The 2010 Poynter College Fellows disbanded more than 48 hours ago, and already I miss everybody.
That said, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, when I arrived in St. Petersburg a little more than two weeks ago.
- I had driven almost 20 hours from Missouri to St. Petersburg, Fla. (with help from my parents, who drove down with me).
- I also missed my own graduation ceremony to arrive at the Fellowship on time.
- I had just completed a very rigorous final semester of college, during which I also had a part-time job and worked editing shifts at the paper.
- I had just packed, moved and cleaned my apartment in almost exactly 24 hours, with help from Jeff and my roommate Shelby.
- I was/am on the brink of beginning a summer photo internship at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in early June.
- And — I will admit — I felt a little burned out on journalism.
In the trip from Missouri to Florida, I spent the majority of my waking hours wondering what the hell I was doing. Why couldn’t I have just taken a break during the three weeks between graduation and my internship? Why couldn’t I have actually walked in my graduation ceremony and mugged for the camera with my fellow graduates? Why did I want to apply for a fellowship that would mean an intensive two weeks of even more journalism after my intensive four-year collegiate experience?
But 24 hours into the fellowship, I knew why.
The fellowship brought together 32 young journalists from vastly different backgrounds, with vastly different experiences and with vastly different perspectives — and I couldn’t have asked for a better group. I would be lying if I said I didn’t learn something from every single person there. There was no cutthroat competitiveness or need to do better than everybody else.
Rather, we wanted to learn from and help each other in whatever ways we could, and improve as a group. No one cared if you were in broadcast, print, photo or design, or if you were an editor at your news outlet, or if you’d had an internship already. That said, it wasn’t an equal playing field — but again, no one cared. I’ve been in journalism since high school, and I’d never, ever seen such a high level of collaboration, eagerness to help and enthusiasm to learn. By the time the two weeks were over, we knew we had each other’s backs, in more ways than one.
So, what did this do for me?
- I learned, more than ever, how differently reporters and visual journalists tend to think. (Because of my reporting background, I’ve never had a problem thinking as both a reporter and a photographer — which, as I’ve learned from various people over the years, is not very common.)
- Thanks to Al, I now have a better understanding of effective storytelling.
- I have 31 amazing friends who share a passion for journalism and who are among the most supportive people with whom I’ve ever had the privilege to work.
- Perhaps most importantly — those people and this fellowship helped bring me back to where I was a few years ago. I entered the fellowship with cynicism, and considered my relationship with journalism to be akin to an unrequited love affair, at best. I left the fellowship with a renewed sense of optimism and excitement, and am determined not to let my journalism career make me become too pessimistic again.
In short — this was one of the best two weeks of my life, and everyone else who’s done it agrees. We #pcf10 fellows have begun a new WordPress blog where we’ll keep each other and everyone else updated with our progress, projects and lives.
In the meantime, I have one week free until I head up to Atlanta for my internship. And now that I actually have free time, I have no idea what to do with it. They say that journalists should have a life outside of the newsroom — so I suppose that’s something I could try to develop this week before I re-devote myself to a news organization!
Thank you to all my fellow #pcf10′ers and all the mentors who helped make our Poynter College Fellowship experience beyond what any of us expected.