Student journalists at The Oglethorpe Echo are finalists for awards

Student journalists at The Oglethorpe Echo are finalists for the 2021-22 Institute for Nonprofit News (INN) Awards.

The paper was notified that its journalists were finalists in two categories: the Game-Changer Award/Small Division and the Insight Award for Visual Journalism.

In addition to this recognition for visual journalism, The Oglethorpe Echo has also been nominated as a top contender in the Media Award category by the Georgia Health Care Association and Georgia Society of Activity Professionals. The nomination is based on a series of photos of residents at Quiet Oaks retirement facility taken by Julia Walkup.

Portrait of Marcus Goolsby
Marcus Goolsby, a 98-year-old resident of Quiet Oaks Healthcare Center in Crawford, Georgia, poses for a portrait at the healthcare center on March 26, 2022. This is one of a series of portraits that has been nominated for a Media Award by the Georgia Health Care Association and the Georgia Society of Activity Professionals. It was taken by Julia Walkup, a photojournalism student, as part of the Woodall Weekend Workshop.
(Photo: Julia Walkup)

Both the photos represented in the Insight Award for Visual Journalism and the photos at Quiet Oaks were published in The Oglethorpe Echo as part of the Woodall Weekend Workshop, a program where advanced photojournalism students cover a specific county in Georgia each spring and report on stories vital to that area. The workshop took place in Oglethorpe County in April 2022.

“It is gratifying for the students’ work to be recognized when we haven’t even completed a calendar year yet,” said Amanda Bright, academic professional and assistant editor for The Oglethorpe Echo.  “To have our name being thrown around with so many other amazing nonprofits is great exposure for our students,” Bright added of the INN awards.

Bright said that the INN organization includes nearly 400 nonprofit news organizations including several large publications including ProPublica, Texas Tribune and Canopy Atlanta making it gratifying to be in such good company.

“We just joined a few months ago and it’s a very competitive application just to join,” Bright continued. “INN has a lot of requirements about what you need to be a nonprofit and transparent and have journalistic ethics.”

The Game-Changer Award is presented to an organization that produced an innovative idea or practice that led to success in revenue, audience growth or sustainable financial support of news. Bright explained that since the first issue of The Oglethorpe Echo was published with the students in early November 2021, they have also developed a full website, an e-newsletter and several social media channels including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube to promote their videos. The social media accounts were started by The Oglethorpe Echo intern Mackenzie Tanner and the website, newsletter and YouTube channel were created by journalism graduate student Alex Anteau.

Bright explains there are several video reports and audio slide shows on the YouTube channel and that one of the areas the students talk about in class is pitching story ideas, including multi-media stories.

The Oglethorpe Echo is the only publication in the Game-changer category so it is expected the paper will win the $500 prize award.

The Insight Award for Visual Journalism honors a single story or a series of stories that uses photography and/or other visual media to more accurately portray a community that has traditionally been under-represented or mis-represented in news media. The Oglethorpe Echo is nominated for work that photojournalism students Sydney Fordice (AB ’22) for a video slide show with narration called “King overcomes health issues to win crown,” and Basil Terhune was nominated for a series of photos and short story called “Never-ending egg hunt.”

The winners for all categories of INN Awards will be announced Sept. 21. The winners of the Georgia Health Care Association and Georgia Society of Activity Professionals will be announced Sept. 22.

In the Fall of 2021, The Oglethorpe Echo, a weekly newspaper serving Oglethorpe County, was preparing to shut its doors. Dink NeSmith (ABJ ‘70) stepped in and created a non-profit organization, The Oglethorpe Echo Legacy, Inc., with a Board of Advisers to keep the paper operational. Part of the plan was to provide Grady College students taking the capstone journalism class the experience to do all the reporting and photojournalism under the direction of Bright and Andy Johnston, editor-in-residence.

INN members are 501c(3) organizations or similarly structured to provide news as a charitable service or public good. They set and meet membership standards that include journalistic quality, editorial independence and public transparency around the sources of their funding and their control.

