At the Washington Journalism Center (WJC), students come from all over the country to study and work for a semester. As an Arizonan I thought I knew what Washington D.C. was all about with the aid of movies like “All the President’s Men” and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”.
Little did I know that D.C. has a friendlier face than what is painted on the evening news or on the cover of the Washington Post.
The first thing that I learned about Washington D.C. is that people call it a town. Towns have certain connotations of being close knit communities. People greet each other on the street and will stop to have a chat.
I didn’t understand why people called D.C. a town because I thought that it is run by a political machine. I thought that it was a city of money grabbers rushing from building to building. I thought trench coats and fedoras would drown out the vibrance of the city’s rich history.
While there are plenty of businessmen, politicians, and journalists walking around town, government buildings and historical monuments still catch your eye. The morning rush doesn’t mask the prestige of the architecture. The excitement isn't clouded by the daily grind.
Culture is a big part of D.C. There is a laid back atmosphere that makes it interesting to be a part of. Outside of the office, people in this town just want to have a good time and relax with friends.
People in this town have an understanding that all types of career fields are dependent upon each other. Without reporters, politicians would be hard pressed to get their messages out to the public. Without politicians, reporters would be left writing stories that readers don’t care about.
Within this reciprocating relationship I was struck with the understanding of how things should work. Reporters understand that sometimes politicians have to play things close to the chest, and politicians understand that reporters need to write their stories.
These relationships are surface, but they are part of the culture.
The journalism scene has shown me D.C. through a different lense. Journos dig communication. Meeting new people and exchanging business cards is a huge part of the networking process.
Business cards have more importance than I could have known before I got here. I was told by Chris Moody, reporter for the Daily Caller and WJC alum, that success at a party means that you leave with a handful of other people’s cards.
Passing out cards creates a larger network and more recognizable faces at parties. Though people write and work for the political machine during the day, conversations go other directions after they leave the office.
Gossip moves in this town like it does in the Jr. High hallways. People talk, sometimes over drinks after work and spill information that they hear. It is a basic matter of conversation in this town.
Talking is what people do. On the street, at a party, or in the train. He said, she said, is prevalent in conversations. It’s a part of the culture. It’s part of this town.