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90ish days of summer

After much agony, introspection and discussion, I am finally at peace with the fact that there are some things I just can’t understand at this point in my life.

Nothing heavy-handed here, folks. I’m just talking about a public fresh-food market. But that comes later in this entry.

On June 28, Jeff and I met my brother’s fiancee and one of the other bridesmaids at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. After we wandered around the largest Roman Catholic church in North America, we hopped on the Metro and explored Eastern Market, which had just reopened for the first time in more than two years.

But first, here’s the basilica, which is a short walk from the Brookland-Catholic University Metro stop on the red line.

The exterior of the basilica. Quite impressive.

The exterior of the basilica. Quite impressive.

Religious architecture has always bewildered me, but it sure is pretty.

I was surprised about access within the building. Jeff and I just walked right in and ambled around. I had the feeling that as long as we didn’t disrupt any of the ongoing services in a few of the sanctuaries or enter any private offices, we had free reign of the place. It was a Sunday, for goodness’ sake, and we were wandering the upper church and clicking our DSLRs.

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View from the altar. I would be more descriptive, but religious architecture terminology is beyond me.

After taking a few photos, we went to Eastern Market, which is D.C.’s oldest and longest-running public fresh-food market. And here’s where I’m afraid I might get a lot of flak: I’m honestly not entirely sure what draws people there. (Forgive the superfluous use of adverbs.)

Opening weekend at Eastern Market. Photo by Jeff.

Opening weekend at Eastern Market. Photo by Jeff.

I don’t mean to come off as a non-native/bright-eyed intern who comes to town and tries to ingratiate herself with the locals (or, worse yet, poke fun at them). Nor do I want to seem like a blissful ignoramus whose mantra is “I don’t get it.” Rather, I relish learning, trying to understand and passing on knowledge and information. That’s just what I aim to do as a (photo)journalist.

But sometimes, I just don’t understand things as completely as I’d like.

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90ish days of summer

On June 25, 2009, Jeff and I had coffee with Claire.

L-R: me, Sen. McCaskill and Jeff. This photo was taken by an official Senate photographer and e-mailed to me from Sen. McCaskills office.

L-R: me, Sen. McCaskill and Jeff. This photo was taken by an official Senate photographer and e-mailed to me from Sen. McCaskill's office. Jeff does not look this awkward in real life... generally.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., has 9 a.m. coffee with constituents every Thursday while the Senate is in session. Upon learning of this weekly meeting via Twitter and finding out that I would generally have Thursdays off during my internship at washingtonpost.com, I knew that Jeff and I had to visit with Sen. McCaskill at some point.

So we did.

Some slight exaggeration may be involved here, but I partially credit Sen. McCaskill for embroiling me into Missouri politics and, what the heck, political reporting in general.

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90ish days of summer

Today was my last day as a photo intern at washingtonpost.com.

wapo.com

Today, I fielded photo requests and built photo galleries, edited and submitted some photos I took for a real estate project, turned in my security badge and Metro card… and that’s that.

That’s the end of these 90ish days of summer and my first journalism internship.

This is my pouty face. In this photo by Jeff, I am pouting for probably no reason whatsoever at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Right now, Im not pouting so much as Im sad this summer and internship are over.

This is my pouty face. In this photo by Jeff, I am pouting for probably no reason whatsoever at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Right now, I'm not pouting so much as I'm sad this summer and internship are over.

As I’ve blogged before, much of what I involved prepping photos for on-line use — to accompany articles and WaPo blogs — and building the many photo galleries. In addition, I worked on a few longer-term projects and shot two assignments.

But the vast majority of the internship was definitely sitting in front of a Mac and a PC and doing a lot of editing. Which is something I’m used to, having been the photo editor of The Maneater student newspaper, but that doesn’t mean I learned nothing this summer.