Girl throws seed as she is feeding a group of chickens in a farmyard.
Tamita Brown throws non-GMO feed to chickens on Caribe United, her farm in Crawford, Georgia. This photo is from a photo essay produced by Basil Terhune as part of the annual Woodall Weekend Workshop, put on by the University of Georgia’s visual journalism program. It has been nominated for a visual journalism award by the Institute for Nonprofit News. (Photo: Basil Terhune)

The camera eats first: Q&A with Kyser Lough

Assistant Professor Kyser Lough teaches in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications’ photojournalism program and studies visual communication, with an emphasis on photojournalism, as well as solutions journalism. In this interview, Lough discusses the continuing role of photojournalists in an age of ubiquitous imagery, and how he teaches his students to navigate that landscape. Read more about his research here.

How do you describe photojournalism research?

You can think of it several different ways, and the first is looking at the images themselves: What are the images telling us? How are they chosen? What’s being left out? Who is in the image? What kind of effects do these images have on people? That’s a big question surrounding conflict photography especially—we need these photos to see what’s going on, but what kind of toll is it taking on us to constantly see images of conflict?

What we often forget about is there’s a person behind the camera making these pictures, and that person has to physically be there. During the pandemic a lot of reporters were stuck at home; they were calling their sources and having Zoom meetings. The photographers had to go to these places to make these photos. So there are a lot of questions surrounding access and embodiment when it comes to being a photojournalist—how they have to use their bodies in the act of photography, not just to maneuver to make photos but also in negotiating for access to where they need to be.

It’s also fascinating to dig into photographers’ minds and ask about their process. How do they look for things to photograph? How do they decide what, who and when to photograph? When you combine that with talking about access and embodiment, it gives us a deeper look into the images.

As a visual communicator, what your thoughts about how the media world we live in has changed over the last two or three decades?

It’s definitely changed how we think of images. We toggle back and forth between seeing images as pure, unadulterated reality or pure, unadulterated fiction. It’s something we have to consider when we think about modern-day news literacy. In being worried about misinformation and disinformation, we need to really look at images. Part of that is putting the focus back on the image creator and the image owner. Just like we try and vet news sources, we also need to vet image sources and understand that many different things could have happened between an image being captured and us seeing it.

With deep fake video technology and ever more sophisticated photo-editing software, how are we going to determine the truth of an image in the future?

There is fascinating work being done on this right now. Part of it is news literacy and training us to have a healthy dose of skepticism when consuming news. But on the other end, there are computer scientists developing algorithms to analyze and detect alteration in images and video.

From the professional side, there are organizations and people working to prevent it on the creation end. So instead of trying to detect a fake image, it’s about providing a certificate of authenticity: “This image is real.” The Content Authenticity Initiative is probably the biggest one right now, where they are working with Adobe and other folks to essentially create a uneditable chain of edits and history on a photo. You can see the date and time the image was taken, but also see that it was loaded into Photoshop and these different edits were made. If that’s widely adopted—and the problem is it has to be adopted—then we can use that to vet images before they are out there and manipulated.

Dr. Kyser Lough Assistant Professor, Journalism
“We toggle back and forth between seeing images as pure, unadulterated reality or pure, unadulterated fiction. It’s something we have to consider when we think about modern-day news literacy,” Lough said. “Just like we try and vet news sources, we also need to vet image sources and understand that many different things could have happened between an image being captured and us seeing it.” (Photo by Jason Thrasher)
On a more positive note, all this changing technology and media affords a lot more possibilities to photojournalists in how they create and publish and share their work. What do you teach your students about how to leverage that to their advantage?

We start with the core foundation that storytelling matters, first and foremost. It has to be a good story. It has to be a good moment. We have to be people-focused. We start there, and then we can think about the platforms we use to tell this story. It’s so easy to get lost in the shiny new thing and forget we have to start as good journalists and good storytellers.

Now that everyone has a camera in their pocket, do we still need photojournalists?

That’s such a great question. In 2009, an airplane landed in the Hudson River in New York, and one of the first images to spread from that was not taken by a photojournalist—it was taken by a man on a ferry with a cell phone. He uploaded it to Twitter, and within minutes it was all over the place. Of course, now that’s commonplace. We know when something’s happening, and we’re not just seeing pictures posted—we’re seeing people livestreaming from their phones.

