Creating Journalists at Emmanuel College

A guide for ENGL 2501 and ENGL 3801

Always. Have. Your. Camera.

Springfield, Mass. on June 2, 2011, the day after a tornado hit the city. Photo by Jennifer Lord Paluzzi

Springfield, Mass. on June 2, 2011, the day after a tornado hit the city. Photo by Jennifer Lord Paluzzi

Whenever I’ve hired a new reporter or have been asked for advice from a new hyperlocal blogger, I give the same answer.

Always have your camera.

I mentioned this in a meeting I attended with the new owners of the former sites when we visited their main office for a launch party at the Westchester Ritz-Carlton Hotel. I had my camera with me, of course. I expected to come home with a few embarrassing party shots of my assistant editor, Lindsay Corcoran, and publisher, Jack Schofield. We were staying over and expected to happily drink on the new company’s dime.

We did, but we were a little distracted. Lindsay and I spent most of the party on the phone with our reporters back in Massachusetts. It was June 1, 2011 and a tornado that had leveled parts of Springfield and Brimfield was headed toward our coverage area.

The three of us spent our after-party in a bar watching tornado footage and, the next morning, Jack had a proposal: we should drive home through Springfield. Did I have my camera with me? Of course I did.

We spent an incredibly surreal morning driving through the wreckage of Springfield, stopping for quick interviews and photos. We saw buildings with the walls peeled off their sides, trees pulled out by their roots, wreckage more common to Tornado Alley than Massachusetts. In the above photo, I’m standing on the front seat of Jack’s brand-new SUV, shooting out of the sunroof. The National Guardsmen nearby just shook their heads. It was that kind of day.

Everyone these days, of course, carries a camera — in their cell phone. Lindsay was shooting photos with hers. Mine were better. I use an entry-level DSLR with a couple of respectable lenses but even a point-and-shoot has better settings and an adequate zoom. In a pinch, I’ll use my iPhone — better to get A shot than NO shot — but I’m happiest with my Canon in my hands.

When I always have my camera:

  • I can follow that hot-air balloon in the distance, get under it as it’s landing and talk to the people in the basket and follow up later when they receive a not-so-warm welcome from the local police.
  • When the Grafton fire alarm goes off (and you can hear that siren for miles), I can open the scanner app on my phone, grab the address, and arrive along with the fire trucks.
  • I can use it to take notes at, say, a hearing on the town budget when the town administrator doesn’t have a copy of the numbers for the press but does run through a Powerpoint.
  • All the interesting things I see — the kids sledding in the cemetery, the ice fishermen on the lake, the swans defending their young behind the local Mexican restaurant — can be converted to photo galleries.
  • And let’s not forget video. The night the 6’4″ selectman decided to see if he could fit into the new town recycle “toters?” Got it on video. Elizabeth Warren’s campaign appearance? Video. The ailing town celebrity singing “God Bless America” at the same event? Shot the video, saved it for his obituary. An unexpected tour of the new high school? Saw it on my site first, thank you.

Naturally, some people aren’t photography fans. Tucked into my camera bag is a little guide called “The Photographer’s Bill of Rights,” which I thankfully have never had to pull out to make my point.


Shoot on a public street. Don’t be creepy. You’ll get the shot.

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Always have your camera.


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This entry was posted on February 1, 2014 by in Photography and tagged .

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