What I learned:

  • As my fellow intern Channing put it, being an intern means you’re there to do what you’re told — which means you do what other people don’t want to do. I hadn’t been on the absolute bottom rung of the ladder in a long time, but being there was a good experience. I quickly realized that that’s just how real life works and that my experiences at The Maneater, Philmont Scout Ranch and The Columbia Missourian aren’t exactly  reflective of that kind of corporate reality. (That said, the photo editors at washingtonpost.com are so friendly and helpful.)
  • Being an intern also means you should have a fast learning curve.
  • Multitasking is key. I’d like to think I was already good at working on three or four to-do items simultaneously, but fielding photo requests, editing photos, building galleries and researching for projects definitely put a more extreme spin on the art of multitasking.
  • Correcting white balance in Photoshop used to be the photo editing task I hated the most — and I’d always thought that having a background in color film printing gave me an edge on speedy, accurate color-correction. But after having to correct white balance, constantly and every day, I am so much more confident at this task. And I don’t dread it as much.

In short, I’m happy with how my summer internship turned out, although I do hope that, in future endeavors, I’ll spend more time behind a camera than in front of a computer. But whatever happens, I’m grateful and glad I had the opportunity to intern at washingtonpost.com.

On Monday, Jeff and I are returning to Columbia, where I’ll begin my last year as a photojournalism major at MU. This semester, I’ll be a staff photographer for The Columbia Missourian, as well as taking two linguistics classes (that I’ve wanted since sophomore year) and working on a long-term investigative/reporting project with broadcast student Theo Keith. (More details on that in a future blog post!)

It’s going to be busy, and you can expect a lot more regular updates to this blog than have happened this summer.

With that, I formally conclude this 90ish days of summer series.

Although, true to form, I still have a ton of photos to edit. Jeff and I have seen and done a lot in the past two months, and I simply haven’t had the time yet to edit all the photos. Among those takes are…

In the next few weeks, I’ll be editing and blogging these photos. The 90ish days of summer title will headline those entries, but apart from these backlogged posts, the series is officially concluded.

And now, for a weekend of packing and editing!

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90ish days of summer

This post comes about two weeks late — but better late than never, right?

I actually have four more posts I really need to write after I complete this one. Oops. That’s what I get for not writing in the past two weeks…

ANYWAY.

On our drive back from the four-day music extravaganza that is Bonnaroo, Jeff and I took an alternate route from Manchester, Tenn., back to Silver Spring. Whereas on our way to Tennesee, we took a pretty direct course, we decided to go the scenic route — through Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

From Silver Spring to Manchester:

From Manchester to Silver Spring:

The scenic route was also about four hours longer than the direct course. But it was completely worth it.

Our first step off the beaten path was outside of Knoxville, when we began the drive down US-71 between Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. This stretch of 15 miles was, unexpectedly, the biggest lovefest combination of As Seen on TV products, kitschy tourist trap attractions and gimmicky mountain hamlets I’ve ever seen in my life. Also: PANCAKES. EVERYWHERE.

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90ish days of summer

I’ve just completed my first week as a photo/multimedia intern at washingtonpost.com!

As I previously blogged, the .com newsroom is going to take some getting used to because it’s unlike any other I’ve worked in before. But I am definitely getting there and now am a lot more comfortable working with the different programs and processes the way the actual photo editors do.

On a somewhat related note, the whole eight-hours-a-day/40-hours-a-week, being-in-the-city-all-summer thing will also take some getting used to.

You’d think big cities wouldn’t be an issue. I was born and raised in Houston, Texas, where I spent the first 18 years of my life — but ever since I graduated from high school three years ago, I haven’t been in Houston for more than three weeks at a time. The schoolyear is spent in Columbia, Mo. (population: 100,000ish, which to me is tiny), and the summers were spent in the New Mexico mountains… until now.

So for three summers, my office was 137,500 acres of rugged mountains, and in every job I’ve held except one, I was generally in charge of my own schedule and could determine what tasks I needed to accomplish on a day-by-day or week-by-week basis.

