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Senior attends national seminar, gains insight

February 28, 2008

Senior attends national seminar, gains insight

Harvard. Columbia. Northwestern. These were the titles my peers listed off. When my turn came, I proudly stated, “Breanne Coats, Pacific Lutheran University.”

Being selected as one of 19 students from around the nation to participate in the National Press Foundation’s “Introduction to Washington for College Journalists” program was a surprise and such an honor. The program took place Feb. 16 to 20 in Washington, D.C.

After being informed of my acceptance, I had less than a month to prepare for what would be one of the most beneficial experiences of my college career. I was nervous to be the only person from PLU attending the conference, and I also felt like I was representing the entire West Coast because most of the students were from the East Coast.

As soon as the group met Saturday, Feb. 16, my nerves were replaced with confidence. I told myself that both quality professors and professionals in the field of journalism had trained me, and I belonged at this conference.

I was right. I cannot once remember feeling lost or like I missed something in my college education. However, I never really had to prove myself to my peers because most of us were instantly receptive to each other.

It was a good thing we got along fast because the NPF didn’t give us much time to adapt. They kept us going from 8 a.m. into the evening hours Sunday through Tuesday. The last day, Wednesday, was a short day, but we still managed to fit in a formal breakfast, a tour of the Pentagon and lunch.

The best part of the program was that it delivered on its promise: we received a journalist’s introduction to Washington, D.C. We met with veteran and up-and-coming journalists, attended various events and toured key buildings in the capitol.

Two of my favorite sessions were when we had the opportunity to ask questions of veteran reporters Bob Schieffer and Linda Greenhouse. Both of them were humble and open. They showed us that reporters who remain loyal to the industry don’t necessarily become bitter or lose passion for their profession.

The editor in chief of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine, Knight Kiplinger, gave us a quick and informative session. We received tours of the House of Representatives and Senate buildings, which both specifically focused on the rooms that journalists sit in or want to know about.

Every speaker and event was useful to us as young journalists. By the time I left, I even felt like I was beginning to master the subway – an important skill for everyone in the city.

It is not surprising Washington, D.C. is a hot spot for the media. Decisions that affect the entire country are decided there. It is important for journalists to know and understand what happens in the capitol and the various ways to report on the issues.

The program identified for us young journalists the various people to contact in the city to get specific information. It also gave us the opportunity to see the different jobs available to us, which definitely intrigued me since my May graduation is approaching. Even if I don’t end up in Washington, D.C., the information I learned about reporting on the government and the courts will be useful anywhere.

I left the conference with an abundance of knowledge on Washington, D.C., and the opportunities there for journalists, along with some new Facebook friends and more confidence to graduate this May with a degree from PLU.

Senior Breanne Coats will graduate this May with degrees in communication and history.