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Intern Blog

Tara's Story -- Photojournalism

Monday, May 2, 2011

Tara Gorman

1st entry: February 18, 2011

 HI!  My name is Tara Gorman.  I’m a photojournalism major interning at a local newspaper.  I am in my fifth year and plan to graduate in Fall 2011.  My career goals include going into extreme sports and taking pictures of snowboarders, skiers, kayakers and rock climbers to name a few.

I have been through five weeks now, learning about the world of journalism. The first half of my internship is all about reporting and writing and the second half of my internship will be all about photojournalism.  So far, I have written many briefs, some small stories, and a couple bigger stories for the paper.  But first, I will explain how I attained this internship and how important an experience like this is for anyone hoping to get a job after they graduate.

Since I have been in college I have been told that an internship will be one of the most important experiences throughout my college years.  During a huddle at the campus newspaper I had heard of a job fair coming up in Minneapolis that was hosting a few area newspapers.  I decided that going would be worth it to at least gain experience in talking to potential employers.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, as the world of journalism was still new to me, but after talking to a few employers, showing them my resume and portfolio, and getting contact information, I followed up on a specific newspaper and applied for the spring opportunity.

I got an email in return after a few weeks of waiting and they wanted me to come in for an interview.  They told me to call and set up a time for me to come in and go through a day of being at the newspaper.  When I went in for my interview it was like stepping into a new world.  The newsroom was full of interconnected desks and work spaces with some offices along the outer wall and people making calls at their desks or talking with others about their stories, giving the feel of a newsroom.

My interview day consisted of about five different interviews with different people as well as attending a budget meeting, which is a meeting that decides what stories will be put in the paper and in which area they will be.  This was all packed into about an hour and a half and was exciting and nerve-racking at the same time.

I wasn’t sure where I stood on getting the internship by the end of my interview, and I wasn’t given any hints either, but just a few days later I got an email as well as a call from the main person that I met at the job fair and that set up my interview telling me I was accepted and that they would love to have me on the team for Spring 2011.  I was ecstatic and most definitely said yes.

Without this experience I don’t think I would be able to get far after graduation, and I know of too many people not getting jobs when they graduate.  I don’t want that to happen to me.  I will get as much experience out of this internship to help me further my career goals one step at a time and I will share these experiences with you all as well.


2nd entry: March 1, 2011

As I mentioned in my last post I am almost halfway through my internship. I just finished my 8th week as a reporter/writer for a local newspaper. Next weekend, after I have a short spring break, I will return as a photojournalist and I will get the opportunity to learn from photographers that have been in the business for many years.

As excited as I am about the photo side of my internship, I am also nervous because I feel like such a beginner next to them. My new supervisor, who is the head photographer at the newspaper, has reassured me that it’s no problem and he’ll get me up to speed quickly. I will also miss my last supervisor, as she was helpful in teaching me how to report and write a good story, but I plan to get a recommendation letter from her for my future job opportunities. I learned a lot from her and she seemed happy with my work, so it would be a good idea to have her as a resource when I apply for jobs after graduation.

Some of the projects I worked on while being a reporter for a local newspaper included writing briefs on local events, community cookbook recipe gathering and writing, gathering data for a general interest story on weather, interviewing locals for a health wellness project and writing up profiles for a story and interviewing sources, reporting and writing for bigger stories that received more space in the newspaper.

Total number of articles- I couldn’t even say. I lost track of the number of articles because it became quite a lot of small briefs, to medium sized local stories, to larger local front page stories and life front page stories. Local and Life are sections within the newspaper. Life section stories give more flexibility to the size of the story more so than local, so it’s more of a goal to get stories there or of course on the very front page. I have had one story on the very front of the newspaper, which was my first project given to me besides briefs. Let me tell you, seeing your hard work on the front page with your name on it for the first time is quite exciting.

Since my writing/reporting side of my internship is mostly over, I will be sharing most of my photojournalism experiences from here on out. I’m excited to see what’s to come, as I am not sure what to expect, and I’m excited to share with you as well!

