Murphy and Time's Jay Newton-Small share their expertise about covering Capitol Hill

Photo/Image: Susan Heavey

Close to 50 people braved cold, driving rain and snarled downtown traffic to attend the Oct. 17 "Political Reporting: The Ins and Outs of Washington" at the National Press Club.

The daylong political reporting workshop, sponsored jointly by the NPC Eric Friedheim National Journalism Library's Professional Development Committee and the Regional Reporters Association, featured panels exploring how to ferret out a good political scoop, strategies for covering Congress, tools for tracking money in politics and previews of 2010 House and Senate races.

Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for USA Today, keynoted the event. As participants munched on a catered lunch, Page shared her top eight political reporting tips - among them: keep a beat note, use a spreadsheet to track politicians' progress towards meeting campaign promises and get out of the office to attend events.

"There is no substitute for being there," said Page, who writes about the White House and national politics for USA Today and has won numerous awards for her coverage of the last five administrations.

Page also offered insight into what bureau chiefs in the nation's capital are looking for when they make hiring decisions, telling attendees that they should break away from the pack because editors look for candidates who are "doing more than the type of coverage everybody else does."

Earlier in the day, The Hill's Susan Crabtree, Hearst Newspapers' Rick Dunham and Congressional Quarterly's Tim Starks shared their advice about how to become - in the words of Starks - a "scoop artist" before a team of top-notch congressional reporters, including Politico's David Rogers, shared their expertise about covering Capitol Hill. Rogers, who was joined by PoliticsDaily.com's Patricia Murphy and Time's Jay Newton-Small advised reporters to develop strategies for cutting through "the din" that abounds on Capitol Hill to pursue a story that no one else has written yet.

Rogers also suggested that reporters peruse the Congressional Record. "I know no one does," he said. "But I find it useful."

In the afternoon, attendees heard campaign finance reporting tips from the Sunlight Foundation's Bill Allison, veteran campaign finance reporter Bart Jansen and the Center for Responsive Politics' Sheila Krumholz during a Web-intensive session that prompted waves of questions.

Participants peppered the day's final panelists - the Cook Political Report's Jennifer Duffy and CQ's Greg Giroux - with questions about the upcoming midterm elections. Duffy, who focused on 2010 Senate races, said gave her assessment of the five most difficult to call Senate races, while Giroux, who specializes in House races, noted that next year's election will be the last before redistricting and pointed out that - unlike the 2008 campaign cycle - those that are leaving the House this cycle are seeking other elective office.

Giroux said he would be keeping a close eye on the 49 "McCain Democrats" that won races last year in districts where the majority of voters supported presidential candidate John McCain.

Duffy discussed the difficulties Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid faces in his path toward re-election and said that Reid - a Nevada Democrat - could be the Senate's most vulnerable incumbent.

The committee is planning to make the Saturday event and annual offering, with the next one planned for September 2010 just ahead of the midterm elections. For more information about the NPC Eric Friedheim National Journalism Library's Professional Development Committee contact committee chairwoman Susan Heavey at sheavey@reuters.com.