Thanks for the positive internship experience

Published 8:41 am Thursday, January 8, 2009

While I was home outside of Twin Lakes on break, I spent a few days a week learning my way around a newsroom. The Albert Lea Tribune took me on as an intern and helped me gain experience working with a newspaper — photographer Brie Cohen in particular. She let me stand over her shoulder and like a 2-year-old child ask about everything she was doing.

One of the first things I did when I started was go to Sibley Elementary School teacher Peggy Bennett’s first-grade class and ask the students what they wanted for Christmas. When I first got there, they were so curious to know why I was there. Students asked if I was Mrs. Claus coming to find out what they wanted so that I could tell Santa. Even though that was not the case, they were still excited that they got to be in the newspaper.

My favorite assignment was New Year’s Eve. I went around town taking photos of celebrations. The Elks Lodge was my last stop and the place I enjoyed the most. I had to laugh when I crouched down to take a photo and the man I was trying to capture dancing saw me, stopped dancing and crouched down, too. He must have thought he wasn’t in the picture because I was so low. Instead of getting the photo I wanted of him and his partner dancing in front of the live music, I had a photo of him crouching and his partner standing there wondering what was going on.

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Something I will never forget is my first day when I walked into the Tribune, and Managing Editor Tim Engstrom was giving me stuff to do. He looked up from the paper he was looking through and asked if I had ever taken a weather photo. I’m thinking, What in the world are you talking about?

He explained that he meant a photo that showed what the weather was like. Which after he explained it, it seemed obvious, but the whole time I was finding something to take a photo of, I couldn’t help but think what in the world am I doing. There I was, out in the freezing cold weather, schools are delayed and I’m trying to take a photo to show people how cold it is. I thought Tim must be crazy. I’m pretty sure people know that it is cold as heck outside. However, after I snapped the photo of the crossing guard all bundled up, I was satisfied and all my wondering went away.

I graduated in 2007 from Albert Lea and am currently a junior at Winona State University. One of my majors is photojournalism, hence the reason I spent my break at the Tribune. My next learning experience outside of school will be a three-week travel study in June to the Navajo Nation. There will be 20 students from WSU working with 10 students from Diné College in Arizona. We will be helping the Navajos document their history and also help the college set up a journalism program.

Now you may be curious, what in the world is my other major? To answer the question, it is psychology.

Now if you’re like most people, you ask: What in the world does that have to do with photojournalism?

My parents joke that the answer to the question is that I will be taking pictures of crazy people. My side of the story is the two don’t have anything to do with each other; they both interest me, and I couldn’t decide which one to take up so I’m doing both. Although you might be surprised to know, last semester I found some connections between them. In Psychology 410, which is about sensation and perception, we studied a lot about the eye and illusions. Wouldn’t you know it? The eye is a lot like a camera lens.

My eye has been glued to a camera lens since I was little. As a gift, I got one of those big blue cameras that were made for kids and haven’t been without a camera since. My little brother, Alex, in my opinion has had the most wonderful experience all these years as my subject. He, on the other hand, might have other opinions. That might be because if I didn’t have something to take a picture of, I would dress him up and take photos of him. As a big sister dressing her little brother up you can probably picture what I did. However, for Alex’s sake I will leave those to your imagination.

Outside of school I stay busy as waitress at Perkins Restaurant in Albert Lea. I have been serving for almost three years. I love what I do because I get paid to chat with people, and for those of you who don’t know me, I love to talk. My roommate at school would know this best because there have been many times I have so much to talk about I keep going in my sleep. Because of my job, I have met a lot of people and I heard all kinds of stories. I can relate that to interning here at the Tribune. Being in the newsroom and going out on assignments, I meet and talk with people I haven’t met before. I learned a lot about the community around which I have grown up.

I would like to thank everyone here, especially Tribune Publisher Scott Schmeltzer, Brie Cohen and Tim Engstrom for putting up with me for a month and allowing me to gain the experience I did.

Brandi Hagen of Twin Lakes is a junior at Winona State University. She was a photography intern at the Albert Lea Tribune during her winter break.