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|| News Item: Posted 2005-09-06

Intern Diaries: The Muskegon Chronicle
'Through their daily work and help with editing my assignments they helped me to realize how to best tell a story.'

By Dave Weatherwax, The Muskegon Chronicle

Photo by Dave Weatherwax / The Muskegon Chronicle

Photo by Dave Weatherwax / The Muskegon Chronicle

Members of the Golden Knights parachute team jump out of their plane, a Fokker F-27, at nearly 10,500-feet during the first evening of the Muskegon Air Fair on Friday.
When I received the e-mail that I was one of the top candidates for the summer internship at The Muskegon Chronicle, I was shocked and honored. The opportunity to explore a nearby community about which I knew little was exciting.

I spent the semester prior to my internship working as the photo editor at the State News, Michigan State's student newspaper. It was a very painful growing experience. Four months of being away from shooting was too long and I was ready to start at the Chronicle immediately. I got what I wanted. I was thrown right into the workflow my first day, even collecting a few overtime hours.

The small staff of four photographers and one photo editor made me feel very comfortable right from the beginning. Though it is a small staff, they are a tight-knit group with lots of experience and I couldn't wait to begin my learning experience.

One thing I greatly appreciated was that though in reality I was "the intern," I was never made to feel that way. Through their daily work and help with editing my assignments they helped me to realize how to best tell a story. I look forward to capturing moments by using these techniques back at school and in my future internships.

Dave Carlson unintentionally showed me that first day how valuable source relations could be in this line of work. The 40-year veteran received calls almost daily from community people that he has met over the years. Though many of the tips were relatively insignificant, Dave would often treat them with much respect.

He told me it was never certain when the next call could be the big one, and turning them down might deter them from calling when it matters. What a tremendous dedication to the community.

Summer is a very busy time in Muskegon for festivals and parades. I definitely shot a fair share of those. I spent a lot of time hunting for feature photos. Some days I was successful, but there were probably just as many days where I was not quite as successful.

After my first week I realized that this was a skill I wanted to work on (unfortunately I did not order The Great Picture Hunt 2 until I arrived back in Lansing. It's still in the mail).

One of the most valuable lessons I learned when dealing with spot news situations is this: be very aware of your surroundings. I was sent to cover a house fire on a small lake. When I arrived to the scene I checked with the fire chief to make sure of where I could go without being in the way. I immediately saw a dock shaped like a "T" that went out onto the water and allowed me to get a frontal shot of this two-story house.

Photo by Dave Weatherwax / The Muskegon Chronicle

Photo by Dave Weatherwax / The Muskegon Chronicle

Juan Arias, 9, watches from the ground as his brother, Cesar Arias, 14, left, and cousin, Omar Navarro, 9, jump on the trampoline outside of the Muskegon home at the intersection of Davis Street and Forest Avenue as a light drizzle falls Saturday.
As I was photographing the house, I felt the dock begin to shake. When I looked over my shoulder, there was an emotional woman who easily had 75 pounds on me, charging at me and yelling "You want tragedy, I'll give you tragedy!"

My first thought was "Oh my God! I hope this water is not too deep because I'm about to go in!" as I clutched onto my two camera bodies, equipped with a 300mm and a 80-200 mm lens, and the strap to my camera bag with other lenses and flash units inside.

As the women grabbed a hold of me I shook her off and I actually made a spin move much like the great running back Barry Sanders. That allowed me to break free and jump to the base of the dock and run to land.

Unfortunately it did not end there. As I was beginning to walk away an older man with a dog on a leash charged at me from behind. I saw him coming in time to begin running, but he lowered his shoulder and rammed into me. The police officer on the scene along with two firefighters had to restrain the man to the ground. Thankfully I left the scene with both equipment and myself unharmed.

Overall, there wasn't really one particular assignment with which I can answer the first question from people back home, "What was your favorite assignment?"

Sure, I enjoyed flying with the Golden Knights as I watched them jump out of an airplane at 13,000 feet. I was very moved to watch almost an entire town of 1,500 line the main drag for over three hours as they waited for the body of Army Spc. Brian Derks, who was killed in Iraq, to return home.

But it wasn't really the assignments that defined my experience in Muskegon this summer. It was the people I worked with, both photographers and reporters that shared their knowledge and passion of the art with me.

To the staff at The Muskegon Chronicle, I can't begin to thank you enough for the wonderful summer I shared learning and getting to know all of you who helped me grow.

(Dave Weatherwax is a student at Michigan State University. To look over his work, go to his member gallery at:

Related Links:
Weatherwax's member page

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