3rd entry: March 17, 2011

Last time I blogged I was ending the first half of my internship and about ready to start on the photography side. Since we recently had spring break I was not required to go in to the office. They understood that having a break is important especially when students have to juggle class, work and internship hours. I gladly took a break and went back in the Saturday before break ended. I want to focus this blog on that day because it was my first experience with professional photography and being able to handle professional equipment.

My Saturday started off checking messages and emails, which was surprisingly quite a bit after being gone for almost a week. I answered some emails, most asking questions on stories that I wrote, one even asking about a recipe I had written up for a weekly cookbook recipe that is put into the paper.

My new supervisor, Visuals Editor of the paper, brought me through the photo system and organizational structure they use. It was exciting to start learning how to use the system, but I definitely wanted to see photography in action and to learn how to use the equipment. I ended up following my supervisor to a local high school basketball game. We moved around about three or four times, to make sure the different angles gave different viewpoints from the photos.

He brought along a 300mm lens that was massive and cost quite a bit of money, as any good camera equipment does, and took some great close-up photos of the players during the game. I even had the chance to take a few pictures with it, which was quite intimidating and hard to get used to at first, since I haven’t handled equipment like that before.

By the time the game ended, he had taken about 470 pictures, 10 or so of which was taken by yours truly. When we got back to the office, we narrowed it down to around 160 pictures, with some of my input put in. From that they were narrowed down to 19 for a web gallery and six for the newspaper.

Through this experience I learned how to take good pictures at an event, many of them at that, then how to narrow them down to a select few. I also learned the process of editing the photos slightly so that they are paper and viewer ready.

I’m excited to try it all on my own after I’m done shadowing.


4th entry:March 31, 2011

Since shadowing my supervisor at the basketball game I have been through much more!  I went to a local celebration for veterans, their families and local soldiers still serving but on leave.  This time I was with a different staff photographer, but he told me to cover the event like I would if I was assigned on the story.  So when we arrived I split off and started taking photos, many many photos.  During the event I almost ran out of memory space on my card, which was bad as I didn’t have a back up.  One big rule for photographers is to always have back-up batteries and memory cards, so I will definitely not let that happen again!  When we got back I went right to choosing photos and editing, which took a long time.  From the 630 photos I took I had to choose less than 20 to be considered for the photo gallery online and about 3 or 4 to be considered for print.  That made it very hard to throw some aside that could have still been good, but it’s our job to choose the best.  From there I had to edit each one in Photoshop doing little things like fixing the lighting and contrast of the main subjects.  This whole process of choosing and editing took almost 4 hours.  In between there I also was receiving feedback from the other photographer on my photos, which was good and bad.  He was straight with me on what the editors would be looking for and what I could do to improve where I chose to take shots.  At the end I submitted them and he showed me how to put them online, which I am sure we will have to go over again so that I remember it better.

That was my last shadowing assignment, and since then I went on three assignments of my own.  On two of them I accompanied the reporter writing the story and took photos during the interviews for more action shots rather than posed which is preferred.  The third one I had to drive out to the person’s house by myself and take pictures of the story subject.  This was new, as I had to get the person to converse with me that helped me pick out what to shoot and focus on.  He was a kid that has a big Superman collection and it all completely covered his room, giving me a lot to photograph but not much to really focus on to make the photos more appealing.  After I got some information from him on his favorite pieces and such I was able to more easily pick out specific pieces to photograph.  This may be the most unique assignment I will have to do, but I think it’s too early to really say that with confidence as there are many more to come.

5th entry

My confidence in photojournalism has increased immensely over the past few weeks and it has been amazing to feel like I can contribute to the newspaper.  But recently my confidence was a little shaken because I was put on a big assignment on my own.

One of the big projects the newspaper does is Prom photo galleries for all the area high schools, of which there are quite a lot.  The first one of the season was April 2nd, and my supervisor decided to have me cover it as a way to get experience for the rest of the Proms coming up.