Now, the real world strikes, and I’m doing my best to keep up. I can’t lie — I’m a little homesick for mountains and trees. Those kinds of surroundings can’t be replaced by tall buildings or even the White House and Capitol Building. But I am learning a lot and slowly-but-surely getting used to working in an office for eight hours a day. And don’t get me wrong: I’m definitely glad I have this internship!

And now, TGIF!

I think Jeff and I are going to make strawberry shortcake tonight. Tomorrow, we’re going to hit up the Newseum. When we return from that, I will certainly be sure to qualify it as a failure or non-failure.

(That’s a joke. Laugh! Ha ha ha!)

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — As I’ve previously noted, today is my last day as a day-to-day (or, two-day-a-week) political reporter for The Columbia Missourian.

It is also the closing day of Missouri’s 95th General Assembly’s first regular session.

Needless to say, this session and reporting on it have been quite a ride.

My editor Phill Brooks has been reporting in this statehouse for about four decades, and he’s said several times that he has never seen a legislative session quite like this one.

Every statewide elected official is a Democrat, the exception being Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, and the legislative majority is Republican in both chambers. The session opened with everyone talking about bipartisanship and how that’s what the voters wanted. But promises of working across the aisle seemed to stop there on legislation varying from abortion to AmerenUE to the budget.

Reporting on this session has been one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever taken on. As I wrote back in January, I began covering the legislature with only a very basic understanding of the process and the faces who propel the motions. But I flew back two weeks early from Texas to report on the start of the session, and now I am here for the end of it. It’s been a tremendously difficult, exciting, energizing five months, and I’m glad I did it and glad it’s over.

Lessons I learned, highlights I experienced and low points from which I learned even more:

  • Wear comfortable shoes.

I learned this very quickly during a 14-hour House Budget Committee hearing, at the end of which the committee passed the 13 operating budget bills. When I arrived, it was standing-room-only in the hearing room, so I had to stand in heels and on a bum ankle for about eight hours. I was walking in my stocking feet the rest of the time.

  • I asked my first question at a press conference! …in May.

Uproar ensued after Speaker Pro Tem Bryan Pratt announced on the floor allegations of bribery by Gov. Jay Nixon’s office. Two Republican representatives later identified themselves to the press, saying Nixon’s staff offered career advancements in exchange for votes for the health care bill in question.

The Democratic caucus held a press conference upon adjournment, where reporters questioned them about the health care bill. That’s where I asked the first question I’ve ever asked at a press conference: “What is your response to the Republicans’ claims of bribery by Nixon’s office?”

You can view Minority Floor Leader Paul LeVota’s response at 2:11 in the below video:

  • Don’t be afraid to ask basic questions.

I became pretty comfortable with just going to Budget Director Linda Luebbering’s office and asking her if she could clarify a few budget-related issues for me. The same applies to a few other legislators, and I am very grateful that they didn’t mind explaining the basics to a student reporter.

  • Persistence is key.

It took me about seven weeks to get a certain interview, and another three weeks to get a certain photo. But they both happened, and you’ll get to see the published result on May 27.

Now, it’s 5:30 p.m. and I am still in the House press gallery. The session is to close in 30 minutes, at which time the representatives will throw all their papers in the air. Then it’s on to press conferences, furious article-writing and then — I’ll be done.

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Life’s ironic, ain’t it?

I really don’t think “irony” or any derivative thereof is the correct word for this, but basically: In my last post, I discussed how I think I’m a balanced reporter in that I both report and photograph as a journalist. But it’s ironic (or something?) that I’m struggling to do my best work in both areas.

Let me say this right away: I am capable of reporting and photographing the same event/issue for the same story. I’ve done it several times in the past few years, and I think I’ve done it well.

But this semester, I am in two journalism classes with “Advanced” in their course titles: Advanced Reporting and Advanced Techniques in Photojournalism. For Advanced Reporting, I report on the state budget out of Phill Brooks’ bureau in Jefferson City for The Columbia Missourian on Mondays, Wednesdays and the occasional Friday. For Advanced Techniques, I have two classes and a lab period every week, plus a weekly assignment that usually involves at least two different shoots. Tuesdays and Thursdays are my days for those classes and lab, plus my other schoolwork.

