Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Jimmie Bise covers the Steny Hoyer townhall they wouldn't let him into

Basic rule of Gonzo reporting: When you go to cover something, cover the story that's in front of you. Democrats had bussed in supporters to pack the house at Tuesday's health-care townhall meeting with Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), so Jimmie Bise of The Sundries Shack couldn't get inside:
Tonight, a standing room-only crowd of over 1500 people packed the gymnasium of North Point High School in my hometown of Waldorf, MD to attend a health care town hall meeting with Congressman Steny Hoyer. I’d love to be able to give you a report of what happened inside the meeting but I can’t. I didn’t actually make it inside the doors. When I arrived at 6 PM, an hour before the meeting was scheduled to start, the line to get inside was incredibly long. . . .
In other words, if you didn’t get there well before 6 PM, there was a real chance you weren’t going to make it inside. I could have stood in line myself (since I didn’t get media credentials, which you’d better believe I will get next time something like this happens) or feel out the crowd and talk to some people. I opted for the latter. After all, it’s not like Steny Hoyer, the second-highest Democrat in the House of Representatives, was going to stand up there and suddenly announce that he was opposed to government-run health care. So I wandered up and down the line, talked to some folks I met along the way, and snapped a few pictures. . . .
Lots more where that came from, so read the whole thing. It got Jimmie his second Instalanche of the week. Nobody can accuse Jimmie of being an "insider" journalist. rounds up the rest of the news about Steny's big event. Jimmie's resourcefulness impressed me. When you're covering a "pack journalism" event -- where multiple media are on the same story -- a basic trick is to get the story the other guys miss. Find your own angle and own that angle.

Another way to put it: Be your own Decider. As a reporter, you exercise journalistic discretion -- "news judgment," as it's called -- and if you think you've found something more newsworthy than what the pack's reporting, go for it.

Sometimes it helps to ask yourself, "What Would Hunter S. Thompson Do?" And I don't mean drink a quart of Wild Turkey, drop some blotter acid and rent a red convertible. That's strictly optional.

Thompson was brilliant about this "outsider" method of reporting. Do something different. If every clueless reporter in the country is writing about the Hell's Angels, how about riding your motorcycle to a biker bar and just hanging out with the Hell's Angels? If you're covering a presidential campaign, and every other reporter is chasing around the unbeatable front-runner, Ed Muskie, why not go check out that guy nobody's giving a chance, George McGovern?

Next week, Jimmie and I will be attending a swanky reception for the author of the Best. Book. Evah! I've told Jimmie to rent a red convertible. The Wild Turkey and blotter acid are strictly optional, Jimmie.


  1. I'll pay for the rental, the stuff, the Turkey, just to have the film rights.

  2. Quoted from and linked to at:

  3. Having read some of Hunter's early work, I can only say the quantity of Wild Turkey is at least 50% low, and there's at least 2 or 3 Recreational Pharmaceuticals missing from that list.....