What Did Washington Mean?

10 May

What does it take make memories that last a lifetime? What does it take to challenge all the preconceived notions of a field that you thought you knew?  Is this what I want to do? All I know is that these questions were answered by the Washington Semester program. It was an amazing experience. Now being back in St. Louis, I recognize how lucky I was this semester to be in Washington DC. And it finally hit me, it was the people (students, professors and friends in other programs) that made this special. The people who challenge us to make us better everyday, the people who stay up to watch “House of Cards” on Thursdays, the people who literally kicked down doors to make me experience the city and all of the unforgettable memories that we had along the way. That’s what made this semester special; the people that I got to share it with.

That is why Washington is so unforgettable. Seeing over 600,000 people go to the inauguration of a president, the protests outside the Supreme Court for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, the people who work at all of the various news organizations that we visited and the people in our class. People are working together to create something for the common good. It was beautiful.

While it is sad that the program has come to an end, I know that I will be contact with my journalism classmates for years to come. So to Jazmin Brito, Rachel Fazio, Alyssa Goard,Ingvild Grendstad, Jess Krueger, Arlind Maurer, Megan O’Malley, Dylan Planeta, Brad Whitaker, Kelsey Donohue and Nobu Tanaka you all were the best I will miss you all and thanks for making the experience so memorable.

All of you have bright futures ahead of you and I look forward to seeing you all again. So that’s it from my time in Washington, it seems like only yesterday that it all started. I have one more year of school and then I graduate from Saint Louis. I think Washington is in the plans for the future, but I still have a long way to go. So until then, let’s just hope the future will bring me as much joy and happiness as this past semester has brought me.



Winding Down the Semester Part 2

5 May

All of the memories have been great and here is what I have done the past week in Washington. All of the people that I have met have made me a better person and given me a better global perspective.

After working at my internship last Thursday and Friday, our journalism class was invited to Professor Gil Klein’s house on Sunday. We drove to the house, but got lost along the way (thanks Apple Maps). Eventually, Brad, Dylan and I made it to Professor Klein’s house, we met his wife Gail and had a delicious Italian meal. It was very kind of Gil to invite us over to his house.

Monday was our final day of class. 😦 It was a sad day because the people in my class are some of the smartest, most passionate people that I have ever met. We talked about ways to improve the program and then gave presentation on our internships. People in my class had some amazing internships: PBS Newshour, the Chris Matthews Show, WTOP Sports and other amazing opportunities. I know that I did not take one of the glamorous or most prestigious internship, but I did not want to double back on my promise to Bulldog for something more glamorous. Did it cost me anything? Maybe, but I at least stay true myself and what I did. My bosses at my internship think very highly of me for what I did and why I did it.

After that I work on my final papers for my journalism and elective class. They were difficult, but I think that I did a good job. After the papers were over, my friend Arlind and I went to Public to watch the UEFA Champions League Semi Final. Her team, FC Bayern Munich, was playing Barcelona. Bayern was up 4-0 on the aggregate, but Barcelona could come back. The game was a back and forth affair until the 2nd half when Bayern Munich went on a scoring tear with three goals in 25 minutes. Bayern advanced to the UEFA Champions League Final to face a fellow German team, Borrussia Dortmund.

Thursday Evening I went to my friend Ingvild’s apartment for a last celebration after completing the program. It was fun, but there were a lot more people than I expected. After we left, I spent some time with Arlind and Karoline for the last time this semester. I stayed up until 2:30 a.m. to hang out with them and then we said our goodbyes.

After that, I finished the last day at my internship, my bosses gave me a free lunch on Friday at Lauriol Plaza, some of the best food I have had this semester. They were sad that I was leaving and they said that I was one of the best interns ever at their organization. It meant a lot to heard that.

Well, this semester is almost over my dad has arrived to start packing my things. I will miss Washington and all of the friends that I have made, they are some of the most amazing people that I have met. I know this is not goodbye, but until we meet again because I know we will stay in touch.

Chesapeake Bay 1


Winding Down the Semester

4 May

It is crazy that my semester in Washington DC is almost over. The past few weeks have been crazy, I have had so many unforgettable experiences with my journalism class. I will be leaving on Monday to go home, but I think it would be a great time to update what I have done the past few weeks.

