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|| News Item: Posted 2010-10-03

Intern Diaries: The Grand Rapids Press
'There are some things that can simply not be taught in a classroom'

By Joel Hawksley

There is no substitute for the school of hard knocks.
Photo by Joel Hawksley, The Grand Rapids Press

Photo by Joel Hawksley, The Grand Rapids Press

James Wang, 11, hits the ball during the U.S. Open Table Tennis Tournament at DeVos Place.

This summer I had the privilege of interning at The Grand Rapids Press, the largest Booth paper in Michigan with a daily circulation of around 100,000. I worked with photo editor Chris Clark and a diverse staff of photographers.

From day one I was treated as staff, shooting the same number of assignments as the other full-time shooters.

When I received the call from Chris in the middle of February, I couldn't contain my excitement. Out of all the applications I sent out, I only got one phone call back. Luckily, that call was an offer to spend the summer in Grand Rapids.

Four months later, I arrived in Grand Rapids, full of energy and ready to take on the experience of making images in a new city. With the help of outgoing intern Octavian Cantilli, I was able to find a great place to live barely a mile from The Press in the historic Heritage Hill neighborhood just outside downtown. Best of all it was incredibly affordable, which helped ease the pain of living on an intern salary in an urban area.

Without a doubt, I cannot stress it enough how well prepared I was by my photojournalism classes at Ohio University. Every time I went out on an assignment I remembered something I had learned in class, whether it was strategies for working with police at the scene of an accident or becoming comfortable with subjects. There is no question that the foundational knowledge and experience from school made surviving in the "real world" possible.
Photo by Joel Hawksley, The Grand Rapids Press

Photo by Joel Hawksley, The Grand Rapids Press

Craig A. Alexander, a personal trainer from Grand Rapids, Mich., poses at Almost Paradise.

That being said, there are some things that can simply not be taught in a classroom. First and foremost, I had to quickly learn to always get a usable image as soon as possible at every assignment, no matter how long I planned on being there. Almost every week I had to cut an assignment short due to spot news, and having something to turn in made it a lot easier to get out quickly.

My main goal with my internship was to develop a skill for seeking out and making feature pictures. The portfolio I sent to Chris was sports action heavy, and light on features and news. In this case, taking a summer internship was the smartest thing I could do. Without many sports to shoot, I had plenty of time to cover feature and news assignments.

It would be difficult to pick just one assignment from the summer to call my favorite, but among my favorites were covering President Barack Obama's speech in Holland, spending a weekend at the B-93 Birthday Bash music festival, and numerous out-of-the-ordinary sports assignments, including polo, ping pong, and wheelchair tennis.

One experience that really stuck out to me was climbing to the top of the Basilica at St. Adelbert's in Grand Rapids. After getting my normal building mug shots, I asked a member of the construction crew if they could help me get a better angle, and they came through, big time. Five minutes and ten stories of scaffolding later, I was on top of the church, looking out over downtown. Being afraid of heights, this was quite the memorable experience, and I made one of my favorite images from the summer.

If there's one thing I took away from my time at The Press, it is that we as photojournalists are incredibly blessed. I can't think of any other job where people would be as accepting as they have been to me as a photographer. All too often we can get caught up in worrying about where the industry is going and the security of our jobs, losing focus on what really counts; telling the stories of our communities.

Joel Hawksley is in his junior year at Ohio University, where he is studying photojournalism. Joel works as a staff photographer for the athletic department and the Ohio University Marching 110, and is currently traveling across the Midwest for football season. His work can be viewed at his member page: and at .

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