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‘No charm equal to tenderness of heart’

I can now cross “attend a professional conference” off my list. This past weekend I attended the “Northern Exposure” a gathering of visual journalists held here at the University. 
I will preface this by saying I was encouraged to attend for reasons other than personal. My multimedia production and storytelling professor actually ran the conference and offered extra credit to her students who attended. So there was that. And I was invited to go by the new editor-in-chief of the Minnesota Daily, since the paper is trying to expand our visual department. That meant, of course, the visual journalism conference filled with photojournalists was the place to go.
Despite having only exterior motives for attending, I had a good time. The first day was filled with speakers talking about their journey in the field and how they got to the professional positions they now hold. Many of them are now freelance journalists, which was interesting to learn about. One guy told us “you’re not your degree,” as he explained he had a degree in biological science or engineering or something, but now is a documentary style video journalist. One of the other photojournalists got a job working with the New York Times because she lived a couple blocks from the George Floyd incident and posted pictures on Facebook. Next thing she knew, she was getting a phone call from the Times. That’s just crazy. Many of the speakers also talked about how you don’t need experience with cameras of photojournalism to become a photo or video journalist. The technical aspects can be learned. They claimed the most important skill is being able to connect and communicate with people–which is exactly what journalism is all about. 
The second day was one I enjoyed more. We started the morning off with a keynote speaker, an older woman who happened to be in Ukraine when everything went down. She stayed and took many photographs of the aftermath and wrote stories on it. And because this was a photojournalism conference, she showed us all the pictures. With no content warning, we were shown photos of dead, charred, and wounded bodies. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing at first. But as the pictures of bodies in the street, stuck under the rubble, bloody in a bag were clicked through, it started to sink in. I don’t think I’ll ever forget those photographs: Well done, but scarring. 
This lady also came back to the U.S. and prepared a story about gun violence in the United States. The pictures for this story weren’t as graphic, but the audio she included was heart wrenching. She had followed a mother whose son was caught in crossfire, I believe. The son was thankfully saved. The whole audience and I were moved to tears as we listened to the mother screaming and crying in the back of the ambulance. Then there was the driver who interrupted his prayers just long enough to assure her everything was going to be alright. 
After that emotionally harrowing morning, we had social time. We all just ended up sitting in the room sipping our coffees and occasionally saying something like, “Wow. So that just happened.” 
On a lighter note, I spent the afternoon in a presentation from an older couple who worked at a small town paper in Iowa; they talked about community journalism. After spending my time working for Waseca’s lovely small town paper, this presentation was my forte. I even sent a picture of it to Eli and remarked how our paper was better than the one this couple was working at. It’s just facts, no one can deny it. 
All in all, it was a good conference, although I would say I learned more about life and being a reporter than specifically about photojournalism. 
My Determination: “There is no charm equal to tenderness of heart.” - Emma, 1815


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