Day 8: Living in Cowboy Country

After only one week in the Lone Star State, I’m starting to immerse myself in the culture of Cowboy Country. This morning’s DART Rail commute to the station led to a surprise discovery on my iPOD.

I don’t recall having 45 minutes of country/western music on my playlist, but apparently it was just what I needed to jump start my Monday morning. Don’t expect to see me wearing boots and a cowboy hat just yet.

My mentor, David Schechter and I arrived in the newsroom at the same time this morning. As he unpacked, he told me about his weekend in Phoenix, Arizona, where he and another reporter from WFAA attended the IRE National Conference. Investigative Reporters and Editors, or IRE, is a professional organization for investigative journalists.  He attended several break-out sessions focused on various journalism topics. There were seminars on investigating national security and terrorism, public transportation, local government, and many others.  There were also opportunities to interact with other journalists allowing their work to be critiqued.

I’m getting a taste of investigations by assisting with David’s special project that will air in November.  My next step will be putting together a large number of open records requests for public information dealing with this subject area. The process is very tedious and involves combing through lots and lots of raw data, but I’m finding instances of exactly what we’re looking for. Tomorrow we will begin writing the actual information requests. This can be a very difficult process, as the offices you are corresponding with are unaware of their legal obligations under the FOIA laws.

Today I was assigned to political reporter Chris Heinbaugh, who is covering the Dallas mayoral race.  Until last week, the race had been relatively quiet as far as Texas politics are concerned. Democratic candidate Ed Oakley began airing a series of television commercials attacking the business practices of republican Tom Leppert.

Saturday, I will be assisting with coverage of the election results. It will be interesting to see if the negative campaigning will benefit or hurt the candidates. I met with both men today, and I was impressed by how well they express their plans to better Dallas. Both of them seemed like relaxed and friendly people, so I find it a shame that this campaign has gone negative.

Expanding business and education seem to be two central issues in this race. We spoke with some Dallas residents who voiced their opinions of the candidates, most of whom agreed that the negative campaigning was unnecessary.

A new WFAA/Dallas Morning News poll shows the candidates in a dead heat. Extremely low voter turnout in the initial election could be a factor in the outcome of this Saturday’s runoff. If the weather is bad, or pleasant for that matter, people may not turn out. Others may think that their vote will not matter, but according to reporter Chris Heinbaugh, it will. He said that one recent city council election was decided by as few as 12 votes.

Upon returning to the station, we were greeted by a throng of protesters demanding the removal of Israeli forces from Palestinian areas. They claimed that Israel is violation of the Geneva Convention. They were trespassing on Belo Corp. property and were asked to move across the street.

I stayed to watch the 5 p.m. newscast from the control room. Here, the director (who is not visible from this angle) must constantly look at almost every one of the monitors on the wall, assembling the correct order and framing of needed shots. It’s a complex process, but some very talented people have mastered this art, claiming their spot among the best in the business.

Thanks for starting your week of with me. Be sure to tell your friends about the blog. I’d love to hear any ideas about what you’d like to see included in my next post. Until tomorrow, friends…

The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of the corporation and employees of WFAA-TV, Belo Corp., or Northwestern State University. They are solely the opinion of the author. All content © Copyright 2007 Lane Luckie

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