Monday, February 15, 2010

"What's that snow doing?" and the personal cost of covering news ...

"What's that snow doing?"

Those were my two-year-old son's words when he saw snow for the first time, Friday. Or so I'm told.

At the time, I was driving around 30 miles per hour on U.S. Highway 80 (speed limit 55 mph) between Portal and Statesboro, Ga., trying desperately to discern between lane markers and new-fallen snow.

Someone had called the Herald with the first signs of snow in Bulloch County from Portal. So I dutifully trekked out that way in hopes of capturing the historic moment while there was still daylight. It doesn't snow very frequently in South Georgia, so it's history when it does.

I didn't get home until after midnight, and I knew I would have to get up early the next morning to beat the inevitable melt. There were many more photographs that needed to be made.

The experience made me contemplate my role as a photojournalist, it's value to society, and it's personal cost.

I've left this profession twice. Once, when I was freshly out of college, wondering if I was suited to a profession that demands so much of a singular commitment. I took a job in a commercial photography lab to bide my time while I hashed out my course in life. It took a year-and-a-half before my first newspaper job beckoned me.

It was another 16 years before I left once again. After reaching a stage of disillusionment and disconnect with what I was doing, this time I abandoned my career for an entirely unrelated field and business culture. It was a mere 5 months before I found myself back in the newspaper business, making visual chronicles of the community in which I lived, with a renewed sense of purpose and commitment.

What is that sense of purpose and commitment? My old boss from a previous newspaper job e-mailed me when he found out that I had returned - he told me I was doing something I was born to do.

Photojournalist Joe McNally recently blogged "We just can't help it ..."

"We’re strange, right? We can’t stop. We run when others walk. We work when others relax. We have no sense of weekends, holidays, time off, time on, or time in general, except as it relates to sunrise or set."

Joe was specifically talking about photographers, but in a way, it reflects the life of most journalists, no matter what medium they specialize in.

I spent about an hour with my wife and son Saturday morning before embarking, once again, on my quest to document our community. I was emotionally conflicted, wanting to spend every moment with my family, sharing a rare event in our area. All the while, I could sense the melt all around, knowing that the window to do my job was closing fast. I left, reluctantly, so I could make images of other families and friends sharing experiences in our fleeting winter wonderland.

Sometimes you can't help but wonder about how much you miss by trying not to miss anything.

So, what's the cost of covering the news -- information that helps chronicle every day, records history, and assists people in making informed choices in their lives, both big and small?

What's it worth to YOU?

Just askin'. I can't help myself, regardless of your answer.

And, what was that snow doing?

1 comment:

  1. Well done, Scott. Great job with the photos, too.


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