Archive for May, 2010

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.

Our official group photo.

  • 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.

From bottom, clockwise: Megan, Charlotte, Isaac, me, Jaclyn and Nezile. Photo by Eli Francovich.

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.


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The past few days have gone by in a flurry. Projects were due at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, so of course Tuesday night was madcap. Since then, we’ve been presenting and watching our projects, and celebrating.

Here’s a little photo essay of the past few days.

Tuesday night, i.e., the big night. Left to right: Emily helps Chris P. while Laura and Eli concentrate on their projects.

Wednesday, daytime, was packed with sessions and last-minute project tweaks. Wednesday, nighttime, called for a tasty celebration at Primi Urban, a wonderful Italian spot on Fourth Street North.

We all ended Wednesday night at O'Maddy's, where we sang karaoke and danced and celebrated.


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The grand #pcf10 scheme is completed and on-line for your viewing pleasure!

Click on the image to view the video!

A few things to note:

  1. Why yes, we incorporated the chicken dance.
  2. Why yes, we included a demon sheep.
  3. Why no, The Poynter Institute is not — in any way — affiliated with the making of this video, except for the fact that we’re all College Fellows here.


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Earlier this evening, the security guard at Poynter spotted something neat outside in the Poynter courtyard.

It was an egret!

Pretty bird.

It was gorgeous and regal, and from the front, it appears to be an almost comically thin bird.

I took more photos of it than just this. The damn thing was practically posing for me. But it sure was a beauty.

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Saturday night in St. Petersburg, Fla., was nothing short of epic.

At the Emerald Bar.

We started the night in a local dive bar, where one of the Poynter College Fellowship coordinators invited us to see some of her friends in the band that was performing there.

The sign reads, "Help Wanted: No Irish Need Apply"

After a little while, we left for another downtown bar. When Eli couldn’t get in, though, I left with him and suggested we have a photo adventure around town. That idea was botched when we ran into Gabe and Charlotte — and Gabe needed to retrieve his car, which had just been towed.

Once we’d driven all over St. Petersburg and finally found the towed-car lot, we decided to end the night at a local hookah bar.


And we stayed there until about 3:30 a.m. Gotta love those crazy-long nights!

Check out a few more photos I didn’t blog here.

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If anything, I learned these two mantras during my three summers of working at Philmont:

Zip up your mansuit.


Keep it classy.

Well — I’m keeping it classy at Poynter.

My workspace in the amphitheatre at Poynter, on Thursday.

Note the wine glass (containing water). And the big tub of Twizzlers.

That’s how we roll here.

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We fellows at The Poynter Institute are scheming.

I’m not going to tell you anything about it until it’s done. But here’s a snapshot (literally):

Shhh -- secret!

Aaand — that’s about it for now!

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Earlier this afternoon, Sara told us that there would be some important industry people in the Poynter Institute building later in the evening. I immediately perked up.

“Can we meet Katharine Weymouth?” I asked.

Sara laughed and said that, since it would be pretty crowded, some of us could sit in the back of the room. So we did.

Katharine Weymouth is the CEO of Washington Post Media and publisher of The Washington Post. She’s also the granddaughter of the venerable Katharine Graham, who steered The Washington Post through the Watergate investigations that elevated the paper’s reputation.

Tonight, Weymouth was the guest speaker at a town hall-like gathering of journalists — most of whom were female — to kick off a 1.5-day colloquium inspired by the book The Edge of Change: Women in the 21st Century Press. After answering some introductory questions from Poynter president Karen Dunlap, Weymouth fielded questions from the women journalists in attendance.

First things first: Weymouth is a lot younger than any of us students had thought. This should have come as no surprise, though, as Vogue published photos and a profile of Weymouth back in July 2009 — a report I’d skimmed.

Now, a summary of some of the things Weymouth said. Most of these are just single quotes of hers that I thought epitomized her whole train of thought about a subject. Please note that these may not be her words verbatim, but they’re pretty damn close.

  • “It’s still the stars among us that make it.” — after noting that women in the industry often have to be doubly good to receive any raises or promotions
  • Newspapers have a bigger audience than ever before, thanks to the Web. The challenge is how to pay for it.
  • “You can’t get lazy; you can’t get complacent.” — after saying that competition makes The Washington Post better
  • “The worst thing you can do after making a mistake is to freeze.” — while explaining how she had to move on after last summer’s salons controversy
  • Young journalists should go to news outlets where they would grow to become the journalists they want to be, as well as where there’s enough resources to fund those opportunities.
  • “I love to see the presses run… I am a print person by training and habit.” — when asked what one thing she enjoys about newspapers
  • “There is no ‘print’ and ‘on-line.’ It’s journalism.” — regarding the convergence of the Post’s print and on-line newsrooms

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Today was another thoroughly engaging, stimulating day of discussion, conversation, revelation and collaboration among my fellow Poynter College Fellows.

