Veteran state reporters share their secrets

Veteran state reporters stressed the importance of asking for assistance and focusing on specific aspects of stories at a June 9 program sponsored by Connecticut SPJ.

About a dozen journalists and educators converged at the Wethersfield Public Library for a discussion on how to best cover the governor and legislature. The panelists included: Ken Dixon, of the Hearst Connecticut Media Group; Chris Keating of the Hartford Courant; Mark Pazniokas, of; Keith Phaneuf, of; and Christine Stuart, of CTNewsJunkie.

Among the points made:

  • Stuart: Get to know your local lawmaker.
  • Dixon: If you’re affiliated with a newspaper with a reporter at the Capitol, ask that person questions. We can point you in the right direction.
  • Keating: Take human bites. Until you have been there for a while, you don’t know what you don’t know.
  • Keating: If you get an assignment, stick on that one subject and get it right. Burrow deep into the subject.
  • Dixon: Utilize the Legislative Library: 860-240-8888. The staff is available to assist with finding information on bills and other background information.
  • Pazniokas: Our job is to provide context – and that could include local and historic context.
  • Pazniokas: You are reporters so you can ask questions like: what difference will a particular bill make — both long-term and short-term.
  • Pazniokas: Most of the time, everyone you will need for a story will be in the state Capitol. You just need to know where to find them.
  • Pazniokas: Librarians, by their nature, are wonderful people. They want to hekp, and want people to come to them with questions.
  • Pazniokas: There’s a bill analysis and fiscal analysis done for every piece of legislation.
  • Phaneuf: The best advice I could offer is to slow down. Try to find a balance between the deadline and accuracy.
  • Phaneuf: It’s not the complexity of issues that is difficult, it’s the diversity.
  • Phaneuf: The spin is more intense at this level – and is getting worse.
  • Phaneuf: Once you report something, it’s really tough to undo it. So be careful!
  • Phaneuf: You just have to pick your story and do it well.
  • Pazniokas: Every where state government is, you have the opportunity to report something.
  • Pazniokas: Sometimes the most complicated subjects are best explored by getting down to the simplest levels.
  • Pazniokas: Get on the email lists. There is always a chance to grab something that’s important to you that you could otherwise miss.

Is there any advice you would add? Please utilize the comments section below to share your insights.

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