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|| News Item: Posted 2008-05-28

Semis Passing Semis
A Journey Back To A Newspaper Job

By Jared Dort, The Sun

Photo by Jared Dort

Photo by Jared Dort

Jared Dort sitting at his new desk in Yuma, AZ. Notice the snoot in the far left corner, the Bob Dylan photo and the Wienerschnitzel cup.
Do you have any bodies in the trunk?

I've answered that question a few times during this month and still get a kick out of it. It's far better than the standard "Are you a US citizen"?

Since April, I've driven through the Border Patrol checkpoint at mile-marker 78 on I-8 six times while leaving Yuma, AZ, the place where I now work. My wife and two daughters have been in Cottonwood while I get settled in and find a home. Cruise control is a great invention.

During that stretch I've seen my share of road kill, truck stops, road construction, hitchhikers and truck stops. I've seen more semis passing each other on hills than I care to remember. Maybe it bothers me so much because I've never liked to stop, and maybe, just maybe, that's been my life this past year.

That's how long it took me to find a job.

Unlike many of you, I didn't go to college. I didn't even start out as a photographer. My first job was a graphic designer for the Cottonwood paper, the Verde Independent, back in 2000. I'm pretty sure the paper was desperate for anyone who knew how to turn a computer on.

I'd always been into photography, but at the time, I didn't know how to make it a career. The sports editor for the VI, Eric Lusk, helped get me there. He let me shoot some games for him in Sedona, the far-away school that didn't get much coverage. Not long after I made, or forced, my way into the newsroom.

My Sedona experience paved a way for a sports editor gig, and in 2001 I started my first full-time editorial job with the Red Rock News. I had to learn how to write, but shooting sports everyday was hard to pass up.

When Eric learned he was dealing with a second bout of cancer, I left Sedona and took over his job on a temp-basis, which eventually became permanent. Eric beat the cancer and moved back to North Carolina.

I ran Eric's job for a year, and in May of 2005, I wanted out. For starters, my heart wasn't into it. I was a photographer trapped behind a desk. Two, I spent more time watching other people's kids than my own. That caused me to seriously consider venturing into the freelance world. Again, I did mostly sports, mostly. This is significant because when I wanted to go back to the newspaper, my portfolio was pretty lopsided - all sports.

Freelancing was good, but I didn't live in a good area for it. I was more than an hour outside of Phoenix, and two other decent-sized cities. I did weddings on the side, which I hated at first. Shot Little League and did portraits. I also built a house and did construction work.

Life wasn't easy. It was hard not shooting everyday. I've developed a pure hatred for Top Ramen.

I missed the paper, the good and the bad, and with each passing month I wanted to get back. When 2007 rolled in, I was done. I started applying for jobs, armed with my sports-based portfolio.

Here's where the fun starts.

My search began in June. I sent in for everything. I had a fancy resume with a logo I built, good cover letter and a nice binder. No offers.

Maybe it was my package? I made stickers, a nifty CD case, a PDF book on CD and an even nicer binder. Nothing.

Do I suck that bad?

I didn't give up. I kept applying for everything, Alaska included. I had a website built and printed a book. I asked Brad Mangin and Darren Carroll to help tighten my portfolio (sorry about the countless hours of crap). Both had good advice. Brad told me to "get the hell out of Cottonwood" and Darren said, "stay away from Lubbock".

I started getting calls.

"Mr. Dort, you're sports are good, but where's the news?" one paper replied. I have three news images, not enough?

"I see you were a sports editor, any interest in continuing that career?"

"I hope you're not married." Pretty sure that was in reference to the ridiculous hours.

Photo by Jared Dort

Photo by Jared Dort

Jared Dort has spent many hours behind the wheel driving back and forth from Yuma to Cottonwood.
A few more - you're not what we're looking for, we can't hire you right now, you don't have enough experience, I hope you are married (with a working spouse), we don't pay that much and too bad you don't live in the state of Texas.

I bombed in interviews and didn't get the job. I killed interviews and didn't get the job. When things finally started to turn for the better, the city I lived in had a freak rainstorm and my house was flooded. Needless to say, nobody wanted to buy my house after that. I couldn't move.

I wanted to give up, deliver pizzas, go back to sports editing (got a lot of offers for that). I had mixed-up confusion, I was too old to lose, too young to win. Stuck.

My wife, God bless her, encouraged me, said hang in there and that something will come around. She was right. In April of this year I got the one phone call that mattered - a newspaper that liked my sporty portfolio, figured I'd be just as good at news, and fit the things I needed for myself, and my family. We were so excited we went and accidentally added to our family - you know what I mean.

Having been through the interview process a lot, I knew what to say when The Sun in Yuma rang. I was honest, and was myself. I was asked what I thought of video. I said, "The savior of the newspaper should be parents teaching their kids how to read." That drew a pause, then laugh.

Turns out the guy who hired me is an avid sports photographer. Also turns out that 54 other shooters applied. I wonder how many of them were in a similar situation?

I've been in Yuma a little over a month now and I've been shooting more news than sports, go figure. I'm also having the time of my life in a position where I'm most comfortable, with a camera.

Ryan Brennecke ( has been gracious enough to let me stay at his house since I got there and snuggle with his dogs. His girlfriend, Stacy, makes a mean spaghetti casserole. Yep, casserole. I plan to move my family down the beginning of June.

Yuma was the right place at the perfect time. Not only is it a four-hour drive to see my parents, it's the same distance to my wife's family in Barstow. Yep, Barstow.

It also provides me the opportunity to shoot news and hone in on my video skills. I have a newfound appreciation for it.

Photo by Brad Mangin

Photo by Brad Mangin

V.J. Lovero:
Yuma is also symbolic. I played my final baseball game there when I was 18 in an all-star tournament. My career ended because I didn't work hard enough to get to the next level. I lived off talent.

I don't do that anymore.

It's only fitting that the job that takes me to the next level begins there.

Yes it is hot down here. I arrived just in time for the 118-degree summer. When I want to beat the heat I get in my car, crank some Beach Boys - not that Kokomo crap - and imagine sitting on the beach in Huntington. Believe it or not, it works for a few minutes.

If you were to ask me right now what's the secret in landing a job, I'd tell you these three things:
1. Planning
2. Patience
3. Pursuit

The proof of desire is pursuit, and how you go after things determine what you receive. If you're not willing to go the extra mile, work twice as hard, learn something new, try something new, start small, ask for help and do something you don't like, you won't make it.

Life is how you deal with the semi in front. Eventually, he'll be in you're rearview mirror.

WRITERS NOTE: I'd like to share with you a personal story that happened to me in 2003, something that not only changed my outlook on life, but also kept me going.

I had just updated my page with high school baseball sometime in March. I wasn't accustomed to receiving emails from viewers because quite frankly, I didn't think I was very good. So you can imagine my surprise when I received a message. It read:


I was looking at your page and enjoyed your baseball images. Keep up the good work.


PS - Next time you're down for Spring Training, give me a call and we'll do lunch.

It was an email from V.J. Lovero, and you can imagine what that meant to me. I didn't make it down that year, but did email him later and said next year, for sure. Sadly, that didn't happen either.

Take advantage of every moment.

(Jared Dort is a staff photographer at The Sun in Yuma, AZ. He's won awards for writing and photography from the Arizona Newspaper Association. You can see his work on his member page: and visit his personal website and blog:

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