The value of community news:
In the summer of 2013 I had the pleasure of interning for 10 weeks at The Anderson News. It is a weekly newspaper that serves the small community of Lawrenceburg, KY in Anderson County which holds less than 20,000 people. In my time there I discovered several things: 1- The importance of the community 2- The camera you have is the best camera, and 3- Use every moment as an opportunity to become better (no matter what you’re doing).
Initially when I began my internship I was filled with a lot of anxiety, about whether or not anyone would like me or my work. However, I quickly got over these thoughts upon my first two weeks. I was warmly welcomed by my co-workers and the community as a whole. The citizens around Lawrenceburg were among some of the friendliest that I’ve ever encountered. What I learned about a community that is so small is that everyone knows each other, and if you’re new or different it’s quickly noticed. This can be scary sometimes, but in this setting I feel like people were curious about me and were willing to let me get to know them and take their picture. The community was very open to me and I believe that is something that I didn’t really realize until I was near the end of my internship.
I also noticed, and was a little surprised by, how responsive the community at large is to the newspaper. They pay attention to the paper closely and provide a great amount of feedback. I can honestly say that I would get the most feedback from citizens when I walked around town. Through the process of working sometimes I forget that people are paying attention to the work that I do. So it was always nice when someone would walk up to me and start talking about my photos.
The environment at The Anderson News was very relaxed, which I enjoyed because it gave me the opportunity to work freely and present my own projects and ideas. Because it is a weekly paper there wasn’t the pressure to put out content every day, but I noticed there was the pressure to remain relevant. Since news could get old quick, at a weekly it might need to be approached in a different manner. So it provided a lot of room for creativity and various stories.
I won’t lie I never really considered community news, and at the end of the semester when my classmates would talk about where they were going, places like New York and San Francisco, I would be hesitant to tell them where I was going when they asked “So where is your internship at”, because I would usually get a somewhat sympathetic look when I told them. I was going to a small paper in Kentucky while they were at large papers in big cities getting to photograph and do exciting things. Needless to say I was a little jealous. One day when I told an upperclassman where I was going, I quickly followed up the statement with “it’s small, but it’s a start”, as if to apologize for it not being exciting, he told me in a matter of fact manner “It really doesn’t matter where you go as long as your shooting.” I kept that idea and would always remind myself that, it only matters that I’m shooting. I realized that it doesn’t really matter so much where you are, but what you can gain from the experience. So I took every moment I had as a growing experience. I wasn’t taking photos in a big city but I was enjoying myself regardless just shooting, growing as a person and as a photographer.
As a photojournalist I was also challenged by the fact that I did not have access to the wide range of equipment that is available at my University, WKU, which was by far the toughest thing I had to accept. How awful that I had to use my own equipment. No 5D mark iii, just a Rebel t2i. No 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, just an 18-55mm kit lens and a 40mm. I realized I’d been spoiled and that I needed to be more than the camera that I had. I heard from a friend that “The camera you have is the best one”, I really didn’t completely understand this saying at first, but the more I thought about it the more I pushed myself to overcome the limitations that I may have as far as equipment. Despite the fact that I was not working with the most expensive high end equipment, it didn’t mean that I couldn’t take good photos. So I challenged myself to get creative, to get closer, and to never blame any limitations I had on the equipment I had to use. One day I want to be able to afford a 5D mark iii, but for now I’m okay working with my Rebel because it challenges me to be more than my camera.
I took an internship at a newspaper so that I could gain an understanding of the newspaper environment and decide whether or not newspapers are something I want to pursue. Over the summer, even before the summer, I grappled with what I wanted to do with photojournalism or even if I wanted to continue pursuing it. There are many avenues I could explore and newspaper is just one. By the end of my internship I realized that newspapers are not something that I am most interested in, but I feel as though I have a far better understanding and appreciation of them. If anything I realized how much I want to continue improving as a photographer and a story teller. No matter where I work I want photojournalism to be a part of it, that much I know.