Manship State House Bureau Reporters | LSU Manship School of Mass Communication

Manship State House Bureau Reporters

photo: sarah gamard

Sarah Gamard

Hometown: New Orleans, La.
Major: Mass Communication, Journalism
Year: Junior


Why did you want to participate in the Manship School News Service, or MSNS, Statehouse Bureau?

Dr. Martin Johnson (Mass Comm. professor at LSU) invited me to participate after I spent one semester of reporting for The Daily Reveille. I had virtually no literacy or interest in politics at any level, but Dr. Johnson convinced me to give it a go. It sounded like the perfect opportunity to learn about something so universally integral to society. It also appealed to me because we are at the advent of the Trump administration, so America is especially attentive to legislation and federal-state relations right now.


When reporting at the Capitol, what is a typical day like?

We come right before the committee, board or legislative body convenes. We are expected to arrive already having prepared for what they will discuss, i.e. having reviewed the agenda and any previous news articles on the subject. We sit in on the committee with our laptops, sometimes two of us working on one story with a collaborative Google Doc. Sometimes, it’s just one of us. We all have different reporting styles, but I usually arrive with my laptop to write/record audio, my DSLR camera to take pictures and, sometimes one of the Manship 4K video cameras to do a supplemental broadcast piece that I turn in for a broadcast newsgathering course I’m also taking this semester. After the committee adjourns, I like to get quick, individual interviews from the committee members/politicians on the subject they talked about if I have any questions that weren’t answered during the meeting. Sometimes, they’ll say something interesting that I want to go more in-depth on and that usually ends up being the lead of the story. After that, we head down to our office in the basement and polish up the story. The whole package (photos, text, etc.) is sent to Professor Shelledy, who does some minimal brush-ups. That’s then put on a wire, where scores of outlets can peruse and pick up what they want in their circulation. If we arrive at 9 a.m., we may be done right after lunch. Sometimes, we get there in the evening and don’t leave until 10 p.m.


What news outlets have published your stories?

Too many to count. The ones off the top of my head are USA Today and their local affiliates (e.g. The News-Star, The Daily Advertiser, Shreveport Times, The Town Talk) and national affiliates (The Detroit Free Press), | Times-Picayune, Eunice News, Houma Today and The Gambit. There are more, but we don’t always see them. Several news outlets can pick up a single story.


What has the experience taught you?

Foremost, it’s taught me about politics, which I’m so thankful for. It’s taught me how the political process works because I’m forced to understand it. It’s made me very appreciative of the democratic process, but also critical of its flaws. It’s made me politically literate, which I know will translate into any job I pursue anywhere in the world. It’s also made me a stronger writer, and Professor Shelledy has given me a lot of confidence in the newsroom that I hadn’t had before. It’s taught me not to be intimidated by politics or authorities.


What is the best part of your experience covering the Legislature?

My favorite part is seeing my writing and photography published in news outlets I grew up reading, like The Gambit and | Times-Picayune. I now keep up with national politics religiously due to this class, so it’s always a treat to break news that pertains to how federal government trickles down to directly impact Louisiana, e.g. flood recovery, infrastructure spending, etc. It’s very exhilarating, and I feel like I’m exponentially learning more every day that will carry over for the rest of my life, while simultaneously contributing to society and building a very dense professional resumé. It’s been extremely rewarding.


Why should students, both current or potential, be interested in the Manship School News Service Statehouse Bureau?

Speaking as someone who had virtually no interest in or understanding of politics or legislation, I went into journalism in the first place because I loved to write, be creative and tell stories. This class has opened up a very critical side of media, societal and political literacy. I understand the daily news much better. I see how important it is to know about our legislators and their policies, and I’m much less intimidated by the whole concept.


What are your goals/hopes for life after LSU?

I’ve got a lot to learn, but I love photojournalism and covering politics. I prefer being behind the camera. Creative, artistic storytelling is a privilege. I love to write and create, and I’m hoping to translate my experience at the Statehouse into artistic political activism. I grew up in a very artistic environment in New Orleans, and it’s in my blood.

Another critical thing Statehouse has taught me is that many artists are not politically literate, despite their efforts to make political change through self-expression. Statehouse has taught me how many issues need to be addressed in society, where to find real news and how to be fair and consider all sides before criticizing or challenging someone or something.


Would you rather be a journalist or a politician, and why?

Definitely a journalist. I need some sort of creative outlet, even if it’s just getting a good picture of a legislator or making up a clever opening lede for a story.