I don’t have any problems balancing reporting and photojournalism in general. But when I’m photographing assignments that have nothing to do with anything I’m already doing in the bureau, that’s when it gets tricky. It’s the time crunch.

But there was no way I couldn’t have not taken these two classes this semester. I needed to take Advanced Techniques this semester as part of my photojournalism degree path and to graduate on time. In the meantime, this legislative session has provided great reporting material, and I’ve enjoyed reporting on state finances to a degree that I doubt many other Missourian reporters would.

Somehow I’ve been making it work, although I haven’t consistently done my absolute best for either class. But I really do not recommend that anyone take Advanced Reporting and Advanced Techniques in the same semester, especially if you’re reporting out of Jefferson City, which is 30 miles south of Columbia.

THAT SAID — this assignment for Advanced Techniques was not my best. This was one of the ones where my work suffered a bit.

We were to complete a fill flash/balancing assignment, wherein we basically fill or balance a subject against or in sunlight or some other bright light. At the last minute on Wednesday — in the middle of writing a monster article about the federal stimulus funds — I went to the legislative library in the Jeff City statehouse yesterday because I knew there are big windows there.

Legislative library worker Hilda Hartling pulls up articles dating back to the 1800s from the State Historical Society of Missouri’s newspaper archive Web site in the statehouse library on April 8. Hartling said she does not know how she managed to get the desk with the best view in the library – “just luck,” she said.

Legislative library worker Hilda Hartling pulls up articles dating back to the 1800s from the State Historical Society of Missouri’s newspaper archive Web site in the statehouse library on April 8. Hartling said she does not know how she managed to get the desk with the best view in the library – “just luck,” she said.

This isn’t quite fill-flash or balancing in the truest sense, since the light from the strobe isn’t competing with or framed against the light from the window. But I couldn’t remove the strobe’s reflection from the window glass when I tried a different angle. In the above shot, I bounced the flash off a white pillar that was squashing me against the wall to my right, to avoid the harshness of direct flash.

So, I’m not completely thrilled with how this assignment turned out, even though Hilda was really friendly and patient with me. I did have other options lined up, over the weekend and on Tuesday, but either I couldn’t make it to them or they fell through.

Alas.

I’ll do better next time.

It’s just a bit tough, because when my attention and time are divided between articles and photos that have nothing to do with each other, one wins and one doesn’t quite win. My article turned out wonderfully. My photo — ehh.

Once I’m actually in the field and out of school, though, I doubt that will be an issue any longer.

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I promise I’m a balanced reporter.

By that, I don’t mean I’m trying to reassure you that I report on all possible sides of an issue, etc. (But that said, I do my best to report on all sides of an issue!)

Rather, I’m trying to reassure you that even though this blog has gone severely photo-heavy in the past few weeks, I’m still trucking along as a political reporter in Jefferson City.

I’d prefer not to disclose details, but my editor Phill Brooks has had me working on a few features. Those are to be completed before the legislative session calendars truly become congested with hot bills and fast-paced action. There are only five and a half weeks left in session, so that doesn’t leave me much time.

One of those features is something Phill wants me to drop for now and instead pursue next semester, as an independent study project. It’d be a complete package: written story/ies, photos, audio, multimedia, everything. And, if I can get it right, it could be a very compelling story.

I already discussed this possibility with my Advanced Reporting instructor Tom Warhover. Here are the considerations and consequences we agreed I need to keep in mind when I make my decision:

  • I’m already registered for 12 credit hours (four courses) next semester. To complete this project, which would be fairly time-consuming, I would have to drop one of my photojournalism electives.
  • I need to make sure I’d have enough time to do Staff Photojournalism (one of my three-hour courses next semester, but it would require far more than three hours of work a week). That is a course I simply cannot put off any further.
  • Transportation? It’d really help to have a car.
  • If I did pursue this project, this would be my third semester with Phill as my editor. Which isn’t a bad thing at all, but my development as a reporter could benefit from working with a different editor.