It’s very important for society to have that ability, for us to be able to witness and surveil as private citizens. On the other side of it, however, I firmly believe it’s still important to have photojournalists and trained storytellers out there because of the ethics and sensitivity surrounding a lot of the stories we’re trying to tell.

Journalism should be independent. There should be no conflict of interest; the journalist covering the story should not be involved in the story. The journalist’s images, while not being completely objective, are still representative of an independent observer who has been trained in how to be fair and how to cover the story and how to skillfully use the equipment. We still need journalists to tell these stories and uncover instances where power is being abused, and especially to protect the vulnerable.

Are your students more sophisticated about visual communications, having grown up with Instagram and Twitter and all of these new media?

I like to think so. It’s hard to think back to a time when we didn’t have a camera in our pocket, although it hasn’t been that long when you think about it. The biggest shift has been in the visual literacy students have in how the cell phone camera has allowed them to regularly observe and document their daily life. Once on a study abroad program we sat down to dinner, and the students brought out their phones and took pictures of the food. The phrase they taught me was: “Phone eats first.” And I love it. There’s no shame in it. I mean, when else in history has it been this easy to just snag a picture of anything and then go back and use the photo as a memory device?

Dr. Kyser Lough Assistant Professor, Journalism
Despite all the new technologies in photography that have emerged over recent decades, Lough teaches his students that basic principles still apply when it comes to photojournalism. “Storytelling matters, first and foremost,” he said. “We start there, and then we can think about the platforms we use to tell this story. It’s so easy to get lost in the shiny new thing and forget we have to start as good journalists and good storytellers.” (Photo by Jason Thrasher)
What’s the best photo you’ve ever taken?

Recently I haven’t been able to do as much photography as I have in the past, because my priorities are research and teaching. But we take our students out into the world as much as possible to get experiential learning, so I like to try and turn the camera around on them and those have been my favorite recent photos—the pictures of my students photographing. I’ve really enjoyed documenting the process as they grab their cameras and go out and do things. When I’ve taught study abroad, I took pictures of them photographing, and at the end of the program I wrote them a note and gave each one pictures of them out making photos.

The other answer to that question would be the times that I haven’t taken a picture. This is something that I usually wrap my photo classes with, this idea that just because we can doesn’t mean we should, especially in the day and age when we all have a camera in our pocket. I challenge my students to think about when to take a picture and when to simply use your five senses to really sit in that moment. Not everything has to be photographed.

The above feature was originally written and posted by UGA Research, and can also be round on the UGA Research website


Photojournalism students capture meaning of Georgia National Fair

Thirteen photojournalism students recently sprawled across the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agriculture Center. They, under the guidance of senior lecturer Mark Johnson, were tasked with the same purpose as the six previous years of student visits to the Georgia National Fair: Don’t show what the fair looks like, show what it means.

The annual visit to capture the meaning of the Fair festivities began in 2014.

“The goal of the workshop is to give the students an immersive experience in visual storytelling and allow them to hear different voices on how to accomplish that,” Johnson said.

Fellow journalism faculty members Dodie Cantrell and Kyser Lough joined in on the 2021 workshop. Alumni Allison Carter (ABJ ’09) and Andrea Briscoe (ABJ ’12) also went to serve as coaches. Visiting professionals from around the region also accompany the students and faculty. Mike Haskey from the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer and Billy Weeks, an independent photojournalist and professor at University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, attended and are regular visiting professionals every year.

Here is a sample of photos taken on Saturday, October 9, 2021.

  • Photo: Abigail Vanderpoel

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution highlighted the students’ work from the 2021 workshop.

The Bitter Southerner recently published an online gallery from the first six events. You can view it here.


#ProfilesOfTenacity: Mennah Abdelwahab

Why did you choose Grady and your course of study?

I came into UGA as an international affairs major, and while I loved my IA courses, I felt I needed experiences that would push me out of my comfort zone. I was always fascinated by the media, particularly how it operates and the power it wields over our lives. I also felt that being a strong communicator would serve me well in any job I would pursue later. My first Grady class was pretty small and very discussion based, which I really loved. I was motivated to continue pursuing my Grady degree because my Grady professors have been incredibly supportive; it has meant a lot to see everyone want you to succeed. 

