Risk, initiative, persistence

You might think the news business is changing faster than ever before, but anyone who started in TV before videotape (like me) can tell you that it’s been in transition for years. John Goheen, the only three-time NPPA Photographer of the Year, has seen plenty of change in the 27 years he’s been shooting. To survive and thrive, he says, he’s had to reinvent himself multiple times. At a seminar in Des Moines this week, Goheen shared his keys to success.

Risk. If you want to grow and improve, get off the safe path. To get a chance to shoot TV news, Goheen took a job at a station in Anchorage even though he had no desire to live in Alaska. Later, he edited his first natural sound story without telling the newscast producer in advance that he’d decided to drop the reporter’s track. Bad idea, but it worked, and Goheen eventually became a nat sound specialist.

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The hardest part of the job

Reporters call it “door knocking” and most of them hate it. Joe Fryer of KARE-TV in Minneapolis, Minn., is no exception. The one part of his job that he absolutely loathes, Fryer says, is asking family members to talk after someone they love has been killed or murdered.

Even after eight years in the business, I get a little sick to my stomach every time I walk up to a family’s door or pick up the phone to see if they want to talk. What amazes me is they often say ‘yes.’ I’ve found the key to making this horrible job bearable is to be as honest and compassionate as possible. Be a human being first, a reporter second. If they don’t want to talk, they don’t have to. I don’t blame them one bit. Even if they don’t want to talk at that moment, if you treat them with respect, they’ll usually talk with you as soon as they’re ready.

But even when they do agree to talk, they don’t always give you the whole story. Read what Fryer wrote on his blog about what happened after he interviewed the family of a man was shot and killed by police.