Saturday, July 3, 2010

Journalistic Perks: Kagan Hearings and Russian Spies

This summer, I'm interning with the online news publication Main Justice (, which focuses on the Department of Justice and federal courts. The outfit is small, but I'm learning there are a lot of perks to a small newsroom in the big city. While you don't get some of the more traditional corporate perks — free coffee in the office, for instance — I'm getting unparalleled experience and a chance to see really amazing things in Washington.

Case in point: This week I reported on the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. It was amazing to be in the center of such a consequential story. The photo below shows me at the press table in the back of the hearing room, taken by a coworker:

Channing Turner reports on Elena Kagan
Covering the hearings themselves turned out to be brutal; I spent nearly the whole time glued to my computer screen, writing frantically in order to keep our live blogging updated. My coworker and I traded off duties: one listening/note-taking and the other writing quick posts for the website, the vice versa. Ensuring you correctly quote senators while trying to write fast racks the nerves. Luckily, I had recording software in my laptop that made it fairly simple to go back and double check a quote.

I also saw three potential Russian spies this week in a courtroom in Alexandria. Not much happened — it was a quick detention hearing to set bail and even that didn't happen because the attorneys were granted a continuance from the judge based on "new information from the government" — but it was just cool to see.

I'm racking up serious social cred over Facebook and through small talk. Not many people can answer with Russian spies and Supreme Court justices to the question of what you did today. Washington is definitely the best place to be a journalist.