That said, I haven’t made up my mind, at all. I don’t think I need to until May or so. But it’s certainly something I have to consider very carefully.

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I am back in Central Time, meaning it is 1:38 a.m. in Columbia, Mo. My bed is still unmade, my bags are still packed and I have to be ready for a Jefferson City shift in about nine hours, but I can’t sleep because:

  • I’m thinking about just how much I have to get done this week,
  • I’m reflecting on how incredible this past week was,
  • I feel like going to sleep means completely closing the door on this past week and forcing myself to resume life as a student and reporter,
  • and I need to correct a few things from the previous blog post.

The biggest thing I need to correct is the mileage. I originally said we put about 3,000 miles on Esten’s CR-V this trip. His spring break odometer actually reads 4,040 miles. Granted, some of that is from his camping trip the weekend immediately prior our roadtrip, but certainly at least 3,700 miles of that are from our adventuring out West.

Another minor correction: yet another attraction we didn’t get to check out was the Petrified Forest. And I probably spent more than $200, but I really don’t feel like adding up numbers from my on-line checking account.

Also, here are some more numbers, just for fun:

  • I took 1,175 digital photos this trip.
  • Of those, 371 are for HDR (high dynamic range) purposes. Hurrah for bracketing and, consequently, necessitating a lot of editing!
  • Of the remaining 804 photos, 169 have survived the preliminary edit. Meaning, those 169 will be examined more closely, and those that survive the second edit will be toned/etc. From there, those that survive the third edit will appear on-line at some point.
  • I shot three rolls of Fuji Superia 100 and nine exposures of a roll of Fuji 400. I can’t decide if I should try to use up the remaining 27 exposures on the 400 or if I should just get all four rolls developed so I can see how my film turned out.

So, um, yeah. I have a lot of editing to do. Especially in the HDR department, which should prove interesting since I’ve never edited HDR before.

Again — hopefully I’ll have some photos ready by this weekend. In the meantime, I just need to plow through all the schoolwork, reporting and cleaning I have to get done before I can start playing with photos.

Finally (and also in the meantime), I already miss the West. I already touched on this in the previous post, but damn. Driving through eastern Colorado, Kansas and half of Missouri en route to Columbia made me realize just how spectacular the West is.

I mean, I’ve been West before. I’ve spent three full summers and part of four other summers in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in northeastern New Mexico (i.e., Philmont Scout Ranch). But everything I saw on this trip (exception: today’s drive) was something I’d never seen before. If only we had more than a week — and the funds — to truly explore the great American West.

Someday. Someday I’ll return.

But for now, as Davy Knowles sings in one of his songs, I’ve gotta roll away.

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ALAMOSA, Colo. — My feet are just now thawing out after adventuring in the Great Sand Dunes more than seven hours ago.

We concluded today (Day 6, Saturday the 28th) at the Dunes. Well, actually we just returned from Pizza Hut, which is apparently the only restaurant that offers anything vaguely resembling Italian cuisine in Alamosa. But anyway.

At the Dunes (where we didn’t have to pay an entrance fee, as was the case with Black Canyon of the Gunnison), we took the road all the way to the primitive, four-wheel drive section which ended at the Sand Pit. From there, we crossed the creek, which is how my feet — shoed only in Chacos and socks, once again — came to be so wet and cold. I’m pretty sure that water was just above freezing.

And then we adventured around the dunes until a little after sunset. And now our socks and shoes/sandals are still damp and sandy and gross-smelling. But no regrets.

L-R: Jeff, me and Esten at the Great Sand Dunes! We look ridiculous.

L-R: Jeff, me and Esten at the Great Sand Dunes! We look ridiculous. Photo by Jeff.

IN REFLECTION — So tonight is our last night on this epic spring break roadtrip, and tomorrow we make the very long drive back to Columbia, Mo. We guesstimate the drive to be about 14 hours, and none of us is looking forward to that or to schoolwork.

