Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Internship Woes

Since I now have an internet connection to my computer WOO-HOO! here are (play-by-play) my first three days of the internship experience for your reading pleasure. It's a bit long, but hey, I haven't been posting too much lately. More to come...

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

My first day of the internship. I arrive as scheduled at 9:15 and ask the receptionist for Pete, my new boss. She calls him to let him know I'm here, and five minutes later, he saunters downstairs to retrieve me. He's younger than I expected, but not young enough to seem unqualified. I peg him around 45. We walk upstairs into the tiny newsroom, where everyone glances up expectantly as I enter. Everyone is a little more well-dressed than I anticipated, and I feel glad I didn't wear something casual. After a few introductions, we make our way to the back of the building: the photo dept. Photo gets its own (small) room, equipped with two Mac computers I'm pleased to see. I meet the staff. Mike is a considerably older man with a friendly nature and many tales of experience. He has been there for 30 years. Holly is young, 24, just two years out of college herself. Nikki is a little older, but not much, and has only been working there a few months. And that's the staff, two older guys and two younger girls, a strange split for a photo department. Pete and I go over a few basic questions such as job responsibilities and workflow. It is apparent that I won't be sitting around getting people's coffee, something I'm quite happy not to do. We take a tour of the building, including the press where they print the paper. I've never seen an actual press before, and the smell of newsprint is strangely appealing. We chit-chat until about noon when Pete takes me out to lunch at one of the local hangouts. (“Hell, we're not paying you so we might as well buy your lunch.”) I munch on a chicken cordon bleu sandwich while Pete flirts with the (young!) waitress and discusses a late evening spent drinking at the very place in which I sit. And while you might be thinking the drunken debauchery must have occurred many moons ago in his younger years, no. It was last night.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

I arrive at work around 12:00, where I make small talk with the other photographers until 12:30 when I leave with Holly to shoot the gubernatorial candidate of Virginia, Jerry Kilgore, as he makes a short “fly-by” campaign appearance at the local airport. (Anytime I use “shoot” in this narrative I mean “photograph,” just to clarify.) Kilgore is supposed to miraculously appear from the runway at 1:00. 1:30 rolls around and we're still waiting. He comes eventually, and we do our thing, bringing the photos back to the office around 3:00. Thus begins the long process of loading them into the computer, and putting them, properly toned, in the correct folders with accurate captions. There are so many steps I wonder how I'll ever remember them all, and thank God that Holly's very nice and willing to help me. We'll see how long her patience lasts. I leave at 4:30 with directions to find the baseball game that evening where I've been assigned: “You know, just feature-y stuff. Not actual baseball, but everything else going on.”


It's fun, I guess, talking to people I've never met and can barely understand due to their small-town accent and loyal-ball-fan lingo. (How am I to know that CH stands for Clover Hill, a local baseball team? I plead “new girl,” a viable defense to many a misdemeanor around here.) I grudgingly concede to have my picture taken by a wiry man with large glasses in exchange for the extreme privilege of taking his. Hmmm, I wonder where that'll end up?

A photo I took from the ball game.

Friday, June 17, 2005

I knew I would have a moment of intern stupidly. What I didn't know is that it would come so soon.

I'm sitting in the photo office, by myself, because everyone else has either not come in yet or is gone off on assignment. One of the reporters rushes in.

“Uh... Where's Holly?”

“She's gone shooting something,” I offer helpfully.

“What about Mike?”

“He doesn't get here until 11:00.” Another helpful smile.

A pause.

“Well there's a big barn fire and you're going to have to go shoot it.”

Ahh! Panic! I try to control my facial muscles but my poker face has never been very good.

“Ummm... okay, where do I go?”

If I had been that reporter, common sense at this point would tell me to send the new photo intern out with another seasoned employee who knew the area and could get to the fire quickly. But no. I am sent with the new journalism intern, a girl who has been in Harrisonburg perhaps a week longer than I.

After a few wrong turns (she's driving), we spot a trail of smoke high enough to guide us to the fire. As we approach, I see the largest fire of my entire life. It's a gigantic barn, completely engulfed in flames. It's so big the firefighters stand back and watch it burn.

Then I feel a deep weight in my stomach as a small piece of recollection flitters up through my brain. The memory card to my camera is sitting back at the office in the computer, right where I left it. Now, for you non-digital-savvy people, this is the equivalent of forgetting every roll of film you've ever owned. That's never a good thing.

I explain the situation to the other intern, and she offers to drive me back to the office. No good. By the time we drive the round trip, the barn will have completely collapsed and plus, she still has a story to write. So I call Holly on her cell phone, begging her to please come bail me out. Which she does, 15 minutes later. Wooo-hoo! Crisis averted.

But the sickening part that sticks with me? I am standing maybe 50 feet from the greatest fire I've ever seen not on a television screen, grasping my camera, peering through the viewfinder, visualizing exactly how wonderful my pictures could be, but I have NO WAY TO SHOOT IT!!


Anonymous said...

i really love this shot...mostly because it's baseball player's butts...
- umbrella

Diseuse said...

Oh tragicomedy! I feel for you, but that is too funny. I'm sure you'll have the opportunity to photograph another huge flame when you work for National Geographic or something.

Lori said...

I, too, am secretly in love with the smell of the printing press. Every time I take an edited page to the pressroom, I breathe really deeply. :)

So what paper are you working for? My biggest mistake as a journalist to date dealt with fires, too, except it actually made it to print in the Optimist. I'm sure no one will forget the pubic fires at the lake.

Rachel said...

Hey, better on your internship than at another time right? That's what I learned at the Optimist... It's so so helpful to hear all about your internship because I know at one point, I'll have to do mine and I'm freaking out about it. Keep us posted!

Steven said...

You could set the building on fire that you work at. This would give you a great shot and end your internship woes. Ha! Kidding kidding.