This week we had the pleasure of talking with Marie Albiges, new state politics reporter for the Daily Press.
Marie talks about coming back to Virginia after a stint in Texas, not writing “inside baseball” in complex stories, why she prefers reporting over writing, the next big story for the Hampton Roads area and more.
To start, can you please introduce yourself and tell us about yourself and about what you do?
My name’s Marie Albiges and I cover state politics for the Daily Press and the Virginian-Pilot. I’m based in Newport News and joined the Daily Press in May as a locality beat reporter. I’ve been on the state government beat for about a month, covering politics and policy that come out of Richmond and affect our region. Before that, I spent two years covering education and government in Austin and San Marcos, Texas for a monthly print paper. Working at the Daily Press is sort of a homecoming for me — I graduated from Christopher Newport University in 2014 and am lucky enough to work with a handful of former reporters and editors of the Captain’s Log, the university’s weekly newspaper.
Welcome back to Virginia. How has the statehouse beat been treating you since taking it on last month? What’s been the main subject you’ve been writing about lately?
It’s been a whirlwind of information. There’s a lot to learn and dissect, especially in a way that makes sense for not only me, but our readers. I switched beats around the time Gov. Ralph Northam called a special session in August on redistricting, so I’ve mostly been writing about this unconstitutional legislative map and the delegates’ attempts to fix it.
Do you think it’s a professional obligation/benefit to kind of get to learn as you report and then translate that for readers? Do you have a trick that helps you remember to step back and look at the “big picture” of a story instead of getting lost in the proverbial weeds?
That’s what I love about journalism. You’re always learning something new. And especially with meaty topics, you want to make sure you’re able to tell people why it matters and how it’ll affect them. That being said, my editor constantly reminds me to avoid “inside baseball” terms, which come up a lot with state politics. So, I’d say the trick is, find a good editor who’s going to remind you of that.
What’s something you learned recently from a story you were working on?
I’ve been learning a lot about Medicaid and its effect on the low-income Virginia population as we’re gearing up for expansion in a few months. In my reporting I found there’s between 90,000 and 100,000 people that make between 139 percent and 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level and won’t be eligible for Medicaid even under the expansion, which is why they’re relying on free clinics.
“That’s what I love about journalism. You’re always learning something new.”
We notice that some reporters prefer writing to reporting, or reporting to writing. Do you prefer one over the other? If so, why?
I think I prefer reporting to writing. I tend to write as I go along in reporting– as soon as I wrap up an interview, I’ll try to pull out good quotes and write out a few paragraphs even if I don’t know where they’ll go in the story. If I don’t do that, I tend to procrastinate with the writing process and get overwhelmed if I sit down to write and have dozens of pages of notes in front of me.
What’s one story you’ve written that has stuck with you, for better or worse? A lot of reporters we talk with seem to have “the one” story they can’t forget, whether they’d like to or not.
When I was in Texas, I wrote about the struggles school districts have hiring certified bilingual educators. The demand for Spanish-speaking teachers is incredibly high, and the exam passing rates to become a bilingual teacher are low because of the rigor of the tests, so school districts were doing all sorts of things to attract bilingual teachers, such as hiring them on the spot at job fairs and traveling thousands of miles to recruit them.
What do you think the next big story for the Hampton Roads area is and why?
I think a big story for Hampton Roads is how, and whether, the area is positioning and identifying itself as a region when it comes to things like healthcare, transportation and the economy. In what ways do we identify more with Richmond, the Peninsula or Southside, and what do we want to be in the future?
What are some of your interests outside of reporting? And one thing people might be surprised to know about you?
Outside of work I enjoy hiking, traveling and working out. One thing a lot of people don’t know about me — I was born in France and moved to the states when I was young. I grew up learning French and English, and most of my family still lives there.