By Thomas Goris
My experience working as a member of the University of Mississippi’s Capitol Press Corps has been eye-opening. Prior to our trip to the state capitol building in Jackson, I had never done any reporting outside of my Oxford, Mississippi bubble. The trip was about experiencing new opportunities and returning to Oxford a better reporter than when I left. I can say without a doubt that is what happened.
When I arrived at the office of Mississippi Today on Wednesday morning, a mix of fear and anticipation welled inside me. Still being relatively new to journalism and reporting, almost everything on the schedule for the next few days was a first for me.
It was my first time visiting the offices of a news agency like Mississippi Today, my first time covering politics, my first time talking with a lieutenant governor, first visit to another state capitol building.
I was pleasantly surprised when I walked into the office building and immediately felt at ease. The office wasn’t flashy, and was relatively empty, but it was a place I could easily envision a reporter writing the next great news story while staring out the window into the surrounding woods.
Sitting down for a casual lunch also helped put me at ease as we listened to advice from the staff. By the time I hopped into my truck to drive to the capitol building, most of my anticipatory jitters were out of the way.
As our group climbed the steps of the capitol building, I sensed I was marking a major milestone at the start of my future journalism career. Here I was with a group of fellow students serving as Ole Miss reporters at the state capitol of Mississippi preparing for an interview with the lieutenant governor.
Just a few short weeks ago, I was interviewing the president of the Oxford Chamber of Commerce and marveling at what an opportunity that was. Now I was standing at the heart of Mississippi politics, where all the decision making happens. It was eye-opening to see how dedicated the reporters at the capitol building were, toiling away in what looked like a study room from my freshman dorm. This was a far cry from the fancy newsroom I had pictured in my head.
Our time spent with Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves was without a doubt one of my favorite moments as a student at Ole Miss. Not many students get the chance to sit down with one of the state’s top leaders, and I couldn’t help feel a little guilty knowing that a newbie journalist such as myself was getting the chance to take part in the Lt. Gov.’s first interview of 2018.
In short, I felt extremely blessed. Just as I expected, Mr. Reeves was well spoken and carefully crafted every answer to our questions, making sure he covered all of his positions thoroughly and within his party lines. It was a great lesson that politicians will always stick to the basics and be on their game, even if the group interviewing them happens to be student journalists.
Most importantly, the meeting reinforced the idea to me that a good journalist is going to have to dig and push to receive detailed and in-depth answers. Nothing is handed to you, particularly when covering politics.
After our group interview with Tate Reeves, I felt the tone of our trip shift. I think we all felt more confident and excited for any future interviews. I was happy with how the trip had unfolded up to that point.
I’d also be amiss if I didn’t mention how much I enjoyed the company of the other student journalists on the trip. It was refreshing being able to reconnect and spend time with old friends like Briana Florez, and exciting to meet new faces and hear all their different perspectives on reporting. The experience was made better by the people I shared it with, something I feel extremely blessed to say.
Our final day was a little bit less exciting than the first, but still enjoyable and just as productive. Although I wasn’t well versed in many of the issues facing Mississippi business, I still found the Mississippi Economic Council meeting intriguing.
It was a humbling experience gathered in a room with the state’s top businessmen and women, and exciting to see Governor Phil Bryant take the stage. Racing back over to the capitol building after the MEC meeting to hear more speakers was a great taste of the busy life of a journalist.
I am happy to report that our visit to Jackson was memorable. It provided a glimpse into life at the capitol building and into the lives of Mississippi reporters and journalists. As a journalism student with limited real world experience, I am grateful I can look back at trips such as this one and see the building blocks for a future career in journalism.
Thomas Goris, 21, is a University of Mississippi junior studying broadcast journalism and political science. Originally from Mequon, Wisconsin, Goris is a proud Wisconsin native and diehard Green Bay Packers fan. As one of six children – four boys and two girls – nothing is more important to him than spending time with family. He enjoys hunting whitetail deer, country music, NASCAR, and going on RV trips with his brothers and sisters. Goris attended Ole Miss to try something new and get out of his comfort zone. Originally a business major, he switched to journalism after experiencing the power and meaningful impact local news can have on people. He is currently a member of the Sigma Pi fraternity and a leader of small group Bible studies for St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church. He hopes to work for a local news station back in Wisconsin.