Citizen Journalism 101: Covering Events as Press

In last week’s post, Citizen Journalism 101: Securing Press Access, we discussed how bloggers can secure access to cover events as press. Now, here are some tips on how to handle covering an event once you acquire credentials.

What to Bring:

Identification. If there is any security at the event, the security personnel will want to see some ID and some form of proof that you’ve been granted press access. Bring a photo ID, and business cards for your blog that have a real email address and phone number. If you followed my advice in the previous post and made yourself a press pass with your photo and blog name, be sure to wear it.

A camera. Whether it’s still or video, make sure it’s something portable and easy for one person to operate (if you’re on your own). Keep in mind, if you bring a large, professional-style video camera, or something that needs a tripod, you may need to come early to the event to set up your equipment and arrange to have it checked by event security.

A voice recorder or MP3 player with a recording function. Bring this if you aren’t going to record the whole event with your video camera. If you wind up with a surprise interview opportunity on the spot, you may wish to record it for the sake of accuracy.

A notebook. No, I’m not talking about your laptop. I mean a good old-fashioned notebook, with paper. And a pen. You may find once you get to an event that you have no internet access, and in that case you’ll need to take notes the old-fashioned way.

Name and contact information for the person who approved your press access. You might be left off the press list by accident. It happens. A quick call or email to the person who gave you permission to attend can be extremely helpful in such an event.

Your laptop. But only bring this if you really want it, you know you’ll have a place to use it, and you expect to have internet access. Unless you have an awesomely portable mini-computer, you may find your laptop becomes an encumbrance when you’re trying to move around an event.

What to Wear:

Try to look professional. This does not mean you have to show up in a three-piece suit. But maybe you should at least consider wearing the jeans that DON’T have holes. The more professional you look, the more likely it is that other members of the media and event attendees will take you seriously.

Wear comfortable shoes. Press areas are often short on seating. You may be standing for a long time. Even fancy national TV reporters often wear sneakers with their suits when reporting in a crowd.

What to Do:

Talk to people in the crowd. Without a giant television camera, you will be much less intimidating than the local TV crew. Use this to your advantage, and chat up some ordinary people at the event. You may be surprised at how willing they are to share their stories, and at how interesting many of those stories are.

Talk to members of the media. Not everyone will be willing to talk to you. But mainstream reporters may surprise you with their willingness to share space or offer tips on what to cover. And if any other bloggers are present, they might be willing to work together with you to make sure you both get better coverage.

Be polite to security. Security people are, sadly, not really used to people being polite to them. If you make a deliberate point of listening to what they say, asking them thoughtful questions, and thanking them for helping to keep the event safe, they will often be eager to help you.

Have fun. Remember, unless you’re Dooce or something, blogging isn’t your day job. One small mistake won’t ruin your career. Try to relax and focus on the unique experience you’ll be able to bring your readers when everything is said and done.

This post submitted by Guild member Jaelithe, who also writes at The State of Discontent and MOMocrats.com.

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