You’d think that throwing 32 young journalists together for an intensive two-week workshop would be the worst kind of disaster possible, but we’re all engaged, respectful, honest and eager to learn. I think it’s safe to say I’ve learned at least as much in the past 72 hours as I have in the past three years.

But today, the photos are all about the chicken dance.

Nezile's sexy rendition of the chicken dance.

Okay, let’s back up a bit. We need context.

Before beginning another lunchtime session, Roy Peter Clark brought out his accordion, and six of us performed our own renditions of the chicken dance to the music he played.

Okay, that’s enough context.

How Gabe opened his version of the chicken dance.

How Gabe ended his version of the chicken dance... with Poynter online managing editor Steve Myers, who happens to be Gabe's cousin's husband.

The chicken-dance-off came down to Nezile and Gabe…

As soon as Roy played the first note, Gabe struck this pose... and Nezile dropped to the ground for her dramatic beginning.

…and Nezile won!

Of course, that’s not the only thing we did today. Check out a few more photos here.

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A few facts about Poynter’s senior scholar Roy Peter Clark.

This is Roy Peter Clark.

  1. He’s a Gleek.
  2. He plays rock piano.
  3. He claims to have seen every episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer at least three times.

He’s also an incredible instructor whose discussion about writing I enjoyed this afternoon. Especially when the inverted pyramid model somehow became the martini model.

The martini model for newswriting. It's legit.

Later, we checked out gear from Poynter, which means that a substantial number of Canon 5D Mark II’s are now distributed among budding photographers. I’m pumped about this, as you can well imagine.

Ryan was a patient model for everyone.

After we played around with the gear, which also included video cameras and Marantz audio recorders, eight of us went to the Red Mesa Cantina for drinks and dinner. On the way home, I freaked out my two passengers — Emily and Kendall — by taking photos while driving.


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First, in case you forgot…

I’m in Florida.

Rainy one minute, sunny the next.

Anyway, today was our second day at the Poynter Institute as Poynter College Fellows, and today we received our “beats” — basically, assigned geographic areas with which we became familiar this afternoon by exploring and talking to people.

The beats.

So Emily, Briana, Kendall and I explored an inland part of St. Petersburg — a section of the city that includes the Grand Central District, Tropicana Field, the medical/hospital complex, the police headquarters and a lot of residential areas.

We also discovered a lot of independent entrepreneurship along Central Avenue — a lot of people just throwing all their investments and savings into opening up a specialty shop and hoping it works out. And, for those with whom we talked, it seemed to be working out so far.

Inside the On Pointe Dancewear shop on Central Avenue.

Tomorrow — lots of workshops and lots of discussion! It seems like we’ve all become comfortable with each other enough to allow for a free-flowing, honest discussion, which is obviously a great thing. I’m excited to see what tomorrow brings.

Check out a few more photos I didn’t blog here.

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I forgot to mention this earlier… but I’m done.

Medal in my mouth.

I may not have walked alongside my fellow seniors in the Missouri School of Journalism commencement ceremony and received my fake diploma (the real one gets mailed out in mid-summer), but I’m done.

I did walk in the honors convocation on Saturday morning, since that still allowed me enough time to drive to Florida and arrive at Poynter on time. Yes, that’s right — honors convocation. Somehow, I graduated cum laude even though I was kicked out of the journalism school two and a half years ago for having an unsatisfactory GPA.

I’m not sure how that happened. The “cum laude” thing, not the “unsatisfactory GPA” thing. But it appears to be legit, and now I have a medal to show for it. I just don’t have a fake diploma and a lot of photos of my fellow seniors and me mugging for the camera with our tassels hanging from the left side of our graduation caps.

But — I’m done.

That is, I’m done with college.

I’m not done learning.

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Today was our first day of the 2010 Poynter College Fellowship program at The Poynter Institute for Media Studies.

By “our,” I’m referring to 31 other college students/recent graduates as well as myself. This means that I’ll be learning with and from 31 other young journalists for the first two weeks of summer in Florida.

The view from the Poynter parking lot isn't too shabby.

This is why I missed my own graduation ceremony on Saturday evening: to arrive at Poynter on time.

I’m not sure how much of the program we are allowed to disclose, but for now, I’ll leave it at this:

We get 24/7 access to the Poynter building, its beautiful facilities and its many resources.

Just part of the Poynter facilities.

We’re working alongside and learning with/from some really talented journalists.

This is a sphere made of printing blocks. Try and figure out the words spelled out.

And we’re all pretty excited to be here.

The sign that greeted us as we arrived this afternoon.

Sara and Al have promised us a rigorous two weeks here that may or may not involve a few all-nighters, so I’m not sure how much I’ll be tweeting and blogging over this period of time. But I’ll do my best. But I’m here to learn — so that comes first.

And, of course, I’ll try to continue posting spring break film (gulp).

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I’m pleased to present my final capstone project — my last project as an undergraduate here at the University of Missouri.

In the House of Representatives press gallery.

You can view my video/photo project in one of two places:

My website


My Vimeo page

What exactly is this project, anyway?

