On Tuesday, two days before her visit, Alexandra took the time to answer some questions about her career path by email. She wrote that her connections with AU professors really helped her get her foot in the door.
“My professors believed in me and helped me connect with journalists in the field that I could consult as I was getting my career started,” she said.
Her break came when Professor Gentile recommended her to Tom Kennedy, she said. Kennedy was the director of multimedia for washingtonpost.com at the time, and is credited for setting The Post up to become a leader in the field.
For Alexandra a web photo internship became a web photo job, and eventually she transitioned to video journalism. To make that transition, Alexandra produced multimedia projects in her spare time, while she was editing photos at night. Finally when she had proven herself, she got the job as a video journalist.
Now an average day is anything but boring.
“There isn't really a typical day!” Alexandra said. “I have three types of days: Shooting days, where I am photographing what I need for a story, editing days, and planning days.”
What makes Alexandra's work even more amazing is that often she does it as a one-woman-band, meaning she films, captures audio, takes still photographs, conducts interviews, writes and edits the stories all by herself. This style of backpack journalism is becoming more common at news organizations across the board. To make it even tougher, Alexandra sometimes films using the Canon Mark II 5D, a DSLR which shoots beautiful video, but requires her to record audio on a separate device.
She described for the Photojournalism class how she packs for a shoot – the camera in one hand, a Marantz audio recorder on her hip with a wireless transmitter attached to it, a fanny pack in front of her with a long lens and a shotgun microphone inside, a tripod – you get the idea. She says it's hard but worth it for the intimacy that backpack journalism offers.
“Because I started in still photography, I really like the tradition of documentary photography that the one-woman-band tradition is based on. I feel like I can get more intimate interviews and scenes than I could if I was a part of a traditional television crew. I think it works quite well for some stories, but for other stories, a collaborative approach can also work well,” Alexandra said.
The story she has done which impacted her the most, she said, is one about a temporary free medical clinic in Virginia.
“The Healing Fields: Hidden Hurt [is] a video about the hundreds of people who travel to Wise County, Va. and wait in long lines for the free medical care provided by Remote Area Medical. I was shocked to see the number of people spending the night in their cars and in long lines for dental care and was humbled by the number of people who were so honest with me about being uninsured,” Alexandra said.
The story won her an Emmy nomination in 2009.
Photos by Areeb Zuaiter
Alexandra offered the students in the Photojournalism class Thursday some advice for their own internships from her experience.
“To really stand out as an intern there [at washingtonpost.com] I felt like I had to be able to do everything,” she said.
She said that it is important for students who are interested in becoming photographers to also know and take classes in video, web coding, and visual writing. She also said in order to move your career forward it's essential to network and be confident.
“Work hard. Meet a lot of people and keep in touch with them,” she said. “Think about where the industry is going, and make sure you are prepared to be a part of it in the future.”
Maria Howell, a first-year MFA student in the SOC film division, was in attendance to hear Alexandra speak. This semester Maria is a video intern at The Washington Post. She is hoping to follow in the alumna's footsteps.
“I definitely feel very optimistic about the field,” Maria said. “I feel it's in high demand and the market is growing.”