Who is your professional hero?

I don’t know that I have just one professional hero. I have personally gotten to work with so many amazing people and they have all inspired me in their own unique way. I think one thing they have all shown me is the importance of truly caring about the people you work with and wanting to see them succeed. When people see you are willing to invest in them, they will also be willing to develop a stronger relationship with you. 

What does the word “tenacity” mean to you?

Tenacity means pushing yourself out of your comfort zone to reach your goals. Whether in Grady or any other college, you will get out of your classes as much as you put in. I remember the first time I had to interview a source for my journalism class; I was terrified. Yet, the more I have interviewed sources, the more comfortable and natural it has become. So, no matter how scary or nerve-racking accomplishing an assignment or personal goal may be, go for it! 

What is your favorite app or social media channel and why?

WhatsApp is definitely an underappreciated tool. It’s pretty popular in other parts of the world but it’s not really that well known in America. Personally, I have found it to be a really great way to stay in touch with my family in Egypt and elsewhere around the world. 

What is your most memorable Grady experience?

During my sophomore year, I was studying for an Arabic test in the PAF, and Dean Davis walked up to me and started asking me questions about what I was writing, what it meant, etc. I think this was the first time I had ever talked to the dean, but I just remember how approachable and genuinely interested he was. As a Grady ambassador, I have gotten to interact with the dean a lot more, and I think this it is always great to see how much he wants to connect with students and learn from their experiences. 

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received from an instructor, mentor or family member? 

I think the best piece of advice I have received in college is that you don’t have to have it all figured out during college or immediately after graduation. A lot of my professors have taken varying, winding paths to get where they are now. It is great if you know from now what you are interested in and the career you want. It is also equally valuable to know that you are not 100% set on one job or career and to be open to trying new things. 

What is an example of a time you used your studies and skills in a real-world experience? 

My journalism major has been crucial to many of my professional and extracurricular experiences. Currently, I serve as the Public Relations Director for State Representative Spencer Frye, where a central part of my job is clearly communicating policy issues to a wide audience. In my work with the Human Rights Measurement Initiative, I have helped prepare online content in both English and Arabic. Additionally, my work with the Office of Congressman John Lewis involved preparing internal and external documents to assist legislative staffers and our constituents. These experiences built off of the skills I have attained in my journalism classes. In other roles, such as SGA Senator and Director of DEI, ICNA Relief Clinic Outreach Coordinator, and Honors Teaching Assistant, I have seen myself become a lot more comfortable interacting with new people and thinking of how to communicate my thoughts and opinions.

What has been your proudest moment in the past year?

I spent the entire summer in D.C. which was really cool. I definitely pushed myself to be a lot more adventurous than I normally am but actually had a lot of fun. I went kayaking on the Potomac, which was a pretty neat place to go kayaking for the first time. I also got to know a lot of people in Delta Hall, which was also wonderful. Additionally, I really used the skills I gained in my photojournalism class; I think I took 1000+ photos over the summer. 

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I have a twin sister, Ayah, who is also an international affairs major (she’s pursuing international affairs and economics). We have taken several international affairs classes together and have also been involved in some of the same organizations, so we have definitely confused a lot of people. Whenever people meet both of us at the same time, they either think we look nothing alike or we look too similar to tell who is who. Since I think we look pretty different, I have never tried assuming her identity for a day, but maybe it could be a senior year goal?  

Where is your favorite place on campus and why?

It’s a little farther away than most things, but I think the botanical garden is absolutely gorgeous. I have also had the chance to go to UGA’s Skidaway Institute of Oceanography down in Savannah and it is also amazing. One of my favorite experiences I have had at UGA is going there during the Public Service and Outreach weekend where we got to go on a boat tour in Savannah and see dolphins!  

#GradyGrit: Meet Sofia Gratas

Why did you choose journalism as a major?

I didn’t want to be a journalist at first. I tried out a biology major when I first got into college and realized I didn’t really have a knack for science. I’ve always enjoyed writing and creating visual media, so once I got to UGA, it became clear that journalism was the way to go.

