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Psst: They’re always watching: New lawmakers get education on dealing with media

By ThisIsReno

By Andrew Doughman, Nevada News Bureau: New state legislators got the low-down this past Friday about how to deal with the press. The theme woven throughout the legislative training seminar was one of transparency.

“They’re lurking,” said Barry Smith, executive director of the Nevada Press Association, while addressing about 20 new legislators in the Assembly chamber. “Being able to watch all the (legislative) hearings and click through the channels, there are eyes on you all the time.”

Smith pointed out that while many new lawmakers probably encountered the media during their campaigns, the press at the capitol is a different beast.

Ben Kieckhefer, a newly-elected Republican senator from Reno, noted that reporters were using Twitter at that very moment to comment on the goings-on at their seminar.

With reporters able to tune in and Tweet out the news, the press at the capitol could be more omnipresent.

“It’s a different world with Twitter and Facebook and all the jazz,” said Bob Fisher, president of the Nevada Broadcasters Assocation.

Smith also cautioned legislators that they should remember the cameras that broadcast hearings are always running.

“They can tell whether you’re playing solitaire or not,” he said.

During these next few weeks, new legislators will be getting used to new homes, new offices and hundreds of new faces. The training session regarding the press was the last class for the newcomers; they’d been in various classes for three days straight. All of this to ensure that they’re ready for day one.

As the last day wore down, Fisher told legislators they should be aware of the different types of journalists they’re likely to encounter.

“There’s a spectacular difference,” he said. “It is so far between a journalist who has the opportunity to write opinions and share opinions … from a reporter who is coming in and asking you a question about a legislation that you are supporting.”

Like all relationships, Smith explained, the relationships between legislators and the press must be built on trust.

The national reporter who calls a legislator about a bill and is only looking for a good quote doesn’t care about trust. That reporter will never talk to that legislator again.

It’s a different situation when the local reporter sees and talks to legislators everyday, Smith said.

In that situation, legislators were taught about the various gradations between “on the record” and “off the record.”

When the session ended late Friday afternoon, legislators turned out for dinner. Walking out of the Assembly chamber next to this reporter, one new legislator jokingly said that he would have to be “careful” after listening to all that advice.