Jostling the Halls in the Senate

Working the night shift

Working the night shift

By Dean’s Intern Maeve Allsup at Bloomberg/BNA

My final semester at Bloomberg BNA has gotten off to an exciting start. While working on the general news desk, I spent several weeks reporting from Capitol Hill, starting in December with the Senate’s passage of the new budget, and more recently the committee confirmation hearings for President Trump’s cabinet nominees. I primarily worked with the desk’s senior Hill reporter Nancy Ognanovich, helping to collect quotes from senators and writing short stories and add-ins about action on the Senate floor. Depending on the time of day and the type of action happening in the chamber, I spent a lot of time in the tunnel between the Capitol and the office buildings, approaching Senators with my questions as they passed by.

This took some getting used to: Nancy gave me a pocket-sized picture registry of the current Senate so that I could recognize specific senators on sight, and I later had to become familiar with voices too, in order to accurately transcribe on-the-go interviews. These “interviews” were also overwhelming at first. Depending on the day’s agenda (and on the senator), I was usually one of seven or eight reporters jostling for a spot to hold my recorder as we ran (or shuffled) alongside. Some senators shouted, some whispered, some were happy to talk and some just wanted to get in the elevator. On Tuesdays, the scene in the tunnels is particularly exciting and hectic, because many reporters flock to the Hill to be present for the brief press conference that takes place after the weekly party luncheons, at which both Democratic and Republican senators speak to the press about their agenda. On these days the press galleries are packed, and I’ve gotten to meet reporters from all of Bloomberg BNA’s news desks as well as those working for our competition publications.

Working on the Hill has not only given me excellent insight into the legislative process and the daily life of a political correspondent, but has been an incredible exercise in confidence building. I spent my first day cowering in the corners of the tunnel and tiptoeing around the edges of the packs of reporters as we followed senators down the hallway. I was the only one inexperienced enough to bother asking Elizabeth Warren a question when she passed (a friendly reporter later explained that she never answers questions in the hall), and had no idea where to start when Nancy asked me to find out what time the budget vote would be (it was very late and we didn’t leave the Hill until 9pm). However, by my last week on the general news desk I had built up enough confidence to ask Bernie Sanders a question about the Betsy DeVos vote (he completely ignored me), and had formed enough friendships with staffers and security guards to be able to find out what time the day would end.

For my final few weeks here, I’ll be working with both the tax reporters and the environmental desk, and although I’m sad to leave general news, I’m prepared to learn a lot from my new teams!