What motivates you?

As human beings, we have so much potential. But when people are uninformed and uninterested in their communities, all that potential slips away. Journalism is the cornerstone of any society, and I think being a journalist — any kind of journalist — is one of the most noble professions. So what motivates me is the difference I can make through my position as a journalist.

What is the best or most rewarding part about being a Grady student?

Grady provides its students with such a variety of opportunities. That’s the best part about this college. While UGA is large and may seem overwhelming, once I got into Grady, I understood what community and support in an academic setting really feels like.

What has been your proudest moment is the past year?

I was awarded first and second place for a news and feature story, respectively, by the Georgia College Press Association for work I wrote for The Red & Black. That felt pretty amazing, to have my hard work recognized.

Where do you get your news? Outlet/app/online vs. print?

I get most of my news from online sources. It varies, but The New York Times and NPR (radio) are my main sources of news. And of course, local outlets such as The Red & Black and Flagpole.

What are your personal hobbies?

I’ve never been too much of a hobby person, but photography has always been something I enjoy doing. Being able to use my photography skills for photojournalism purposes has been a game changer. I enjoy thrift shopping, spending time with my partner and my cat, and discovering new things about Athens. Traveling is something I wish I could do more of.

Sofia working in the newsroom of The Red & Black. (Courtesy: Sofia Gratas)

Who is your professional hero and why?

My grandmother, Leticia Callava. Born in Cuba, she immigrated to Miami, Florida, in the 1950’s and created an extremely successful, professional career in journalism out of nothing. She was one of the top anchors in Spanish-language television, battling sexism and racism that ran rampant during the time period along the way. She has interviewed people such as singer Celia Cruz, former secretary of state Madeleine Albright and Mother Teresa. I admire so many journalists, but I have to say that having one in the family has had a major impact.

What is your favorite spot on campus and why?

Probably the turtle pond in front of the Ecology building. It’s the spot that brings me the most joy. But the law building on north campus comes second. If I’m going to do work on campus, it’ll most likely be in the Law Library.


Editor’s Note: Some of the above answers have been edited for length and/or clarity.

For other installments in the #GradyGrit series, visit the #GradyGrit page.

#GradyGrit: Meet Becca Wright

Editor’s Note: #GradyGrit is a new series of profiles of Grady College students who show determination, leadership and outreach to the community. Search “#GradyGrit” on the Grady College website for additional profiles. 

Hometown: Savannah, Georgia 

Year: Senior 

Degree: Journalism Major, Environmental Law minor, New Media and Sustainability Certificates 

Activities and involvement: National Press Photography Association (President), McGill Fellow, Bag the Bag board member, student media assistant at Dean of Students Office, multimedia at the Office of Sustainability and Photo Editor at The Red & Black 

How has Grady influenced your time at UGA?  

BW: Since starting classes within Grady, I’ve realized how important it is to care about what you do and who you’re reporting on. Not that I didn’t care before, but seeing how much time and care some of the faculty members put into the students and hearing their previous reporting experiences really drives that point home. If you don’t care, then why should anybody else? 

What is your most memorable Grady experience? 

BW: My most memorable experience was actually before I was even a student at UGA. I was touring UGA for the third time, and I still hated it. But I knew I was going to be a journalist, and since UGA has one of the best journalism programs, I wasn’t going to pass it up. (But I was really close…) So during this third tour, I ended up meeting one of the pre-Grady advisers, Beth Rector. I walked into the journalism building for the first time and instantly felt at home. I had toured a few other schools and journalism programs, but none of them felt right. I know that sounds super cheesy, but I hated everything about UGA until I walked into Grady, and when I walked out I couldn’t wait to come back.  

What has had the biggest impact on your life during your time at UGA?  

BW: Going to the University of Georgia and reporting on the city of Athens has had the biggest impact on my life so far. (I know it sounds cliché, but hear me out.) 

