Five things I learned at the Victoria (Texas) Advocate

by Josh Morgan

About 250 people ride in the Cabalgata de los Caballos, the Ride of the Horses, to the San Bernardo Mission in Guerrero, Coahuila, Mexico for the third annual watermelon festival.

Different State, Different “Normal”

Texas is very different from Arizona, where I attend school. I learned this quickly while working as a multimedia intern for the Victoria (Texas) Advocate. One early assignment was to cover a rededication of a statue that honored a Confederate soldier. Talk about culture shock. Men were dressed as Confederate soldiers, woman were dressed as Civil War-era widows, and there was an overwhelming sense of pride in Confederate heritage that is generally not expressed in Tucson, Ariz.

The only thing Texas and Arizona share is a general geographic location. I learned so much from everyone I met in Victoria last summer and I got to see things I wouldn’t have seen at home.

I also got to go on assignment in Guerrero, a town of about 300 people in Coahuila, Mexico. It was one of my best experiences as a photojournalist. I photographed a 250-person parade, hopping from the bed of one truck to another, hanging off of horse-pulled buggies and witnessing new cultures and lifestyles. I’ve been to Mexico many times, but visiting Coahuila reminded me that Mexico is a diverse country. Guerrero was unlike any city I’ve visited.

Don’t take any opportunity to travel for granted, even if where you’re going doesn’t seem to be far away. You might be surprised. I know I was.

Hallettsville's Chris Jones reacts during the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 3 of the regional finals played at Concordia University.

Looking for Something Different

I am a terrible sports photographer. I worked on this diligently during my internship (I had to shoot a lot of baseball), but it was rough in the beginning. I often looked for different angles and photo opportunities to compensate for my shoddy game shots.

As I started to hone my sports photography abilities, I never stopped looking for the atypical shots I love to shoot. The sports editor appreciated the variety, and I was able to make baseball games more interesting by shooting different aspects of the game.

Personal Projects: Sand, Surf, Repeat

Photo assignments can get tedious sometimes at a newspaper. Sure, the occasional car crash or house fire broke up the monotony, but many of the assignments became predictable, especially baseball games.

Personal projects were my safe haven while I was at the Victoria Advocate. I shot many great assignments, but I am most proud of the projects I pitched and worked on for an extended period. I got to know my subjects more and allowed me to tell their stories in greater detail. The folks at the Advocate were supportive of my working on personal projects, which I appreciated. My projects turned into photo essays for the Sunday edition of the paper and multimedia projects for the Web. More important, the projects allowed me to further refine my ability to tell visual stories.

A member of the Brazos Bottom Cow’ograpers loaded show guns with blank ammunition after a performance at the 32nd annual Seadrift Shrimpfest. Photograph taken on the iPhone with ProCamera, edited with Filterstorm.

Power of Mobile Photography

Mobile devices are making a huge impact in newsrooms. The mobile revolution is even hitting small newspapers. I was an Instagram fanatic even before my internship, but mobile in journalism is more than retro filters on images. While I was at the Victoria Advocate, I used my iPhone to shoot photos and film, gather audio, edit content and send bite-sized packages remotely. Powerful tools are available for the iPhone that are easy and intuitive to use. Incorporating the tools into your workflow will set you apart from nontech-savvy journalists.

A fisherman stands on a breakwater in Port Lavaca, Texas to fish. (Photograph taken with iPhone 4s and Instagram)

Beauty Can Be Found Everywhere
I admit that when I found out I would be going to Victoria, Texas, for my internship, I was disappointed. I wanted to be at large metro paper and to get out of the Southwest for the summer. Instead, I was placed at a small-town paper in a conservative south Texas town.

In the Victoria Advocate newsroom I was greeted by staff photographer Angeli Wright. She gave me a tour of the building and then asked if I had questions. Angeli is a young photographer who was hired at the Advocate after her internship, so I asked her what people in Victoria did for fun. Angeli paused and looked up at me with huge puppy-dog eyes.  She knew Victoria was a town where the few restaurants inexplicably close at 2 p.m., coffee shops are nearly nonexistent, the elderly far outnumber the youth and the best bet for a “fun” day was either to go to the park or leave entirely. She didn’t say any of this immediately. She said, “Please don’t leave!”

While it is true that Victoria doesn’t have much to offer to urbanite twentysomethings, the area is full of gems if you’re willing to look. The city park is gorgeous and the surrounding area offers small visual spectacles that are hard for a photographer to ignore.

The biggest lesson I learned this summer was that there is beauty to be found everywhere. The most unsuspecting places can be home to the best stories. For me, Victoria and the surrounding area provided photographic opportunities that I would have never had in a larger city.

Oh, and the BBQ in south Texas is unimaginably delicious. My standards for BBQ are so astronomically high now that I don’t know if I’ll ever truly enjoy BBQ in Arizona again. It’s that good.

Joshua Morgan is journalism senior at the University of Arizona. He was a Summer 2012 Chips Quinn Scholar for the Victoria (Texas) Advocate. Morgan was photo editor for El Independiente, a bilingual publication of the University of Arizona, this semester. He has been an intern and contributing photographer for Tucson Weekly, the alternative news weekly in Tucson, Ariz. He participated in The New York Times Student Journalism Institute in January 2012 and the UNITY convention Student Projects in Las Vegas in August. He has been recognized for his multimedia work by the Arizona Newspapers Association and the Society of Professional Journalists’ Mark of Excellence Awards. Currently he is an assistant instructor at Pima Community College, where he teaches journalism students how to edit videos and photos and use social media tools.


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