As journalists, we are constantly learning various methods to perfect our craft. Unfortunately, we don’t always get to choose the teacher. On photo assignment for The Tri-State Defender, I covered the funeral of 3-year-old, Maurice Brown Jr. All I can say – what a day.
Going in, I was nervous. Not because I doubted my photography skills, but because I’ve only covered upbeat topics. This was my first death. He was just a child. The downside to journalism is that you don’t always get to cover the good stories. There’s no journalism course to prepare you for covering the funeral of a slain child. I struggled with getting my shots, but being respectful to the family. Do I take a photo, or don’t I? Do I ask for names or do I get creative with my cutline?
Here’s what the experience taught me:
1. Get the story. Yes, it was a sad occurrence and my tender heart was broken. But at the end of the day, it was my responsibility to not only to tell the story, but to convey emotions in a way that readers really felt what I was feeling. I had to crawl out of my shell and open my mouth, which leads me into the next lesson….
2. Stay ready. Even though I only went with intentions of taking photos, the next day my editor asked me to write a story. Thankfully I had engaged in a candid conversations and had a few quotes on hand. I was safe this time, but it could have turned out much differently.
3. Multitask. Although this is a lesson I learned early on in my journalism venture, it never hurts to reinforce. I can instantaneously work an iPhone and DSLR with a quickness. Keep your Twitter & Instagram followers engaged. Don’t give away all the details, but keep them abreast of what’s happening.
4. Go with your gut. If your gut says ask this person, not this one. Listen. If your gut says stay right here, stay right there. The photos published alongside my story where captured thanks to my gut instinct.
My first front page story was bittersweet. Part of me feels horrible for celebrating my success, but the other part of me feels honored to have captured a portion of Baby Maurice’s homegoing.