I went to the same Christian private school for 10 years straight, and even though I’d like to think I was aware of what was going on in the city around me, I never pushed my boundaries too much. Almost all my friends were white, middle- or upper-class individuals who weren’t forced to face the reality of our community or the consequences of our actions. And while some of my friends and I cared about social and political issues, none of us did anything about it.  

“Coming to UGA and reporting on Athens-Clarke County forced me to face my privilege and do something to initiate change in my community.” -Becca Wright

Coming to UGA and reporting on Athens-Clarke County forced me to face my privilege and do something to initiate change in my community. Before I came to UGA, I knew nothing about Athens. Now, I know what almost feels like too much. Instead of thinking that I know what’s going on in my city, I actually know what’s happening. I have talked to middle school students who don’t know where their next meal will come from, I’ve met the people who work in the landfill and take care of the products of our throw-away society and I’ve reported on the nonprofits trying to fix our transportation system.  

I don’t think I would have experienced this if I had gone to college back at home, and I’m not sure going anywhere else would have provided me with the opportunity to report on my community the way that I have. I will never look at or think about myself and my privileges the same way I used to, and I hope that the reporting that I’ve done over the past few years has helped others initiate change as well. 

What is your best advice for a student taking their first class at Grady College? 

BW: Take it seriously. A lot of times with early journalism classes I felt like I wasn’t learning anything new, but I regret not working harder on those projects and using the knowledge that I already had to my advantage.  

Becca Wright can often be seen on the sidelines of UGA football games shooting for The Red & Black.

What motivates you? 

BW: Sometimes it’s hard to get motivated because of the current climate surrounding journalism and the “fake news” rhetoric, but at the same time, it’s kind of fuel to the fire. There’s nothing I want to do more than go out and document the people and issues of our community, and by doing so all I can hope is that we’re informing the public of what they need to know to make decisions moving forward.   

Last show/favorite show you binge-watched (more than 2 shows in a sitting)? 

BW: The most recent was The Office, but my favorite is either West Wing or Gravity Falls.  

Favorite quote? 

BW: “It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you do not care who gets the credit.”
— Harry S. Truman 

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead

What would people be surprised to know about you? 

BW: My go-to “fun fact” is that I have a black belt in martial arts. Also that I’m part-Cuban, and that I’m originally from Kansas City, Kansas

Favorite Athens restaurant? 

BW: Either Big City Bread Company or home.made.

Create your own question to answer: What’s your favorite project or story you’ve reported on at Grady or during an internship? 

BW: I started a podcast last semester for my multiplatform story production class. It only has two episodes, but for someone who has listened to maybe 15 podcast episodes in her life, I’m super proud of it. I never realized how much I loved audio/radio journalism (I don’t know why, I freaking love NPR), and I’m hoping to continue it when I actually have time. 

Photo Night

Photojournalism and its impact at Grady College will be showcased during Photo Night 2020.  The evening begins with a reception at 7:00 p.m. followed by the program beginning at 7:30.

Among the presenters are Steffenie Burns (AB ’17), Savanna Sturkie (ABJ ’17) and David LaBelle. 

The White House News Photographers Association’s Eyes of History exhibit will be on display.

This event is free and open to the public.

Best of Photojournalism Competition moves to UGA and Grady College

The National Press Photographers Association has announced a new partnership with the University of Georgia Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication to promote, organize and archive the annual Best of Photojournalism Competition.

The contest’s 100 categories span still, video, multimedia and editing disciplines and draw entries from around the world. The 2019 competition will mark the first time in more than five decades that all disciplines are housed together.

The decision follows a year-long, competitive process the NPPA began in 2017. The partnership will allow all entries from the Best of Photojournalism Competition to be permanently archived at the University of Georgia’s Special Collections Libraries, and Grady College will develop case studies based on the winning entries for the benefit of classrooms, newsrooms and independent journalists to help them improve their own storytelling.

“Grady College welcomes the Best of Photojournalism contest, which for us signifies the strengthening of a relationship that began with the relocation of the National Press Photographers Association to the college in 2015,” said Grady College Dean Charles Davis. “This agreement strengthens our shared educational mission and provides the contest with a most important archival home.”

