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Join me: From photographer to photojournalist to storyteller

The Rapidian gave me real world experience as my training ground as a photojournalist and writer.
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/Terry Johnston

The Rapidian opened doors for me after I graduated from college and was still trying to figure out what in the world to do with my life. I saw myself as an image-maker because I am handy with a camera and people trust me to shoot their weddings in the summers.

But I had a strong desire to do more with my camera beyond capturing blushing brides on their wedding days. I had spent time in Europe, Africa and South America after high school and while attending college. During those overseas trips, I used my camera to document and share my experiences with others.

One of the lessons I learned through traveling is just how many fascinating people there are in the world and the amount of amazing true life tales that are worth sharing with others. This is not just true for the exotic destinations around the globe but it also holds true for Grand Rapids, Michigan. This town is bursting with amazing individuals who are telling incredible stories with their lives. Their stories deserve a bigger platform than their Facebook pages.

When I came on board with the Rapidian as a volunteer, I was mainly taking photos, but snapping a great photo of someone was not enough. There was this nagging thought that maybe I could be a mouthpiece for the interesting folks that I was meeting by telling their stories not just in pictures but also in words. I didn’t think of myself as a writer at the time- although I enjoyed writing. I had trepidations about stepping into this new area where I wasn’t super confident.

However, The Rapidian's managing editor loved the idea and was more than happy to toss me into the deep end to see how well I could swim. As I was given more assignments, I gained more experience and grew in confidence.

I discovered my voice as a writer. My experience at the Rapidian was essential for my growth as a photojournalist.

Even though I took journalism classes at Calvin College and worked for the student newspaper, it was The Rapidian that was my real world training ground. I was given access to people that I normally would not have had the chance to interact with- if it wasn’t for the fact that I had the Rapidian press credentials.

This internship opened doors for me that I could not have opened on my own. It connected me to an array of unforgettable places and faces in the town where I grew up. I found as I took the time to converse with, take pictures of and then write about the people who inhabit my hometown, I started to develop a greater affection for this familiar place. I began to view it with new eyes.

There is a truckload of bad news in the media these days. Too much, I think. I believe that the Rapidian serves a unique and necessary function in our community of shining a bright spotlight on the people and happenings in our town that are worth celebrating. Yes, there are horrific and heartbreaking things occurring in Grand Rapids that need to be covered on a daily and weekly basis. But there are a plethora of local news organizations doing the important work of reporting on the darker side of life here.

Maybe the purpose of the Rapidian is to restore balance. As a citizen journalist, I was empowered to write about the people and subjects that interested me. In the process, I discovered that there are hundreds of wonderful stories in this city: countless uplifting, newsworthy stories that slip through the cracks.

This spring I wrapped up a reporting internship with MLive Media Group that would not have been possible were it not for the “hyperlocal online news source” that is the Rapidian. I would not have been ready to walk through the door into MLive were it not for the invaluable training and preparation I received at the Rapidian.

I have the staff at the Rapidian to thank for helping to cultivate more of a heart for my local community by exposing me to the many aspects of life in Grand Rapids that are worth shouting from the rooftops or simply putting out there online for the masses to see.

These are stories that give us hope to outweigh the cynicism and despair that can so easily creep in when we glance at the headlines or turn on CNN on any given day.

That is why the Rapidan matters.


Take a moment now to join me in supporting The Rapidian in their spring fund drive by donating now.

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