But this trip was nothing short of amazing. Let’s take a look at the numbers:

  • Approximately 3,000 miles from start to finish.
  • Seven days and six nights on the road.
  • About $200 spent by each of us, give or take $100. (Big range, I know.)
  • Two pairs of jeans for me. They were both pretty ragged already anyway.
  • Two nights of camping, although originally we were supposed to have three.
  • Four national parks and one state park visited in six days.
  • Fourteen cameras among the three of us.
  • Six flash units/strobes among the three of us.
  • Who knows how many batteries, memory cards and rolls of film among the three of us.

If anything, this trip has both pacified and exacerbated my desire to explore and take photos and travel. Having spent the greater part of the past three years either in Columbia or New Mexico (and the past 20ish years in Houston, Texas), I’ve developed a case of cabin fever… which is only part of why I was so excited about this roadtrip and am so excited about spending this summer in Washington, D.C., as an intern for washingtonpost.com.

At the conclusion of this roadtrip, I’m happy that we were able to complete our itinerary as planned, with the exception of Kodachrome Basin and camping out in Black Canyon. But: I didn’t think it could happen, but I’ve fallen even more in love with the West than I thought possible. My thirst for photo adventuring has only been further whetted, and now I know I have to return to the West sometime, to explore it more thoroughly. I have no idea when I’ll have both the time and funds for such an extended photo adventure, but I know it has to happen.

I have a lot of work cut out for me next week. Tomorrow evening, we’ll be back at school where classes,  exams, work and other such real-world responsibilities face us. My room is still messy from my scrambled efforts to pack for the trip. Thanks to the embargo on all economic/political/etc. news that Jeff placed on me, I have a lot of catching up to do before I resume reporting in Jefferson City on Monday. (But no regrets!)

So who knows when I’ll have the time and energy to edit all the photos I’ve taken? But I’ll try to start posting photo entries by this weekend. In the meantime, I’m so glad we could have a week-long photo adventure in the great American West. Peace, y’all, and next time I post to this blog, I’ll be back in Missouri!

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I am going to Washington, D.C., this summer. Yesterday afternoon, Dee Swann — the multimedia deputy managing editor at washingtonpost.com — offered me the photo/multimedia internship for which I applied. After a quick chat with my mother, I accepted the internship.

wapo.com

I am going to Washington, D.C.!

Wow wow wow.

This year, I applied for internships in either photography or reporting at probably three or more dozen newspapers. As I noted in an earlier post, I’ve received three times as many notifications of cancelled internship programs as I have actual, outright rejections. This is a sad market for journalism students seeking internships, and let’s not even talk about jobs post-graduation.

So, I am absolutely thrilled and honored to have been offered this internship. I know it’s going to be a challenge and a lot of hard work, but I am so ready for it.

That said, it’s been about 18 hours since Dee called me, and I am still in a state of shock. In shock that I’ll be going East — and not West — this summer for the first time in four years. In shock that everything actually worked out and I actually landed an internship this summer. In shock that it’s at washingtonpost.com, of all places!

My starting date is May 26. That gives me a little under a week after my last final exam to pack and laze around before I start interning. I still need to figure out housing and the end date and a lot of other things. And I still need to work out a food allowance/etc. with my parents. But all those things will come along in time.

In the meantime, I am just so pizumped that I’m going to be interning in a profesional newsroom in Washington, D.C., this summer. And yes, I used “pizumped” — that’s how pizumped I am!

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Long story short, I am kind of obsessed with the economy.

More than a few of my friends, classmates and coworkers can testify to this.

In fact, when my Facebook status a few days ago was “Chris congratulates the Dow for its 3.3 percent growth today!,” one of my coworkers in the Jeff City bureau commented with, “haha, when I heard this on the radio earlier today, I thought of you :)”

I wasn’t always like this.

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The whirl of activity and buzz with which the Missouri legislative session kicked off almost two months ago has diminished to a feeble heartbeat of a tremor.