Needless to say, it made me nervous, especially knowing that they have become extremely popular over the years since the newspaper started doing them.  To ease my nerves, which I was vocal about, my supervisor and another staff photographer gave me tips on what to shoot, when and where.  I was told to focus on wide, medium and tight shots, the most important framing techniques in photography and to just be creative.  Communities want to see their faces, their dresses and their Proms in general and all it takes is to find some happy people and fun looking situations to make a cool slideshow/gallery.

While I was at the event, I kept the advice I was given in mind and tried to be creative with detail shots of the scenery as well as getting shots of people interacting and the grand march.  After I felt I had enough shots, about 400 or so, I had to figure out a way to get names of the students in the photos.  It would’ve taken a long time to find everyone I had taken photos of and my goal was to get the gallery up as soon as possible, so I talked to a couple students standing off on the side and asked if they would mind helping me.

My plan was to get their phone numbers and send them picture text messages as soon as narrowed down the photos to the final 20 or so.  They were happy to help and I was excited that I would be able to put names to the gallery.

When I got back to the office I spent a few more hours scouring through the photos to choose the best, editing and writing captions.  When I was texting my student contacts I also cross-checked the names through Facebook to make sure the spelling on them were correct.  Once I received as many names as they could give me, I finished the captions and put up the gallery with a total of 23 photos, one of which I submitted for print the next day.

The next week, I was informed that the gallery hit over 51,000 unique views since it was posted.  I think it’s safe to say people were mostly satisfied and my confidence was increased once again.  I’m ready to keep taking on the photojournalism world!

6th entry

As my internship comes to an end I can’t stop myself from reflecting on everything I have done.

Reporting and writing many stories on many different topics seems so long ago even though it has only been a few weeks since that half of the internship ended.  From being a reporter at a community daily newspaper I have learned so much about my writing style strengths and weaknesses.  I have improved greatly on writing articles, which include how to find stories, sources, facts and being knowledgeable on AP style.  I have missed my writing supervisor, as she was a great teacher and peer to work with, but I have asked her for a letter of recommendation for my future endeavors in the world of journalism.  Along with her I have asked another reporter I worked closest with, the managing and executive editors of the newspaper, another photographer I worked closely with and my photojournalism supervisor for a letter of recommendation.  I think it’s safe to say that I will have a strong resume and portfolio from this internship.

Photography is my passion and even though I have enjoyed the writing part of my internship very much for the great experience it has been and for the knowledge I accumulated. I have enjoyed the photo side immensely.  I have taken pictures of Proms, events such as a state level Geography Bee and an Easter Egg Hunt for children, portraits for profile stories on community members, and a football game. In addition, I put together galleries for some of them as well.  I have learned so much more about the mechanics of my camera, which is a Canon, as well as a Nikon camera from their supplies cabinet. Now, I am confident in using both camera types as well as using different sizes of lenses and gear/accessories for each.  I have learned and become more efficient on Adobe Photoshop and the slight editing techniques that are accepted for photojournalism. I have also learned about work flow process of submitting photos to the newsrooms system to be attached to stories for the print version of the newspaper and submitting photos into online galleries.

Through this internship I have learned so much and my passion for journalism of all sorts has only been strengthened, even through the times of weakness when I doubted my abilities.  I will apply all this new experience to my future endeavors, including the new opportunity I have of being the Visuals Editor for the University Chronicle here on campus until my graduation in December; which I hope many of you will be reading.

My parting advice is to look for an internship that fits the career goals you have so that you can gain experience in your field and increase the chance of getting a job upon graduation.  There is no other better opportunity than now while you are in college to gain experiences and get a foot ahead of the other applicants that you will be competing with in the future.  Don’t miss out on something that could be life-changing like mine because through this experience I know that the major I chose is most definitely the right one for me. I can’t wait to see what the world has in store for me over the next few years.  Good luck with your future endeavors and live life to the fullest!  :D

- Tara Gorman


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