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The Life of a Journalist...Go!

February 20, 2009

Ma'ayan Plaut ’10

Working for a paper is exciting at times. Going without sleep comes with the territory.

I should have known when I walked out of the Review office last night before 11pm that something was going to go wrong. On layout nights, I usually leave around midnight. It's a given. I find it a blessing when I can leave earlier, but it usually comes back to bite me. Lo and behold, I was back in the office at 11.30pm, re-editing some images that had inadvertently been resized. I left at 1.30am. I had to be back at 7.

Though the Review only prints one issue a week, it's an ongoing process. My co-photo editor Melissa and I are working on the paper every single day, whether it be writing emails to our staff photographers, shooting assignments, or editing images for layout. Wednesday and Thursday nights are the bulk of our work, though, with a few solid hours of editing in the Review office to assure layout that an army of images are at their disposal.

Melissa and I met with news layout at about 10pm last night only to find that both of our lead stories lacked accompanying pictures. The solution? We would be pulling out all the stops, and wake at the jagged cold crack of dawn on Friday morning to make sure the paper would be resplendent in photographic glory. Melissa was going to head downtown to take a photo of local businesses affected by the economy, and I was going to shoot a photo to supplement a story about the Oberlin city schools discontinuing bus service to students that lived within a half mile of the elementary schools and a mile of the high school. Chris, our lovely production manager, assured us that the morning shift of production team members would be able to input the photos when we brought them in.

The only problem with getting up at the crack of dawn to take photos of children walking to school is that no child, regardless of how much they love education, will be walking to school at 7.10am. Especially if they live within a half mile of the school that starts at 8.30am. But the paper! It needed the kiddies!

Being the entrepreneuring young photojournalist that I am, I did not let this minor issue deter me. I would be creative and make something work... and I had a backup plan: If I saw no kids, I would just take a photograph of the school. Booooooring, but it would fill the blank box in layout that currently says "Photo will fix everything! Wait till the morning!" quite nicely.

The closest school to Burton, Langston Middle School, is across the street from Keep Co-op. As I meandered through the 18-degree snow flurry, I wondered if Keep had any bread that I could commandeer, but realized I needed two hands to take the photo and it was too gosh-darned cold to take my hands out of my pocket, much less hold something in them, even if it were delicious delicious bread.

I got to Langston and started taking some standard photos of the outside of the school. Like I said, it was really boring. I decided a close-up of the sign with the snow-covered sidewalk would be better... evoking a sense of desolation on a cold walk to school, or something, so I looked both ways like my mother taught me, and started to cross the street.

In the middle of the road, I looked left briefly and saw a bus headed my direction. Bus? School? School bus? SCHOOL BUS?! I froze in the middle of the road for a moment (not literally, it's not *that* cold) thinking, "Oh my God, a photojournalist getting hit by a bus as she's shooting a story about school buses... I can see the headlines now. Photog, Frozen on Long Walk to School, Hit By Irony. Bus Survives Crash."

Luckily, I found my feet in a matter of ten seconds, and ran back to my original post just in time to take three photos of the bus passing the school. Just for the sake of variety, I crossed the street again and took a few more shots, then crossed back and gazed briefly at the sunrise over Langston. Man, it's pretty in the morning. Too bad I'm awake.

I turned to leave, and saw another bus headed the opposite direction past the school. I snapped three shots as that bus passed, too, and as usual, my final shot was my best. I'm glad I waited.

I went back to Burton, edited my photo, and then called Melissa, who was also surprisingly bright and awake for 7.45am. She had similar success with her photo of Oberlin's downtown, and was headed in to finish her work as well. Before I left for a two-hour nap before this morning's meeting, I double-checked the photo credits on all the printouts. Things looked good. I can't wait to see the paper tomorrow afternoon.

The fateful image. For this, plus Melissa's early-morning photo and lots of other amazing student work, look around campus or check the Oberlin Review online tomorrow. This week's publication can be viewed here.

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