Interns Render Mission-Critical Assistance

Shabiroon Jumaralli wasn’t used to shooting moving targets. While in her final semester at the Atlanta College of Art, the young photography major had already bagged some formidable feats, including two group exhibitions at the school’s Gallery 100. (She would have her first solo exhibition at the same venue in March.) Leaning toward a visual style that combines portraiture and documentary techniques, Jumaralli reveled in the manipulation of lighting, backgrounds and her human subjects.

“I like to exercise a lot of control over the environment,” she says.

All that went out the window when she arrived at Atlanta’s Creative Loafing for a student internship in January. Working with CL photographer Jeff Davis, Jumaralli was introduced to the shifting circumstances of news photography. “Jeff definitely taught me some things about how to best use the surroundings you’re given,” she says. But a mere six weeks after she started, Davis decamped to do a little creative loafing of his own. Suddenly, Jumaralli was the paper’s sole staff photographer.

“I was it,” she says. “At first, it was a lot of pressure. But it turned out to be a great learning opportunity.”

Jumaralli held up admirably, according to Editor Ken Edelstein, shooting about twice as many photo assignments as previous interns. Ultimately, she was deemed too inexperienced to take a permanent post of staff photographer, but for a few months as CL searched for its new shooter, she was it by default. And with the help of an AAN Diversity Internship, Jumaralli extended her stay at Creative Loafing until September.

The Association for Alternative Newspapers established a diversity internship program in 2001. Four grants of up to $2,500 are awarded each year to subsidize internships for talented young journalists. There are no strings attached, although the program intends to inspire interns to consider a career in alternative journalism and to assist AAN members in diversifying their newsrooms.

But Jumaralli and another graduate of the program did more than offer fresh perspectives and spice up the masthead. They earned real chops, pitching in where understaffed, lean-running papers most needed them.

Jarrett Keohokalole landed at the Honolulu Weekly in January as the paper was facing similar straits. The University of Hawaii senior had freelanced for the paper sporadically and was vying for an internship, but “they really didn’t have the financial resources,” he says.

Luckily, the paper found the backing in the form of an AAN internship and hired Keohokalole. He joined the Honolulu Weekly staff from January until June, when he earned his journalism degree.

HW Editor Chris Haire says Keohokalole was a dependable journalist who “we could count on week in and week out.” Keohokalole proved himself wherever needed, says Haire, “whether it was taking photographs for the paper in any number of sections to writing news articles to Week at a Glance blurbs.”

As it turned out, Keohokalole had a knack for political writing. At HW, he filed stories on subjects running a wide gamut, from the plight of Micronesian fishermen to election reform to the rise of young Republicans in the state.

“We were right down the street from the Capitol,” Keohokalole says of the weekly’s office.

But that proximity wasn’t the only thing to shape his political consciousness, Keohokalole believes. “My family was always interested in native Hawaiian rights,” which he likens to those of other Native Americans.

His favorite assignment was profiling local attorney Edmund Burke, who is defending pro bono one of the alleged terrorists incarcerated by the U.S. government at Guantanomo Bay, Cuba. Several times a year, Burke flies the 11-hour trip from Oahu to Cuba and back at his own expense.

“Stories like that are a way to bring big national issues into perspective for people in the islands,” Keohokalole says. He concedes that Hawaiians can live up to their stereotype of being insulated and “caring only about what’s going on in the islands.”

Now, as he looks for other newspaper jobs and weighs the possibility of graduate school, Keohokalole knows his time spent at the Honolulu Weekly yielded invaluable on-the-job experience. “There’s nothing like going out and chasing sources, contacting government people,” he says. “You can’t learn that in a classroom.”

AAN Technical Director Amy Gill contributed to this article.

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