Sunday, September 8, 2013

On why PJ interns are a kick in the pants to veteran staffers

   Most photojournalism majors are required to intern at a newspaper during their scholastic careers.
   Internships are necessary for building strong portfolios, making employer contacts and gaining on-the-job experience. Internships are also their first paying gigs, though the pay is often below living wage. Some students intern multiple times, and even a year or two after graduation.
   When I was a PJ major at Kent State I did a yearlong internship my senior year at the Warren Tribune in Warren, Ohio. I was hired as a part-time staffer for $5 an hour, and worked 32 hours a week. I could have stayed there indefinitely since it wasn’t an official intern position, but after graduation I moved to Toledo and started stringing for the Associated Press.
This is a story/photo package I did in 1983 for the First Armored Div. newspaper, Ironsides.

   The Tribune was my first civilian news photographer job. Photo editor Rob Englehardt said he hired me for my military background. I had a weak photo portfolio, though I had a fair amount of writing clips that included my own photos, like the clip at left. 
   I wasn’t much of a threat to the full-timers at the Tribune. They were confident in their skills, considering they didn’t have to deal with any of the social media stuff and high tech equipment we use today. A photojournalist’s life was easier back then. Once you mastered those dinosaur film cameras, well, the average citizen couldn’t compete!
    Over the years the Toledo Blade has hired dozens of interns.  I don’t remember most of their names but I certainly remember the impact they’ve all made.
   Our current intern is Jeff Smith, a recent graduate from Central Michigan University. He is the epitome of the 21st Century photojournalist. He blogs, tweets and Instagrams.
   So why do I think interns are a kick in the pants to us old timers? Because they have a fire in their bellies that sometimes is only smoldering in many long-time staffers. They are hungry for a job; to make a difference; to be a part of a visual team that feeds off of each other for inspiration and story ideas.
   Interns are idealistic. They haven't yet been jaded, and everything is new and fresh to them because they haven't shot the same events year after year after year after year!
   The enthusiasm of interns can either be contagious or threatening. It's up to each veteran photographer to choose how they want to handle the new kid. Contagious or threatening? I've felt both ways.
   We should do our best to feed off of each other. We can't deny they inject enthusiasm into the workplace, while we teach them camera skills and ethical/legal values we've honed over the years. 
   Reciprocity at its best.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Lori, I always told every intern I ever worked with that, before they finished their internship, I needed to learn one thing from them, even if it was shortcut on Photoshop that I wasn't aware of. Usually it was of a technical nature because I was a bit more seasoned than they were in regard to making images. But I kept an open mind. Being around the same staffers year after year can slow your growth. Rubbing shoulders with new people can expose you to new ideas constantly. News photography is a two-way street. Always strive to teach, and be willing to learn at the same time. That's what keeps us young.