Board, not bored

When I came into the newsroom Monday morning to prepare for covering the School Board Meeting that night, I actually had a couple of people tell me it would be fun. I didn’t doubt that it would be a good experience, but having sat in on parts of a board meeting or two in high school, I wasn’t really sure what to expect.

Turns out, everyone was right. The school board meeting was a ton of fun.

That’s not to say there weren’t stressful parts. I spent most of the day in the newsroom, trying to make sure I was up to date on all the important parts of the meeting to watch for. I talked with both my editor and my ACE about exactly what Abigail, my fellow reporter, and I needed to do that night. I figured out more nuances of the subject matter that would be discussed. I did a pre-write so we could get a story out quickly. I spent much of the day trying not to panic and telling myself everything would be fine. (Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit here. The point is I was pretty nervous.) I spent far longer than necessary trying to get enough snow off my car so I could actually see enough to drive to the meeting.

By the time evening rolled around, I had pretty much run out of ways to prepare and headed out to the board meeting. I managed to get in early enough to get front row seats for Abigail and me. This also gave us enough time to get settled, set up our recorders and our notebooks and prepare ourselves to go to work.

My job at the board meeting was to stay for the first two hours and then come back to the newsroom to start writing whatever had happened so far. Preferably, by this point the board would have voted on whether or not to approve a new school boundary scenario.

The first hour or so consisted of a number of presentations about teacher associations, programs at different high schools, updates on the progress of the new academic building and other groups. It was definitely interesting to listen in on all of these things, and I might be able to pull some interesting story ideas from them. But my mind was trained on school boundaries, and when the subject came up, I set to furiously taking notes and figuring out what exactly everyone was saying. After the vote, which excitingly enough occurred right around the time I was supposed to leave, I took off for the newsroom and pounded out a quick story on the board’s approval of the new boundaries. Abigail stayed for the rest of the meeting, and when she came back, the two of us put together a separate story about the other decisions the board made. We ended up finishing around 11:30.

Talk about a rush. No joke, I think it was the adrenaline from the evening that kept me up until 1:30, playing everything over in my head.

When I was doing this story, I was definitely pleased to feel like I was making progress as a reporter. While I know I still need to work on speed when it comes to turning quick deadlines, last night I started feeling like I was learning how to work faster and stay true to what happened. I still have a long way to go in this area, primarily in gaining confidence to write quickly from my notes and trusting myself that I’m starting to learn what I’m doing.

I also learned a lot about teamwork and trusting other people. Since I left the meeting early, Abigail stayed late to finish up the meeting on her own. She was pretty much the champion of that second story from the meeting. In the past, although my last few experiences have proven me wrong, group work has been difficult for me. But Abigail really did a good job of keeping me updated on what was happening and getting us all the information when she got back. Both of us had to work quickly with our ACE to make sure we had everything right.

In the end, we ended up having to do a small correction in the morning. While I definitely hate having to make corrections and the feeling of how far I still have to go, it was a big learning experience. Essentially, I learned how important it is to work closely together when you have three people trying to put a story together, especially if it’s 11 p.m. and you’ve all had long days. When this happens, it gets a lot easier to not communicate well enough and let something slip that shouldn’t have happened. Fortunately, the correction was small in the scope of the story, and I was able to quickly fix it the next day.

To say I’ve learned a lot in the last 24 hours would almost be an understatement. I think on the whole we did a good job, and I won’t lie, I’m actually pretty excited for the next board meeting. I think we learned from what we did right and what we did wrong, and I think I’m starting to feel more comfortable stepping up when I need to and realizing I might be reaching a point where I know what I’m doing.

New stories: Columbia School Board votes to approve new school attendance boundariesUPDATE- School Board approves air conditioning bids, 2012-13 budget parameters

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