As I’ve hinted previously in this blog, the scene is the Missouri state capitol building, and the characters are various statehouse newspaper reporters. As for the story — well, let’s just say that as the economy takes its toll and the journalism industry continues to shrink, state capitol bureaus are suffering.

Last spring, The American Journalism Review published a survey whose results showed a more than 30 percent decrease in the number of newspaper reporters covering state capitols full-time over a period of six years. This survey was released while I myself was reporting in Jefferson City, the capital city of Missouri, so it seized my attention and I kept reading similar reports (such as this March 2009 article in The New Republic). A month ago, as I was searching for a story idea for my capstone project, I remembered the survey and reports — and contacted a few reporters and asked if I could follow and interview them.

I’d like to thank Chad Livengood of The Springfield News-Leader, Virginia Young and Tony Messenger of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jason Noble of The Kansas City Star and Phill Brooks of Missouri Digital News for their immense help with this project.

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I might be biased… but New Mexican sunsets are the prettiest.

Sunset, coming out of Cochito Pueblo after leaving Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. Portra 400VC, 120mm.

Having spent three full summers in New Mexico, plus a few others here and there, I’ve seen quite a few sunsets in the Land of Enchantment.

Sunset along I-25. Portra 400VC, 120mm.

I’ve also lived in Texas, Missouri and Maryland. They have nice sunsets, too. But they can’t beat New Mexico.

Santa Fe. Taken at f/3.5 and 1/15, I think, from a rest stop on the side of I-25 from the south. Portra 400VC, 35mm.

And how can you beat coming home to a city at the base of the Rocky Mountains?

You can’t.

But I’m also pretty biased.

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XXIV: Tent rocks

I’m in the midst of my last week at the University of Missouri, which means I have an exam, a paper, and a project to complete; a room to pack; and an apartment to clean.

But here are some more spring break pictures! After visiting Chimayó, Jeff and I went to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, which is only a few miles from Bandelier National Monument — but to get there, you have to drive almost two hours in the other direction.

The last five miles before you arrive at the national monument are a gravel road that’s being paved over this summer.

Part of the canyon. BW400CN, 120mm.

And to get to the tent rocks themselves, you have to hike — and sometimes climb — through a slot canyon.

It’s not a very narrow slot canyon, but you definitely have to do a bit of rock scrambling at points. Portra 160VC, 35mm.

But when you emerge from the canyon and hike/climb up a bit more, you see these:

Look to the lower right quadrant for the “tent rocks.” Portra 160VC, 35mm.

And there’s a wonderful horizon:


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The Missouri State Capitol building in Jefferson City.

Here’s a (kinda) sneak peek at my final capstone project. It’s my last undertaking in the Missouri School of Journalism since, in exactly one week,  I’ll be graduating and hightailing it to the Poynter Institute as one of its 2010 College Fellows. So — what exactly am I doing for my project?

Well… I won’t disclose everything right now. But here’s the cast of characters.

Chad Livengood, a Springfield News-Leader reporter who is currently reporting on his third legislative session in Jefferson City.

Virginia Young, who directs the Jefferson City bureau for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and who's been reporting there for 20ish years.

Phill Brooks, director of Missouri Digital News...


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Some artwork that Jeff found. Only in New Mexico. Portra 160VC, 35mm.

We spent only the morning in Chimayó. After exploring the Santuario and the surrounding area, we ate lunch at Rancho de Chimayó.

Prickly pear lemonade, with chips and salsa, to start off. Portra 160VC, 35mm.

After an afternoon siesta, we went to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument — but most of that film has not yet been scanned.

I’m working on it, I swear!

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This post is about six months late — but better late than never, right?

The final joust.

Last Thanksgiving weekend, my sister-in-law Emily and I went to the Texas Renaissance Festival, where I spent much of the morning working on a multimedia project about an on-site brewery. The rest of the day, we wandered around the grounds. Emily had never been to a “RenFest” before, and I hadn’t been to the Texas edition since I was pretty young.

In addition to the fair ladies…

One of the ladies whose honor was being defended in the final joust.

…there were those whose costumes were just to shock…


…and those who performed for the thousands of people who attended.

A member of the Clan Tynker performing group plays with fire.

There was also death.


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Jeff and I aren’t Catholic, but on Wednesday, March 31, we drove up to Chimayó to visit what “is no doubt the most important Catholic pilgrimage center in the United States.” (At least, according to the New Mexico state historian’s office.)

Santuario de Chimayo

Santuario de Chimayó. BW400CN, 120mm.

In other words, we went to El Santuario de Chimayó two days before Good Friday — two days before the grounds would be flooded with pilgrims who’d arrived there by walking for days. Admittedly, we didn’t even know about the “walkers,” as they’re called, until we were driving down the highway and saw signs warning the “Santuario walkers” to stay on one side of the road.

But it wasn’t terribly crowded when we were there on Wednesday afternoon, and it helped that we arrived just at its opening hours.


Rosaries hanging in a small shrine at El Santuario de Chimayó. Portra 160VC, 35mm.


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