National Press Club

Tips on Covering Congress for Int'l Journalists

April 15, 2009

The International Correspondents Committee had its largest turnout of the year for its monthly meeting Tuesday when 40 Club members and guests, including foreign correspondents from Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, Europe and South America, came to hear former NPC President Sylvia Smith
give tips about covering Congress.

Smith said foreign correspondents need to accept the fact that members of Congress rate speaking to international media representatives at the low end of their priorities for press coverage -- after first dealing with media from their hometowns, their states and the national press.

Smith, who has covered Congress for 20 years from an Indiana perspective for her newspaper, the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, nevertheless said there were many ways for foreign correspondents to cover Congress even if lawmakers are not available for interviews.

She said foreign correspondents could develop congressional
sources in a number of ways, including getting to know key staffers on Senate and House committees, introducing themselves to lawmakers and congressional staff at diplomatic receptions, attending press conferences on Capitol Hill, attending NPC Lawmaker at the Club events (for NPC members only), working with friends in the U.S. media, taking advantage of online resources offered by the Library of Congress and think tanks that follow Congressional developments, making connections with congressional caucuses that draw a membership from among lawmakers with particular interests in international regions or issues.

Smith said the National Press Club's Eric Friedheim National Journalism Library offers an excellent resource for members, including access to databases and directories as well as the
services of the research staff.