One of the most important things I've learned so far as a journalism student here in Washington D.C. is that flexibility is not only good for your sanity, it can lead to a good story. Like how I went from covering a panel discussion on the Middle East to writing about an art studio for Russian orphans with disabilities.
A couple of weeks ago I went to the Rayburn House Office Building to cover one of the bazillions of panel discussions that have been taking place throughout this city over the past couple of months about the current religious and political climate in the Middle East. I figured the greatest challenge to my day would be hunting for that new and interesting quote from an expert that would lead to a good lede.
Unfortunately, when I googlemapped my route I didn't specify the address of the Rayburn building. My directions took me to Independence Avenue, the road the Rayburn building is on, but not all the way to the actual building.
So what I first thought would be a twenty minute walk, turned in to a forty-five minute walk. It's a good thing I left an hour early for the event.
After going through security I looked around at all the non-descript hallways and well-dressed serious people rushing around, and realized I had no clue where to go.
A tip for future reporters, it may be intimidating, but it doesn't hurt to ask people for help when signs fail you.
I finally arrived at the meeting room with two minutes to spare, and found the doors closed and locked. After ten minutes of searching in vain to see if the panel discussion had simply been moved, or been cancelled, a kind lady took a look at the information I had on the event.
Yes I was in the correct building, yes I had the right room number. I had even arrived on time.
Only problem was, the event was scheduled for March 2, and it was March 1.
Tip number two for future reporters: Read your information carefully.
"Well, at least I'm not late," I said to the lady trying to make the best of the situation. We had a good laugh.
I still felt embarrassed.
And so as I walked back towards the main lobby, feeling very much like an inexperienced intern, I was faced with a choice. I could return early to my internship empty-handed or I could search for another story to cover. After all, I was in a building filled with plenty of interesting and influential people doing all sorts of important things.