By Hunter Frint
In late October 2017, nine Western Kentucky University Fleischaker/Greene Scholars traveled to Washington, D.C. The students and their professors, journalist Amanda Crawford and historian and WKU Provost David Lee, visited several places related to the class topic, the White House and the press. The trip included visits to the offices of NPR and the Washington Post, seven monuments and memorials, a couple of museums and some politically significant restaurants. The scholars also had opportunities to speak with several professional journalists and politicians. Take a look at their experiences through the lens of one of the students, Hunter Frint.
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WKU seniors, Erian Bradley, Shelby Bruce, Helen Gibson, Emma Austin and Monica Kast sit on the bus to the MARC train Thursday morning, Oct. 19. The students and journalism professor Amanda Crawford traveled for over 6 hours that day to get to Washington D.C.
The Fleischaker/Greene Scholars sit in a recording room at the NPR office in Washington, D.C. This was one of the group’s first stops on day one in the capital. NPR intern, Selly Sallah, showed everyone around the office building and answered questions.
Emma Austin expresses her excitement about being behind the NPR Tiny Desk. Live musical performances are recorded at the Tiny Desk, where Bob Boilen hosts All Songs Considered. Artists such as Adele, Chance the Rapper and The Roots have all played here, and each has left something behind as memento — the students saw Adele’s water bottle.
Shelby Bruce listens intently, and Monica Kast takes notes at the Washington Post while deputy managing editor Tracy Grant talks about their recording studio. On day two of the trip the students were shown around the Washington Post’s office and were allowed to attend a morning news meeting.
Michelle Ye Hee Lee, a new member of the Washington Post’s political enterprise and investigations team, speaks to the students about her previous job on the Washington Post’s Fact Checker team. Lee discussed the intensity of the job, which she said increased with the election of President Donald Trump. “We have such crazy access to the President” Lee said in regards to Trump’s twitter account.
Outside of the White House, Professor Amanda Crawford speaks to a protester. She wanted to find out why there were very few protesters outside the White House that day and people were prevented from getting close as the area around the gate was taped off. It turned out that a Kentucky man dressed as Pikachu outfit had jumped the concrete barrier outside the White House earlier that day.
The students and professors, including WKU Provost Dr. David Lee, listen to Todd J. Gillman talk about his work at the Dallas Morning News. Gillman’s position there is the Washington Bureau Chief, so he shed light on what his relationship as a member of the press is like with the White House. “We’re representing the public, and we have every right to ask questions of powerful people,” Gillman said.
Emma Austin speaks to a panel of journalists and lawyers at the National Press Club hosting a panel about journalists’ rights. Austin, projects editor at the WKU Herald, asked the panel for advice on the student newspaper’s ongoing legal suit with university. The panelists reacted with shock and expressed great interest in the Herald’s situation.
Kast picks up a notebook at the famous D.C. bookstore, Politics and Prose. The class got the opportunity to listen to Cass R. Sunstein, author of “Impeachment: A Citizen’s Guide, speak about his book and do a short reading.
Erian Bradley interviews Dr. David Lee regarding historic facts about the Lincoln Memorial (directly behind them) as part of her project. Saturday, Oct. 21, was a day full of presidential memorials, monuments and museums. The third site the students visited was the Abraham Lincoln Memorial, opened in 1922.
Erian Bradley, Emily Pride, Bruce, Hannah Shaffer and Adam Sims rest on a bench inside the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. The quote overhead is from Jefferson. He was a huge proponent of freedom despite owning slaves. Dr. Lee explained that Jefferson’s inconsistencies in words and actions were a depiction of the times and that freedom for all people was held as the ideal.
At the National Museum of American History, Monica Kast, Emma Austin and Helen Gibson stand in front of The Press display — a part of an exhibit called The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden. The students visited this exhibit because of its direct correlation to the class topic. Although The Press display was one small part, it caught the eyes of the young journalists.
Hannah Shaffer, Shelby Bruce and Erian Bradley walk across the open landing of the fifth floor at the Newseum, located on Pennsylvania Avenue. The last required stop that day for the students was a museum that includes exhibits of the history of reporting, the importance of the First Amendment and international press freedoms.
Dr. David Lee, Monica Kast and Emma Austin sit with WKU alumnus Brandon Carter to discuss working as a journalist in Washington, D.C. Carter, who graduated in 2016, now works for The Hill, a political newspaper in the capital. He said that dealing with social media for The Hill under the Trump administration can be hard work.
The students and Professor Amanda Crawford eat brunch with David Almacy, a former White House staffer in the second Bush administration. The group ate a Teddy & the Bully Bar, a Theodore Roosevelt-themed restaurant where everything, including the chairs and light fixtures, had some association with the former president.