Corn, magic shots and homicide: all in a day’s work

One of the most beloved aspects of working in journalism is that a journalist never knows exactly what’s going to walk through the door and completely change the course of the day. You might go into work with an idea of a few things that need covering, but sometimes the phone rings, a person drops in your office, or you see something on the side of the road that will throw all prior plans to the weigh side. You have to be prepared to roll with it.

Last Friday was one of those days. It was supposed to be a slow day, time to plan for the week ahead, go take a few photos, make a few phone calls, have an long lunch break and go home.

Things started getting off track with a phone call to set up an interview for next week. The interviewee, a 60-something year-old woman, surprised me saying she was in town now and could be at my office in an hour. She was full of more surprises, as became evident the longer the interview went on. The interview was Ego Con, basically a nerd convention, an event that is growing and attracts hundreds of people each year. This woman past the age of retirement had no intention of slowing down and plans this sci-fi/fantasy event down to a tee every year, and then donates all the profits to charity. I’ll post a link to the full article later rather than going into all that detail now though.

After her interview I packed up my gear to go take a few photos at the Wisconsin Firefighters Association Convention. The description looked pretty mundane, just row after row of vendors and trade show material with firefighters wandering around looking at everything. Not front page worthy, but at least worth checking out.

Upon arrival I found 15 or so fireman gathered in and around a raised platform, doing some sort of safety training. After requesting if I could take a few photos one of the firemen ushered me up the ladder onto the platform for a better vantage point for photos. Up the rickety ladder I went, not exactly dressed for climbing but making the best of it. At the top I discovered it was not a platform, but rather a trough, filled knee-deep with corn kernels. The firefighters had created a makeshift corn silo for a rescue training on how to fish someone out if they fall into a corn silo. I l plunged in, shoes filling with corn and facing the smirks of half a dozen firemen.

The shots were decent, but not great. Running across the trough was a thin mettle rod, about an inch thick, hardly wide enough to balance on if you were agile. Perched on the rod, holding steady with one hand on the fake silo, I raised my camera high over my head and snapped. It was a magic shot. Everything lined up perfectly in clear sharp colors and told the story of what was happening in one photo.

I climbed down and took shoes off to shake the corn out, firefighters now openly laughing. Worth the shot.

Back at the office, while still wiping corn dust off my pants, the phone rings, There’s been a homicide on the north end of town. The paper will need some photos and details. Corn dust forgotten, I found myself grabbing my camera and running out the door again to photograph the scene of two deaths, details yet to be released.

Not all the days stack up like this, some consist of nothing but long government meetings and hours of attempting to understand legal reports drier than the dust bowl. But all in all, working as a journalist keeps you on your toes and teaches you how to be prepared to handle anything coming down the pike.

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