I have been working on a story for the Collegiate Times for the past month and it’s proving to be the most challenging story I’ve ever attempted to write.
I’m definitely not complaining; I did it to myself. Originally, my editor wanted to assign it to someone else, because one of the groups discussing the issue is the Residence Hall Federation (RHF) of which I can be considered a member due to my involvement in Hall Council in my residence hall. I really wanted the story so I hit the ground running, getting contacts and information, setting up appointments to talk to people until she agreed to give me the story assignment and wow, did I dig myself a hole.
The story is about some recent legislation that passed in the VA State Senate regarding the ability of college organizations at public universities to make membership decisions based on whether a person’s political and/or religious beliefs align with those of the organization. The legislation is SB 1074, if you’d like to read more about it. It’s currently sitting on the Governor’s desk waiting to be signed into law, but some students at Virginia Tech are feeling uneasy about this seemingly discriminatory bill, some feel negatively enough to take action against it. The real kicker is that the senator sponsoring the bill is Mark Obenshain, a Virginia Tech alumnus, married to Suzanne Obenshain, another Virginia Tech alumnus and member of the Board of Visitors.
The conflict, the relevance, the significance- all the makings of a great story were right in front of me and I wanted it for myself. It’s one of the only times I’ve ever actually fought for something I wanted and it was so gratifying when my editor let me have it. I’d never written anything political, but I was so excited to try. However, more and more I’m finding that this story is too good to be true; more and more I’m finding that the story an angel dropped into my hands, is really a story from Hell.
It’s been a nightmare trying to contact the Senator, but it’s not hard to figure out why a person would prefer not to talk about it, to a reporter of all people. It’s a sensitive subject, considering the bill is being widely criticized as a step toward making discrimination legal, in particular, discrimination against the LGBT community by religious organizations. This bill would make legal the denial of membership to a homosexual man from a Christian organization on the basis that his sexuality does not align with the core beliefs of the organization, i.e. Christianity. Still, if I were a senator sponsoring a bill, I would want people to know the reason behind it and maybe want to contradict some of the criticisms surrounding it and would jump at the chance to voice my opinion to a reporter, especially if I’m an alumnus of the school housing the newspaper. I guess that’s just me.
My editor wants a draft of this story on Friday with or without the input of the Senator. I really hope he decides to get back to me.
Update: The senator eventually called me and we had a great conversation. To read the finished story, click here.