Okay, so that was slightly dramatic. But that’s how I’ve been feeling lately. I cut my winter break in half to come back early to Missouri and cover the start of legislative session (as well as Gov. Jay Nixon’s inauguration), and the pace in the statehouse was absolutely frenetic. My being the only reporter in the bureau for the first two weeks only compounded the pressure and stress, especially since I first had to cover the preliminary stories (what legislators anticipate from this session, the inauguration, etc.) and then the state budget as that beat began to flourish. I began to expect getting thrown into the day’s biggest story/ies and churning out 30-inch articles daily.

Now, things in the statehouse have calmed down significantly. I’ve gone about two weeks without a breaking news story. Nixon’s already given his budget overview (via his State of the State address), the federal stimulus package has been signed into law and the House Budget and Senate Appropriations Committees are at work. The initial frenzy of activity has definitely died down a bit, and I am just aching for something to give me a break from working on the four features Phill has assigned me.

Not that I don’t enjoy working on feature pieces. These are definitely interesting topics, and I’m excited about them. But two of them need to be cleared by the governor’s office (so I can get access to certain people/names/information). One is a very long-term piece on which I am working with a radio reporter and would involve traveling around the state. The last is a profile piece I can work on whenever I can’t make progress on the others.

According to House Majority Floor Leader Steven Tilley’s chief of staff, things should start to pick up after the legislators’ spring break. I sure hope so. The Jeff City blues are kickin’ in, and while I’m by no means less excited to be here in the bureau, I’d like some spicy legislative happenings to break up the pace.

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For our second assignment in Advanced Techniques in Photojournalism, we shot portraits of a classmate in the studio. This was my first time configuring lights with a subject in a studio environment, and I must admit that I didn’t really enjoy it.

By no means was that my partner Calin‘s fault. Calin was a great partner — very patient and, even though he’d also never done studio work before, more knowledgeable about how to set up the lights according to the desired light ratio.

But before I delve more into why I didn’t enjoy the studio as much as I’d anticipated, here are the final three selects, of the 103 that I shot over two days.

Calin Ilea playfully swipes his hand across his face to the tune of imaginary music. Ilea, a graduate student from Romania, enjoys playing soccer in his free time. [Friday, Feb. 13]

Calin Ilea playfully swipes his hand across his face to the tune of imaginary music. Ilea, a graduate student from Romania, enjoys playing soccer in his free time. Friday, Feb. 13.

Ilea also enjoys the combination of pickles and mayonnaise, at least according to his friend and TA Catalin Abagiu. [Friday, Feb. 13]

Ilea also enjoys the combination of pickles and mayonnaise, at least according to his friend and TA Catalin Abagiu. Friday, Feb. 13.

Ilea sprawls out on the floor after nearly five hours in the studio on the second day of shooting. Ilea had already had a rough day before starting work in the studio at 9 p.m. [Tuesday, Feb. 17 -- but, technically, Wednesday, Feb. 18]]

Ilea sprawls out on the floor after nearly five hours in the studio on the second day of shooting. Ilea had already had a rough day before starting work in the studio at 9 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 17 -- but, technically, Wednesday, Feb. 18.

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Today, Wes Pippert held an information session about the Washington Program, which he has directed since the 1980s. The semester-long program essentially places graduate or undergraduate students in professional newsrooms, firms, agencies and other such journalism/communication workplaces, where the students work alongside professionals in completing their chosen/designated professional project.

Pippert emphasized the “professional project” aspect of the program and, wihin the first five minutes of the session, was vocal about distinguishing that from an “internship.” He highlighted a few participants whose newsrooms/what-have-you placed them in prominent stories. For example, one student who backed out of the program at the last minute was slated to be a Washington correspondent for a Spokane, Wash., newspaper. What the student didn’t know was, his editor had already signed him up to cover Obama’s inauguration and gotten credentials and everything set up.

