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Columbia Missourian

Need balance and RNC blogger on short notice? Go to Google

By Jake Sherlock
September 5, 2008 | 9:08 a.m. CDT

On a weekly basis, editors remind students that it's a bad idea to make assumptions. This week, it's my turn to be on the receiving end of that reminder.

During the Democratic National Convention, students from the Missouri School of Journalism worked as interns for various media outlets through a partnership with The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars. Some of these folks were Missourian staffers who were blogging about their experiences there, which Missourian editors saw as a good opportunity to get some fresh, young voices on our opinion page in the print edition.

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I also wanted blogs from the Republican National Convention. Again, it's a chance to get some new voices into the opinion section. And considering the interest surrounding Sarah Palin and John McCain over the last week, a front-row perspective from the convention would give this big national story a local tie.

As it turns out, our students wouldn't be at the GOP shindig. My boss, Tom Warhover, told me he thought we'd have students there. But balance wasn't the concern. We had an opportunity to share insights from the floor of the DNC, and we thought readers on both sides of the political aisle would find some benefit in that insight.

When I finally got confirmation that we didn't have students in the Twin Cities, it was Tuesday morning. The RNC was already a day old, and I didn't know anybody there, much less anybody who would want to blog for a byline. I couldn't just let it go. If the Missourian was going to offer insights for the Democrats, it should do the same for the Republicans.

So I turned to Google.

After some searching, I found Steve Walsh from Missourinet.com was blogging from the convention. So was Kay Hoflander, a 1969 graduate of the School of Journalism. She's blogging for Republicans in Lafayette County who couldn't make the trip.

From Walsh's blog, I learned that the Missouri delegation has some of the best seats in the house, second only to Ohio. That's no accident either, Walsh said, since both states will be hotly contested in the general election.

From Hoflander, I learned that there are two types of protesters in the Twin Cities. The anarchists are hogging all the media attention, much to the chagrin of peaceful protesters, by partaking in stunts such as flinging urine at delegates. Hoflander also said that law enforcement is doing a better job of putting down potentially violent situations in a speedy and peaceful manner than is depicted in the mainstream media.

I am glad we had insights from both conventions. From the DNC, we saw the convention through the eyes of aspiring, youthful journalists. From the RNC, we gained insight from a seasoned reporter and a proud conservative. (Hoflander also writes a lifestyles column for The Examiner in Independence.)

But what if I hadn't found Hoflander and Walsh? Should I have forgone our DNC coverage for the sake of balance? What lessons can the Missourian learn from this round that editors can apply next time?

I have one already - make sure we have our coverage team lined up before the convention. The editors here have four years to make sure that happens.