On Monday, April 15th, our class went to the DC institution Ben’s Chili Bowl. We heard from local historian Marshall Brown, who told us about the institution and its grand history. Ben’s has survived gentrification, race riots and a host of other events in Washington, yet stands a symbol of strength on U Street. Brown’s passion for the institution was clear from the outset, he was a wonderful guy to hear from and the food was excellent. You knew you could put chili on a half smoke (which is kinda like a polish sausage) and it would taste so good. Sometimes, they have famous visitors (but Obama was not there that day, sorry folks).

Ben's Chili Bowl

On Tuesday, April 16th we went to the NRDC to hear about how organization works with journalists to promote their cause. We heard from one of Bob Deans’ assistants who explained to us how they work to craft their message in different areas of the country. They work with journalists to get their name out in the community. After that we went to the National Press Club’s broadcast operation center to learn about on-set video shooting. I never realized how much goes into shooting. I learned about different kinds of lighting and set design. It was a great hands-on experience.

On Wednesday, April 17th, we went to the Foreign Press Center and met with Acting Director Dick Custin. Custin has been a diplomat around the world and is working his five years in Washington DC. Diplomats only get to work five years in Washington DC before they go back abroad. He was a very good speaker and very knowledgeable about issues that the foreign press face in the United States. After he spoke we met with Margot Haddad who was a former student in the WSP Journalism program and now works for Plus-TV in France. She gave us some great advice about maintaining connections in Washington and how hard work at an internship can turn into a job.

Normally, I don’t talk about Thursdays or Fridays because I’m working, but on Friday, April 19th we celebrated, the one and only, Kelsey Donohue’s 22nd birthday. Kelsey is an unbelievable young woman who cares deeply about higher education. Most of our class celebrated at Guapo’s a local Mexican restaurant near campus. She was very surprised and told got a job at the Department of Education’s communication office (but then the docked her initial pay because she was “a recent college graduate”, seriously? She probably better than anyone else at that department, reverse your decision). However, that night Kelsey had fun and we all had a great time. Our class is the best.

Then we had a very special class on Sunday. We got to go to see “Meet the Press”. That week they were recapping the hectic week after the Boston Marathon Bombing. We saw Tom Brokaw, Pete Williams, Senator Dick Durbin, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Peggy Noonan and so many other movers and shakers in the United States. What a morning to see “Meet the Press”. After the show, we met the moderator David Gregory who graduated from American University.  It was great, truly an experience that I will never forget. After the show, we had breakfast as a class which was great.

On Monday, April 22 we met with Josh Hatch for the Chronicle of Higher Education who spoke with us on data visualization and then Kristen Mitchell spoke with us about the Freedom of Information Act. Then we had one of the best day’s of day, sailing on the Chesapeake Bay.

On Tuesday we traveled to Annapolis to sail on the Chesapeake Bay. I had never sailing before so it was quite an experience. We sailed on a skipjack which is a oyster dredging ship that used to populate the Chesapeake Bay, but there are only 20 working those in the world. We heard from members of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation who explained their role in protecting the Bay and how they have helped the improve the condition over the past 20 years. It was an amazing experience. After that we went to Professor Krasnow’s house for pizza and then shopped in Annapolis.

Chesapeake Bay 1

Those past two weeks were great, but there is more to this story…

Spring, Bob Schieffer and NBC

14 Apr

It’s spring in Washington and the Cherry Blossoms are out. The weather is nice and April is here! It has been a while since I have written a blog post and there have been so many amazing opportunities and experience that I have not written about until now. So, let’s go back to April 1st.

Cherry 8

On April 1st, I got my midterm exam back. I got an A! Wooo! After, I got the midterm back, our class met with Jeff Rutenbeck, the new dean of the journalism school. Nice guy, but I wondered if he was in the right field. He spoke about information technology most of his presentation and how it relates to journalism. Some of the technical aspects were over my head, but he is clearly passionate about the relationship technology to journalism.

Later that night, I went to the Kalb Report to hear about the future of the Washington Post from their two top editors. I went with my friend Alyssa from my journalism class. It was odd to hear from the top editors, on some level they seemed to be in denial about what was happening to the Washington Post. I asked them a question about why they removed the ombudsman position at the Post and I got a interesting response. They talked about how everyone now has direct access to the writers and there were many critics online. The problem with that line of thinking is that it clouds transparency by not having an independent monitor over the paper and calling out someone if they plagiarize.

On April 2nd, I heard from the executive producer of Meet the Press, Betsy Fischer Martin, an American University grad. Professor Kransow was moderating and asking her questions about her experiences and early life in Louisiana. However, the next day was the biggest event of the semester, meeting Bob Schieffer.

