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|| News Item: Posted 2011-10-14

INTERN DIARIES: Los Angeles Daily News
Last App Scores Internship

By Maya Sugarman, UCLA

Photo by Maya Sugarman

Photo by Maya Sugarman

Eight-year-old Monya Wood of Winnetka celebrates after bowling a spare at Canoga Park Bowl on Friday, Aug. 19, 2011. Woods' family and friends were celebrating her brother's tenth birthday.
During my senior year at UCLA, I spent nine months applying to over 50 different summer internships at daily newspapers across the country. Having spent my entire life in California, I was eager to go anywhere – the South, the East Coast, small towns, or deserts, any of it.

I received many rejection letters, many informing me that over 250 photographers had applied for a single photo internship position. It was difficult to stay positive when faced with a .4 percent acceptance rate as the small opening toward my ideal career path.

Soon it was May and I had a month before graduating with no post-college plans for a summer internship. I started to think I wouldn't have an internship, and began to plan for jump-starting a career in journalism without one.

That month, I sent in my final application, and I was determined to make it work. I applied to the Los Angeles Daily News and called the photo editor, Dean Musgrove, immediately after sending him my portfolio. Two weeks later, I received an offer for a summer internship.

I appreciated the internship even more because I had worked for so long towards getting it. I came into the Daily News newsroom ready to work extremely hard because I knew how rare of an opportunity it was to be working there, as photo internships have become even more competitive, and less available in the economic state of the journalism industry.

My first day in the newsroom started fast, immediately after signing paperwork I was off to my first assignment on my own. No tagging along with staffers, no orientation on the newsroom system, and no advice on captioning and shooting. I felt a mixture of excitement for the fast-paced daily newsroom environment, and nervousness for my first assignment. Although guidance is crucial to learning, I appreciated not being coddled often. One of the best ways to learn as a photographer is through problem-solving independently.

During the following 12 weeks I also did receive much guidance from the editors and staffers. I tagged along with Hans Gutknecht on a video shoot, and made sure to pick his brain as I spent part of the summer doing video for the first time. Many times after shoots, Dean Musgrove and the staffers would take a look at my work. One-on-one critique time is short in most newsrooms, so I cherished every piece of feedback I received.

My editors had expectations of me, but in the end internships are what you as the intern make of it. I set my own additional expectations, and strove to make them higher than those of my editors. I wanted to do better and more than what was expected, both to learn and make a good impression. I wasn't successful everywhere I went, nor in everything I did, but I felt continuously motivated. everywhere I went, nor in everything I did, but I felt continuously motivated.

The caveat of setting high expectations, however, is that my mindset sometimes stifled me creatively. During the first half of my internship, my extreme focus on trying to perform well at times served as a distraction rather than a motivation.

At the beginning of August, I left for a week-long journalism conference in Detroit. On the final day, I received a photo critique in which many awe-inspiring professionals grilled my work. I’ll admit it at first felt a little heartbreaking. I’ve always been a perfectionist, and hate making mistakes.

But I soon began to feel a sense of relief, when I realized it’s ordinary to have faults. I had one of the most important realizations as a young photographer; I would never improve if I had a fear of failing. I accepted that I would inevitably fail sometimes, and realized I have been setting expectations that were impossible: to never make mistakes. I felt liberated, because I could finally take risks full-heartedly.

Photo by Maya Sugarman

Photo by Maya Sugarman

The 31st Annual Wings Over Camarillo Air Show on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2011, at the Camarillo Airport.
When I returned to Los Angeles to finish my internship, I began to take photographs my way, rather than the safe, cover-my-butt way. Immediately, I could feel an internal shift in my approach to shooting. I photographed the Camarillo Air Show, looking for storytelling pictures through my eye: quality of light, composition, graphic elements, and juxtapositions.

One of my favorite assignments while at the Daily News was getting wild art for a Saturday page three. It was a simple morning; I didn’t cover anything flashy or exciting. But it was exactly what I love about journalism: documenting people’s daily experiences happening simultaneously throughout the community. I spent the morning traveling through different cities across the Valley, starting at a horse stable in Malibu, a boxing club and barbershop in Tarzana, and finally a bowling alley in Winnetka.

This summer was one of the most enriching experiences I’ve had as a photographer. I covered Camp 13 in Malibu, Calif., an inmate-to-firefighter program – an assignment that was visually dynamic, and an opportunity to hear several amazing stories. Through July, I got to know a gunslinger with a knack for acting and mechanical work. I’m one of 300 people who have ever taken a commercial roundtrip flight from Burbank to Long Beach.

The struggle for perfection is part of a continuous process that will last throughout a photographer’s career. I’ll never be satisfied with my past or current work, but that's what being passionate about the craft is.

I would like to thank Dean Musgrove for being such a welcoming and thoughtful photo editor and person. I would also like to thank staffers Hans Gutknecht, Mike Baker, John McCoy, and Andy Holzman for mentoring me, and letting me look over their shoulders. I look up to all of you! Mike Baker, John McCoy, and Andy Holzman for mentoring me, and letting me look over their shoulders. I look up to all of you!

Maya Sugarman after graduating from UCLA joined the staff of the Antelope Valley Press a daily paper located north east of Los Angeles. You can see samples of her work at her Sports Shooter member page: and her personal website:

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