Lance Reporters got to Interview Tammy Baldwin!
On Thursday, November 1st two of our Lance staff members got to meet someone who many have only seen on TV. Andreanna Wright (12) and I got the opportunity to sit in on an interview with US Senator Tammy Baldwin at the Wisconsin State Journal. At the time, Baldwin was meeting with the editorial board at the newspaper seeking an endorsement, which she ended up getting against her opponent Leah Vukmir for the fall 2018 general election in Wisconsin last month. An endorsement is simply when a newspaper gives their public support to a candidate during an election to give the readers their opinion. But in order to do this in a fair and educated way, they try their best to meet with every candidate to get every perspective on the matter. They met with Republican candidate Vukmir the week before we came in for Baldwin’s interview. For those who don't know, Baldwin is a Democrat who has served as a US Senator for the past six years, and when she was first elected, she became the first openly gay politician, and first Wisconsin woman, to be elected to the US Senate. Before then, she also served seven terms in the House of Representatives. In the most recent election last month she beat Leah Vukmir with 55% of the vote, so she will continue being one of Wisconsin’s representatives in the Senate for another six years. On the day of the interview, we left La Follette and made our way to Madison Newspapers where we met with writers from the editorial board before the interview. We spoke with editorial page editor Scott Milfred, editorial cartoonist Phil Hands, and editor John Smalley who all work for this board. They explained some of the issues and questions they were planning on bringing up with Senator Baldwin and how they come up with these ideas. We then made our way to one of the conference rooms, which has a big table with seating going all the way around. When Tammy Baldwin met us there, we got to shake her hand, introduce ourselves, and explain that we are high school students at La Follette High School. It was just us two, four staff members from the State Journal, a State Journal photographer, Baldwin’s assistant, and Senator Baldwin herself sitting at the table. For most of the hour long interview, we were able to see how an interview of this style works. They asked questions about how she has worked and will continue to work with her Republican colleagues as a Senator, or in other words, why she is the best candidate to serve the middle. Baldwin explained that she has consistently worked with members of the opposite party when writing bills, and tries hard to get Republican Senators to join her when passing laws because you can’t pass a law into Senate without Republican votes. We also talked about healthcare, taxes, and the legalization of marijuana. When asked about the latter, she said that she supports it. And in Wisconsin, she is not alone. On the ballot in the recent election there was a referendum question concerning this issue, and 76.38% of Wisconsin voters supported it. Even so, Baldwin brought attention to some of the conflicts in potentially legalizing marijuana. Even if states individually vote to legalize marijuana, there are still many federal laws that can create barriers. For example, some existing federal laws would prevent doctors from talking to their patients truthfully about the use of marijuana, and banking laws would need to change so that people are allowed to deposit money from a marijuana
business. She believes it to be a bipartisan issue, but that we must look at every aspect of the issue to make sure that it will work. They also asked how Baldwin views the media compared to how our president does, who uses terms like “fake news” when referring to the press. It seems that her views on the issue are opposite to those of Trump. “We can’t have a functioning democracy without a well functioning media,” Baldwin said. “There aren’t enough of you,” she added. At the end of the interview we even got a chance to each ask a question. Our first question was related to school safety. Wright asked about how Baldwin plans on improving school safety and safety protocols, and overall resolving conflicts that happen, after explaining the two gun incidents that happened at La Follette within a week of each other at the beginning of this school year. Baldwin realizes the terrifying reality that gun violence is becoming much more of a regular occurance, and believes that it is important to listen to the youth. “After Parkland it was amazing to see such activism and to have students who are so articulate talking to the adults about legislature and what we have to do at the state level,” Baldwin said. “Young people have become part of that conversation.” Baldwin explained that she takes a more comprehensive look at gun violence. She remembers a time when each county in the state could have their own laws on gun control, and was upset when this changed because how you might deal with gun violence in Madison and other urban areas could be quite different then how you would in a rural area of Wisconsin. “I don’t want a one size fits all to come from the federal government for school safety,” Baldwin said. Overall, she wants more comprehensive background checks and stronger laws on straw purchases across the United States. Since the election was coming up at the time, we also asked about voting. I asked why 18-year- old La Follette students, being young people, should vote for her. Baldwin started by saying that it is very important that youth vote, and that reaching out to and listening to the youth could have a great effect on improving the low turnout rates. She continued by explaining that she is a candidate who takes the voice of the youth very seriously. She knows that some of their concerns are healthcare, affordable higher education, climate change, internet access, and net neutrality, and has focused on these in her career while drafting legislation. “I try to listen carefully to the issues that are important to Wisconsin voters, but young voters,” Baldwin stated. As we left the Wisconsin State Journal building after the interview that day, we felt very satisfied. We were able to meet an important politician in our state, ask her questions that pertain to students at La Follette, and overall we got to learn a lot more about how to do a formal interview with a public figure. From watching real journalists doing their job in the real world, we got to see how professional questions are formulated, asked, and answered.