On April 3rd, our class met Bob Schieffer, CBS’ Chief Washington Correspondent. An American journalism legend! Bob talked to our class about some his experiences including: meeting Lee Harvey Oswald’s mother, covering the Nixon White House and many other experiences. He also us to be passionate about what we do in life because that goes a long way. After he spoke, we heard from his assistant who was not much older than me. She just got the job after working at Global Post and 60 Minutes. I mean to be 24 and be Bob Schieffer’s assistant, you have to be doing something right. Bob signed my copy of his book and took a picture with me. It was a great day to be in class.


Last Friday, I then went to NBC to interview the Bureau Chief, Ken Strickland. He spoke to our class previously and I thought he would be a good subject for a profile piece. He was great. We talked for 45 minutes about his current job, his past and his rise through NBC. We laughed a lot and he gave me some great stuff. After the interview, I spoke with his wife and a long time colleague. They gave me some great information and I think I put together a really good profile piece.

This Monday, my classmates and I went to Kirkland & Ellis, a major law firm in DC to meet Thomas Clare. He is an attorney that has represented different companies that sue careless journalists. He has represented Chiquita, Ford Motor Company and Shirley Sherrod. He gave us some advice of libel, slander and defamation which are major issues for journalists. He gave me some good perspective and introduced me to a field of law that fascinates me.

On Tuesday, our class sat in on a Washington Post editorial board meeting. It was just like the editorial board meeting we had at the University News, except there was a section devoted to web coverage and other such information. We also met with two reporters at the Post. They were very nice and told us a lot of insider information about the Post.

On Wednesday, our class met with Mishi Ebrahim, who works for AU’s Investigative Reporters Workshop. She worked with 60 Minutes, Brian Ross and Dan Rather. She told us about a project that she had worked with for PBS Frontline on immigrants being stuck in jail. It was an interesting perspective.

Well, it has been a great couple of weeks, but things are starting to wind down which is sad because it has been an amazing semester, I don’t want it to end.

Another week of history in Washington DC

29 Mar

It has been way too long since I have written a blog post, but after some busy times, I have gotten around to writing a post. Last time, I was  rubbing shoulders was the CEO of Vox Media trying to talk my way into a part-time writing job. It went successfully and I’m going to talk with the managing editor of Mid Major Madness once the NCAA tournament is over. Sweet. Now back to what has happened in DC.

Last Tuesday, we began to review for our mid-term. Personally, I thought it was not going to happen, but we reviewed and then heard from Larry Van Dyne, a magazine writer for the Washingtonian. Van Dyne told us about an award winning story he wrote on an airplane crash in 1982 and the process he underwent to get the story. The story was 33 pages. 33 PAGES?! That is huge for a magazine story today, only one story in any magazine has been more the 30 pages in the past 10 years. What Van Dyne did was interchange the safety aspects of the flight with the personal stories of the passenger who died in the crash. He was nice, but it was a very lecture oriented class which I did not enjoy as much as the other classes that we had the past few weeks.

Last Wednesday, we heard from Jim Innocenzi. Jim works of Republican candidates and designs television ads for them. He explained to us the reasons behind why the Republicans lost and how he tried to revive Rick Perry’s presidential campaign. It was interesting to hear from a political PR firm, he was very committed to his party. However, he wasn’t the most adept with technology which was somewhat surprising. Later that night, I went to an event on JFK’s American University Speech moderated by Chris Matthews. Let’s just say the event turned into an episode of Hardball. Ugh. It was interesting to hear Marvin Kalb and Matthews disagree about JFK’s speech the entire night. I listened to and believed Kalb more because he was actually there.

After that, the next few days I worked at my internship until Saturday when I went to the National Zoo with my friends Dylan, Arlind and Gai. We saw the pandas, kiwis and all sorts of animals. However, the funniest happened after the zoo when we went to Starbucks. I went to order a coffee and I told the person my name “Charles”, but I don’t think he heard me and I saw him write something with a “T”. This can’t be good. So after waiting, I heard my supposed name, “Toros”, how on earth do you get that from “Charles”. We all had a good laugh about it, but that’s not my name.


After the weekend, Monday, we went to the National Press Club and heard from three young journalists who had carved out a successful career in Washington. One work at Sirius XM, one work at National Geographic and one work at the Huffington Post. They gave us some great advice about becoming a journalists in today’s age. They emphasized relationship building, knowing someone at an organization and having a strong journalistic core. It was great hearing how they managed their personal and professional lives.

