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Archive for January, 2009

[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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Earlier this afternoon, my friend Jason sent three other photojournalism students and me a link to a YouTube video. Normally I try to ignore random YouTube links my friends send me, but I clicked on it and saw, much to my surprise, a 1981 news broadcast story about how under a dozen newspapers — specifically The San Francisco Examiner — were starting to place content on-line.

I’ve transcribed the video, which is two minutes and 17 seconds, below. Emphasis (italicized and underlined) is mine.

(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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In my post earlier today, I mentioned a Twitter discussion about photojournalism, as well as a Politico article about how the Obama administration is treating the press corps. From there, I read up more on Pete Souza, whom the Obama administration has hired as the chief White House photographer.

First, I read PDN’s Jan. 5 article introducing Souza as the chief photographer. After reading the first few sentences, I began to wonder about the nature of the job… especially since Souza was the only photographer present at Obama’s retaking his oath of office (an event at which no other cameras, including television cameras, were allowed).

So, I posted the following two-part update on my Twitter:

Reading about White House photog Pete Souza. Pondering: if I were offered the job of White House photog, would I accept?

Mainly, would any journalism outlet hire me as a photographer after having been basically the PR photog for the White House?

This began the following conversations:

Joel: yes, they probably would. look at Souza, he worked for as WH photog under Reagan then went to the Chicago Trib. the WH photog is more than a PR photographer, sure there’s lots of grip and grins, but you’re documenting history

Me: Truth, about Souza and the job’s being more than PR. But still, not much enterprise/reporting involved (obviously). Hired photogs/press secretaries can find jobs in journ afterward (example: Stephanopoulous), but still – something to think about.

Joel: if anything it would give you a more intimate understanding of the subject that you were covering. the enterprising aspect comes in finding new ways to photograph your subject

Me: Re: intimate understanding – True, but I wouldn’t hire Souza to cover the White House/D.C. after Obama’s administration.

Joel: true, maybe not the very next administration, but possibly subsequent ones

Me: I agree on that point. But re: enterprise – much of the value of that comes from finding the stories, not being taken to an event.

Joel: thats the reporter in you talking, i’m speaking from purely a photographic standpoint you have ultimate access to be creative

Me: Ultimate access is def a plus of the job, can’t argue with that. But yeah, I’m def speaking as a reporter/journalist.

Jeff (also directed at Joel): But after a high-paying PR job with benefits and name recognition why bother going back to journalism?

Joel: i would, unless offered another similar job someplace else. or i’d teach, like Souza did

Me: Because journalism is more satisfying/fulfilling on a personal level then [sic] PR? For some people, anyway. At least, for me.

Jeff: Oh I know. That was mostly sarcasm.

Kevin: You’re crazy to waver. Essentially the best photo-j assignment ever, job that’ll be there in 4 yrs (unlike journalism outlet).

Me: But there’s no journalism involved. You’re an event photographer. The job’s only journalistic value lies in recording history. Whereas journalism implies some degree of original enterprise, WH photog just gets assigned events/handshaking PR jobs.

Adam (also directed at Kevin): By no means do I think Sousa is going to shoot only grip-and-grins—he wouldn’t have taken the job if that was true.

Me: Truth. Still. While the job entails a lot of pressure dare I say it nevertheless seems too easy? Maybe I’m actually jealous

Adam: Yeah, maybe that’s it. (Me too.) q :

I later found another PDN article — published in late October — in which four former White House photographers reflected on their experiences and shared their perceptions and observations of the job. It’s worth mentioning that Pete Souza is the first photographer in the article.

The article is definitely worth reading, and clarified a few points of concern for me, especially with regard to the line the White House photographer treads between being a PR photographer and a photojournalist. I almost wish I’d read it before tweeting my concerns about the perhaps not-so-journalistic nature of the White House photographer’s job, but no regrets. It was a good Twitter conversation with good Tweeple.

P.S. — I posted three entries today. This kind of frequency will not be a regular thing on this blog.

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Our first assignment in Advanced Reporting was to partner up with a fellow classmate and complete the following assignment:

You will spend time in talking in select communities in the Columbia area to explore the immediate world in which you live, and to discover issues of significance to your neighbors.

These discussions should take you outside your usual environment and introduce you to a part of the community you are unfamiliar with or know only through assumption and generalization.

The goal is to discover issues or topics of most relevance to people’s daily lives, and to learn a bit about their media needs and habits.

The following is what I reported to our Advanced Reporting instructor, Tom Warhover:

— — — —

This morning at 9:30 a.m., Valerie Insinna and I went door-to-door on Rose Drive in northwest Columbia. It’s a relatively small neighborhood consisting of homes built in the mid-70s. We weren’t sure who would be home on Friday morning — our original plan was to talk to people at the Greyhound bus stop, which we couldn’t find — but here are the five people we talked to.

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I’d known about Twitter for quite some time, but didn’t join until Oct. 2008 when my good friend Stephen finally roped me into it. I’ve since been following — and am followed by — a number of Tweeple in the journalism industry. I occasionally follow the weekly Monday #journchat discussions, but today was the first day I tweeted heavily with others about the field.

It all started when I read and tweeted Politico’s article about the Obama administration and its treatment of the press corps. On the first page of the article, you can find these two grafs:

“It is ironic, the same day that the president is talking about transparency, we were not let in,” CNN’s Ed Henry said on the air Wednesday night after news of the second swearing-in broke.

Henry’s main gripe was that television reporters weren’t permitted to cover a historic moment, when Obama once again raised his right hand and took the oath before Justice John Roberts. The only images came from White House photographer Pete Souza.

As a photojournalism student, I understand but dislike media restrictions. During the 2008 campaign season, I covered political rallies at which Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Sarah Palin, John Edwards and Mitt Romney were present. As the election season came down to the wire and larger venues were used to accommodate larger crowds, the media restrictions became pretty tight.

In January and February (Super Tuesday!), fellow student photographers and I had easy access and the freedom to roam about two Hillary Clinton rallies, a Barack Obama rally, a John Edwards rally, a John McCain rally and a Mitt Romney rally — all in the St. Louis area. At one Clinton rally, I was so close that I was right up against the railing blocking the general public from the main stage, and had the opportunity to shake Bill Clinton’s hand afterward. (I didn’t. I probably should have.)

In the fall, access became highly restricted, and understandably so. Obama held a rally at MU the week before the election, and only national/traveling press photographers were allowed into the “pit” area (the section cordoned off right in front of the stage — 10 feet away from the speaker, and obviously the best place from which to take photos).

Palin held a rally on the State Capitol building steps in Jefferson City the day before the election — and, once again, only national/traveling press photographers were allowed into the pit. (Somehow, Secret Service detail allowed me into the pit for her entrance, Hank Williams Jr.’s performances and the first 10 minutes of her speech — but that access was definitely an unexpected surprise.)

I certainly understand why such access was restricted to the national/traveling press. They’re the ones with the big audience, whose photos will be splashed across national publications and highly trafficked news Web sites. But at the same time, connecting with the local press is important, too.

(more…)

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Bienvenue!

Hello, all! I am still fairly new to WordPress, but am excited about using yet another social Web site. My name is Chris Dunn, and I am currently a photojournalism student at the University of Missouri. I fell in love with journalism when I was 10 years old, and have since seized every opportunity possible to become a better journalist.

I am starting this blog as a component of two of my classes at MU: Advanced Reporting and Advanced Techniques in Photojournalism. As such, this blog will include various assignments from both classes.

Elsewhere on the Internet, you can find me at the following:

I’m also working on getting my own Web site up, but that may take a little more time. I look forward to blogging some more!

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