The trip of a lifetime through a communication major’s eyes


Quinten Sargent

Staff members of the Missouri Southern student newspaper, The Chart, visited Washington D.C from October 20 to 23, 2016, for the Associated College Press National Media Convention. While in the nations Capitol, the students visited the Washington Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and The White House.

Susannah Schrader

As our flight descended into Washington Reagan National Airport, I was struck by the reality that my fellow Chart staff and I were no longer in Joplin, Missouri. A strange five-sided building I eventually recognized as the Pentagon was proof that our journey, which, for those of us who flew, had begun at 4 in the morning, was coming to a close. We had reached Arlington, Virginia, and within the next half hour, we would be in the heart of Washington, D.C.

Brought to the nation’s capital by the Associated Collegiate Press’s National Media Convention, I could hardly contain my excitement as an airport shuttle careened into downtown, the Washington monument, Treasury Building, and countless other historical sites gradually coming into view. Opportunities for this sort of travel, especially for busy (and financially unstable) college students are rare, and I was determined to make the absolute most of my time in this historic city.

After our check-in and short reprieve at the city’s beautiful Donovan Hotel, six of the ten of us hit the streets in the early evening, tentatively heading toward the Lincoln Memorial and the White House. What began as an idea from staff writer Faith Scheidemantle and I to take a quick trip to some of the sites turned into an almost four-hour walk around the city. We talked, laughed, and marveled at the city as editor-in-chief Matt Barney took what seemed like an infinite amount of photos, some of Scheidemantle and managing editor Jackson Girard in front of various statues, and of course the incredibly cheesy but necessary photo of sports editor Kelvin Duley II and web editor Quinten Sargent “holding up” the Washington Monument. When I wasn’t in the photos, I stood and watched the commotion that came with taking them, hardly believing that my decision to stop by The Chart last semester and sheepishly ask if I could write for them had led me to this bustling center of political life.

That evening, the ten of us managed to all see a lot of the sights and still get enough rest to get up early to start our first day at the conference. Held at the large and extravagant Grand Hyatt Hotel just a few miles from the Donovan, there were tons of different workshops every day for attendees of the convention to check out. My first morning there, I went to a blogging workshop and a design workshop. As the page designer as well as the editor of the arts and features pages of The Chart, the design workshop was eye-opening in terms of teaching me what I could do with photos, even stock photos that we hadn’t taken. The workshop was taught by two web designers from the Washington Post, one of the most respected newspapers in the United States.

The real treat for me that first day, however, was the keynote speaker. Bob Woodward, one half of the Washington Post reporting team that blew the lid off the Watergate scandal and assisted in bringing down a president, spoke to an audience of 1300 students, referencing the ten most important things he’d learned throughout his career. He ended his talk by allowing three college journalists to interview him, something that can only be referred to as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

But then again, for most, the whole trip was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. After his talk, Matt and I all but ran upstairs to get in line for autographs from Woodward, and we ended up meeting and speaking to him (and we have pictures to prove it). Staff writer Cora Butcher-Spellman, through a series of lucky events, ended up touring National Public Radio. Jack made connections with a filmmaker, and photo opportunities abounded for photographer Jessica Greninger. All in all, there was something for everyone at the ACP National Media Convention, and we all walked away better for it. Some of us were even fortunate enough to tour the White House, which was an experience too cool for me to even begin to write about in a narrative.

Despite all the incredible sights and amazing journalistic opportunities, the best thing for me was the fact that I got to build relationships with people that I saw before as just coworkers. It turns out that walking unfamiliar city streets together at night can bring people closer together than you thought. As we all told embarrassing stories at dinner on our last night together, I was filled with a hope that our newfound friendships wouldn’t fade with the lights of D.C. when we left. I wanted to be with these people not just on Constitution or Pennsylvania Avenues, but on the small streets of Joplin, Missouri, and especially at Missouri Southern, where we all met.

I left Washington at 8 am on Sunday the 23rd, armed with knowledge on how to better The Chart, experiences I once could only dream of having, and friends who will (hopefully) be around for many years to come.