I’m not sure yet what would qualify as a professional project. Therefore, I don’t know what I would want to do — although, it’d probably be something that would incorporate both reporting and photojournalism. I also don’t know for which semester I’d apply: fall or spring? Either semester I choose, I’d a) have to find a subleaser and b) push back my graduation by one semester.

But I’m definitely interested. The potential benefits are numerous:

  • I’d be working in a professional environment.
  • I’d be working in Washington, D.C.
  • I’d be learning, networking and building my portfolio all at the same time.
  • I’d get to exert a large degree of control/direction over what I’d be doing (which would not necessarily happen in a traditional internship program).
  • I’d be working in Washington, D.C.
  • I’d be earning college credit while I’m at it.
  • I’d get a discount on a membership to the National Press Club.
  • I’d get to expand my journalistic and political horizons from the local and state level to the federal level.
  • Did I mention I’d be working in Washington, D.C.?

(more…)

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As of this week, I have entered a strange place in my life/mental state. That is, I’ve begun to question exactly what I’m doing in journalism.

It all started when I had to present my goals for this semester to my editor Phill Brooks, as a component of my Advanced Reporting class. After discussing my goals with him, I was to e-mail him and my class instructor a memo recapping the discussion.

Initially, my goals were enterprise, in-depth analysis and connecting with the reader — all of which I’d outlined in a previous blog entry. But when I told Phill, he laughed and said my real goal should be figuring why I am still working — and with gusto — in the bureau when, as a photojournalism major, this class is not a required component for acquiring my degree.

The following is the memo I sent to Phill and my instructor last night.

(more…)

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[Psst — here’s my professional resume as of Jan. 31, 2009!]

Everyone knows the journalism job market is exponentially shrinking.

I’ve known this since high school, when it was time to begin applying to colleges and my mother realized just how serious I was about pursuing journalism. She wanted me to look at in-state colleges with communication schools or journalism departments, but I refused to consider them seriously.

Shortly after I told her I wouldn’t go anywhere but the University of Missouri-Columbia, I found a newspaper clipping next to my dinner plate. It basically detailed how the journalism job market was beginning its downslide, and how internships are a must for anyone interested in pursuing journalism as a career.

My mother later asked if I’d found and read the clip, and if I was still thinking clearly about my future. She then informed me that, following my graduation from the higher education sector, she would not be financially responsible for me nor allow me to live in the house.

So, thanks to my encouraging and ever-supportive mother, I have long been aware of a) the job market, b) the importance of an internship and c) how I really need to get a job after college.

Thus far, I have applied to more than two dozen internships.  (more…)

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Reporting in the State Capitol building in Jefferson City is a little stressful; I can’t lie about that. Two years ago — or even nine months ago — I didn’t expect to be reporting in the statehouse, much less returning for a second semester. But here I am, well into my second semester and first legislative session in the capital.

When I first started out, the following truly intimidated me:

  • Who is everyone? Thanks to my experiences at The Maneater student newspaper, I knew the names and faces of Columbia/Boone County legislators, the governor, the lieutenant governor and the House speaker. But I knew I had to become familiar with the names, faces, polices and other affiliations of many more legislators and elected officials.
  • What is everyone saying? Political jargon can be a little confusing. I’m somewhat embarrassed now to admit it, but because I swore off political reporting as an option back when I was applying to colleges, I never really kept up with politics until the 2006 midterm election season. (Thank you, Maneater, for introducing me to the wonderful world of Missouri state politics.)
  • What is the political process? Everything — from how a bill becomes law to how all the offices and committees are connected and interact — was so foreign to me. I’ll admit that I’m still no expert on the political system/process, but I’ve certainly been learning as fast as I can, as well as enjoying it.

Last semester, I covered Chris Koster’s successful campaign for attorney general. That experience and my reporting on the state economy and budget compelled me to return for a second semester, so I could report on legislative session and follow up on all the issues I’d been covering. At the end of the semester, I told my editor I would cover the budget/revenue beat.

As such, I flew from Texas to Missouri two weeks early.  (more…)

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