Politics and journalism merge during Mass Comm Week

Panelists present to students what it is like to be a legislative analyst.
Panelists present to students what it is like to be a legislative analyst.

By Kayla Jamerson

Three representatives from the House Research Organization hosted a presentation Tuesday during Mass Comm Week for journalists who may be interested in law or legislative analysis.

According to the House Research Organization website, HRO is a nonpartisan independent department of the Texas House of Representatives that provides information on legislation for the Texas Legislature. Analysts for the organization perform a variety of tasks such as writing, editing, and researching for bills or policies and translating them to plain language.

The speakers gave students insight into the job duties of their position as it relates to much of what traditional journalists do. Panelist Mary Beth Schaefer said legislative analysts must write to reach an audience just like journalists.

“If you’ve ever looked at a bill or law, it can be really complicated,” Schaefer said. “So what we’re trying to do is translate something that’s really complex for a more general audience, and that’s where we can relate to people who have studied journalism.”

Journalism senior Imani McGarrell said journalism and legislative analysis are both a form of storytelling.

“It relates because they’re telling the story of the bill,” McGarrell said. “With traditional journalism, you’re telling the story of the people but it’s kind of the same thing.”

Writing stories and analyzing legislation share a similar process. Journalism senior Quixem Ramirez said much of what journalists and analysts do go hand-in-hand.

“The ability to look at a piece of legislation and analyze it and see what the lead is and what’s the most important stuff is very close with what we do in journalism,” Ramirez said.

Associate professor of practice in journalism Kym Fox was the moderator for the event. According to Fox, the skills journalists have correspond well with the skills required for legislative analysis.

“The skills journalist have, which is taking in a lot of information, doing research, seeing the multiple perspectives involved in an issue and then synthesizing that information to produce content, that’s exactly what they do at HRO,” Fox said.

For students who are interested, the House Research Organization is currently hiring for the next legislative session. For more information, visit their website at hro.house.state.tx.us.

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