Distinction: A Local News Photojournalist

12 Mar

Everyone has a story to tell – something that makes them wonderful, unique, and interesting.

Distinction is a feature of Living with the Birds, where people will have the opportunity to share a little about what sets them apart. 

photo by Sarah Metallo

Dustin Barton did not want to work in the news industry. News was last on his list. But when he found himself broke and jobless after graduating from college, he began applying for any job that would put his video production degree to use. After turning down a job with a televangelist for ethical reasons, Dustin got an interview with a local TV station for the morning photographer position. And he said, “that was that.” Here’s what he has to say: 

What is your job description?
“I shoot and edit the news for the four hours of morning broadcast. I also handle live shoots if a major story breaks overnight.”Describe a day at your job.
“Usually I spend about three to four hours editing early in the morning and then I go with a reporter to shoot a feature package for the next morning’s news. Every now and then a major story will break overnight and I will spend all my day out at that story. Also I sometimes get to find, set up, interview, and write my own natural sound pieces.”

What is the best thing about your job?
“How it has changed me. I have grown quite a bit in my world knowledge, worldview, and my ability to communicate. I also have a much greater connection to the community, and I suppose a greater understanding of a need to be connected to the community. ”

What is the worst thing about your job?
“The hours and the strain it puts on my relationship with my wife. It’s difficult for our internal clocks to always be different, but we are working through it and I think even this bad thing will turn out to have done something quite good for us.”

How did you get your job?
“God. It was a God thing. I had graduated in May, had enough money to go a month and got the job when the money ran out in June I had the job. I had applied at countless video jobs and even had an offer from a televangelist to be his editor (I turned it down for ethical reasons). As the money was running dry and so were my job prospects I got the interview for a job I was not really qualified for. On the ride home from that interview the news director called me to see if I could meet with the Senior Photographer and that was that.”

What made you want to work in the news industry?
“Nothing. I needed money and had a degree in video production, and I was applying for any jobs that required video skill. News was the last on my list.”

In what ways has working in the news changed your view of the world?
“I see how very connected and very human we all are. In any given day I can talk to the highest payed white collar, the everyman, the politician, the homeless, and the list goes on; what I find is we are all very much more alike.”

In what ways is your job different than you thought it would be?
“I thought most breaking news (such as fires, crashes, murders) would be very difficult to cover. I believed it would be morally difficult to stand by and watch human suffering. But quite the contrary. Not that I have no compassion, but because in almost all of those moments I have seen the triumph of what is good in humanity. The police officer that takes a victim by the hand and prays, or a passerby that wraps his jacket around a recently homeless. I am privileged to see such sights.”

Photo by Sarah Metallo

What is your proudest moment as a photo-journalist?
“When one of the anchors asked a producer to cut some of the newscast to run one of my pieces a second time.”

What advice would you give to someone wanting to become a photo-journalist?
“Absorb it. If it’s still photography, check out the NY Times photo blog, open up the local newspaper and see what they run. If it’s video you want to do, watch 60 Minutes, the Nightly News. Just absorb as much quality work as you can.”

What are three things people probably don’t know about your job.
-That ninety second piece you watch probably took between 1 and 4 hours to make.
-We are equally accused of having a liberal bias and a conservative bias.
-I handle interviews on a regular basis.


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