After going to the Press Club, we heard from JJ Green at WTOP Sports. He was one of the best speakers that we have had in our class. He was personable and interesting. He talked to us about his job as a national security correspondent and having sources all over the world. He was able to explain the situation in Syria and why people should care about it. He also emphasized the importance of having direct sources and being able to the connect the dots. He thinks journalism is very surface level and does not do enough digging around to make connections. I really enjoyed hearing what he had to say.

On Tuesday, we had our midterm. I think that I did well then our class went to the Pulitzer Center . They are a unique organization that helps in-depth reporting on issues around the world. They work with journalists that have connections with major publications and help fund their work. It was a great place to learn about how private organizations are funding the future of journalism.

Wednesday was an amazing day to be in DC. The Supreme Court had oral arguments on United States v. Windsor. The case involves striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). I decided with a few of my friends to go down to the court to see the festivities outside of the building. It was amazing to be down at the Supreme Court for a moment of history. Not many people can say that. I got some great photos these are a few of my favorites.

Supreme Court 1 Supreme Court 2 Supreme Court 3

What a time to be in Washington DC. I cannot believe I have gotten to be in the heart of so much history these past two months.

Bloomberg, Anthony Shop and Vox Media…All in One Day

19 Mar

Wow! What a first day back from Kentucky. After the long wait to get back to DC  it was truly worth it.

At 9:45, I hopped on the red line and went to Bloomberg. I arrived early and went to the Starbucks next door. After grabbing coffee, I went to Bloomberg’s lobby and reconnected with my classmates. Everyone seemed to have a good spring break. We met with Mark Silva, deputy managing editor and Phil Mattingly, Justice Department correspondent. Both gave some great insight into the expansion of Bloomberg as more than a financial news service and expanding into other realms of traditional news.

Mark was with the Tribune Company before it fell into bankruptcy and Phil began his career in DC at the Congressional Quarterly. They were both great talked a lot about their agency and how news was not the primary service for them and it was an outgrowth of Michael Bloomberg’s bond trading machines. They talked about gaining sources and developing a new reputation for Bloomberg.

After an hour and a half conversation, we walked over to the National Press Club and I finally got my membership card. I’m a member!!


At the National Press Club, we met Anthony Shop. Good Lord that man had passion and energy. He is the managing director of Social Driver a PR social media company that he co-founded. He comes up with media strategies for companies and is particular savvy on social media. He answered a lot of questions our class had about social media campaigns, privacy issues and so much more. It was nice to hear someone about our age and how he developed his own business.

Finally, I went to an event hosted by American University’s master program on developing your own start-up company. I heard from the Chairman and CEO of Vox Media Inc, Jim Bankoff. Mr. Bankoff is a very well known in the media business. He worked at AOL and developed many other entities until he became the CEO of Vox which has three main branches: SB Nation, The Verge and Polygon. It is one of the fastest growing companies on the web. It was cool to hear his perspective on having a purely online media venture and the importance of developing a strong content management system and a strong web platform.

What a day! I cannot wait until tomorrow.

Back to Work…

18 Mar

Well, I was in Kentucky for a week and missed updating the blog for a while, but now I’m back in DC. It was great catching up with friends and talking about life at home and what was going on at Saint Louis University, but now it is crunch time.

However, before I left, there was one thing that I had to see, Saint Louis vs. Virginia Commonwealth for the A-10 title. Despite everything going against SLU and Spike Lee trying to promote his next movie about VCU, the Bills prevailed and won their first Atlantic 10 conference title. They also won the A-10 regular season title. I was so excited and since Kentucky is not in the tourney, the Bills are my team this year.

Now the Bills did have a funny way of how they found out what seed they were in the tournament. I kept seeing tweets from the players that they were at Best Buy. Huh? OK, not exactly my first choice of venues after winning a conference title, but it makes just another great addition to an amazing season http://espn.go.com/blog/collegebasketballnation/post/_/id/80008/saint-louis-billikens-get-news-in-a-best-buy

After watching the game, I booked it to the airport and made my flight with a few minutes to spare. The flight was a nice short flight and then I got to train station at BWI to take the MARC Train, but… NO MARC TRAINS TO DC ON THE WEEKENDS. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!  At least Amtrak runs on weekends, but still an extra $20 gone.

After the short train ride, I hopped on the metro and rode it to Tenleytown and I was officially back to school. Now it is time for bed.

Onwards and Upwards to Bloomberg News and more exciting times in DC.