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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2008-11-02

Intern Diaries: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
'I had to show him or her everything from my shoot and accept the criticism. It was great.'

By Teresa Prince, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Photo by Teresa Prince / St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Photo by Teresa Prince / St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Raykel Dickson, 8, flips Daman Dickson, 7, while the Dickson family hangs out in their front yard on Wednesday afternoon. Shankita Dickson said her kin numbered around 50 and "is one, big happy family."
(Editor's note: At the end of each summer, it has been a tradition at the Sports Shooter Newsletter to have several students share their experiences working at an internship.)

Before June, 2008, I was the only member of my family who had never visited St. Louis. I had no idea what to expect from the city or the Post-Dispatch, but I drove south towards the adventure.

At the Post-Dispatch, I was surprised to find I didn't have a desk; none of the photographers did. We all met in a room set off from the main newsroom, where everyone worked at a counter together. It was much easier to show my work to other shooters, look over their shoulders and carry on conversations. I was also surprised that the staff was so young. Before I arrived, most of the senior shooters took buy-outs. I was sad that so much experience and talent was gone but thrilled to work with people near my age who liked to host cookouts.

Another difference from other papers where I've worked was that a photo editor looked over every assignment I shot. I had to show him or her everything from my shoot and accept the criticism. It was great. I especially enjoyed critiques from the features editor, Lynden Steele. He talked about my photos the way art critics talk about Rembrandt. He commented on the shapes, the lighting, the message and what would have made it just a little bit better. I wish my brain worked that way.

I wasn't the only intern at the Post-Dispatch, so sometimes assignments were scarce. Teak Phillips, the assignment editor, frequently told me to drive until I was good and lost, then make a feature picture. Most of those features were never printed, and many didn't deserve to be. But on the final week of my internship I made a picture of some young kids doing flips and cartwheels on their front lawn that currently opens my portfolio.

Photo by Teresa Prince / St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Photo by Teresa Prince / St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The paper also trusted Prince to help cover the biggest stories of the summer, like when the Mississippi River flooded many towns in northeast Missouri and southwest Illinois.
didn't go feature hunting all the time. The paper also trusted me to help cover the biggest stories of the summer, like when the Mississippi River flooded many towns in northeast Missouri and southwest Illinois. David Carson was working the photo desk and he sent me north to cover the river when it first started to rise. "Don't fuck this up," he said gravely, then started laughing. He liked to scare interns, but was secretly nice and helpful.

Covering the floods was fun, especially the day I met Darren Twellman, who insisted on helping me get an award-winning shot. He called his buddy, Shalom Shoaf, to give me a ride in their autogyro, which is like a small, open cockpit helicopter. Darren had been drinking or he would have given me a ride himself. The ride was awesome. I took pictures of flooded fields and roads and even flew a bit by myself. It was so much fun. When I got back to the newsroom people said I was reckless and crazy. But it was worth it.

As much as I enjoyed being in St. Louis, I had to think about where I would go after it. I had no hope of getting hired at the Post-Dispatch. Rumors of lay-offs were disturbing everyone, especially because the guild contract would be up in the fall. I attended a pool party with a theme of "Let's celebrate that we all still have our jobs." It was scary.

I panicked and sent resumes and my Web address to every job posting I could find. I was amazed when I heard back from Jeff Heinz at the Globe-Gazette in Mason City, Iowa. I had never heard of the town, but was suddenly very interested in moving there. Jeff invited me to interview in Mason City and then offered me the job. He needed someone immediately.

I left St. Louis after two months. I still had five weeks left of my internship, and wish I could have finished them. I like my new job and am very grateful to get a paycheck and benefits, but I miss the camaraderie at the Post-Dispatch. Though the paper was starting to feel stretched thin, they still had the time, resources and desire to focus on telling the story as best they could. I was inspired to make my photos stand up to the work of those around me. Now at a small town newspaper, I really miss the competition and criticism that helped me shoot so much better.

Related Links:
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