“Over the past year, NPPA’s Board of Directors has given a great deal of consideration in evaluating all of its options for a home to its flagship contests,” said newly-elected NPPA President Michael P. King. “We are excited about this next chapter in our contests’ history and look forward to growing our partnership with the University of Georgia.”

The University of Georgia will spend much of 2018 working with the NPPA to develop a new contest entry system and updating entry rules and procedures in advance of the opening of the 2019 contest.

The National Press Photographers Association is dedicated to the advancement of visual journalism – its creation, practice, training, editing and distribution – in all news media.  For more than seven decades, NPPA has supported visual journalists through advocacy, workshops, certifications and competitions to equip its members and prepare the emerging generation of visual journalists in the face of an ever-changing media landscape.  NPPA has continuously published News Photographer magazine since 1946, and it is considered to be the authoritative source on news, issues, trends and information about visual journalism. Affiliated with the NPPA is the National Press Photographers Foundation Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, charged with advancing press photography through education and awarding scholarships and fellowships to deserving students who have demonstrated ability or promise in the field of photojournalism.  For more information, see or follow @NPPA on Twitter.

Graduating photojournalists put their photo skills to the test at the SEC Championship

The script could not have been written much better: photographing the SEC Championship as one of the final assignments for the Red & Black before wrapping up their college career.  For graduating Grady College photojournalists Reann Huber and Casey Sykes, the stage was set for them to show off the skills they had learned and the talents they have been honing.

Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith (3) holds up the SEC Championship trophy with Georgia head coach Kirby Smart after winning the SEC Championship. (Photo/Reann Huber,
Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith (3) holds up the SEC Championship trophy with Georgia head coach Kirby Smart after winning the SEC Championship. (Photo/Reann Huber,

“The SEC Championship not only reminded me how fun this job is, but it also got me excited for what other championships I’ll hopefully shoot later in my career,” Sykes, a staff photographer for the Red & Black said of the assignment. “The atmosphere is just so unique, and whether the team you’re covering wins or loses, there’s so much emotion, so great photos happen regardless.”

For Huber, shooting the SEC Championship was a perfect segue into what she will do next as a multimedia intern at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a position Sykes is just finishing.

“I think this experience helped me a lot to prepare for my internship,” Huber, the Red & Black’s assistant photo editor, reflected. “Sports photography is something I really want to do in the future and I look forward to continuing that post-graduation.”

Just as deadlines rule in the real world, the Red & Black was publishing real-time stories during the game on its website and published a special 8-page extra edition Sunday night, featuring photographs by Sykes and Huber, and editorial features by Grady Sports Media Certificate students Emily Giambalvo and Nathan Berg.

As they prepare for graduation next week, and their next internships (Sykes heads to Michigan six-month photo internship at the Grand Rapids Press/MLive), they shared some thoughts about what it was like to photograph the electrick atmosphere at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium as the Georgia Bulldogs were crowned SEC champions.

Grady College: How do you prepare to cover a game like the SEC Championship?

Reann Huber: One of the first things I do, and I do before every game, is double check my gear. Make sure all cameras, lenses, cards, and hard drives are working properly without any glitches because there is no time to have any issues before, during, or after the game. You also have to be well versed in who the key players are on both teams, offense, defense and coaches. The last of my main preparation for this game was understanding what shots I need and when I needed to get them in by. Putting out our special edition paper the day after the game could not have been done if we did not plan our shots beforehand.

Grady College: Other than location, how was photographing the SEC Championship different than a typical college football game?

Casey Sykes:   The nerves. I felt queasy for a week leading up to the game because I was so nervous and excited. They were totally gone halfway through the first quarter, though.

GC: Tell us about the timeline of your day?

A favorite photo by Sykes. Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson (21) puts in his earbuds while walking back to the Auburn locker room after a team prayer two hours before the start of the SEC Championship game. (Photo/Casey Sykes,
A favorite photo by Sykes. Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson (21) puts in his earbuds while walking back to the Auburn locker room after a team prayer two hours before the start of the SEC Championship game. (Photo/Casey Sykes,

CS: We got there around 10 a.m. and walked around and shot tailgating activities until we were allowed to pick up our credentials at noon. Then, we got situated in the press room, sent off tailgating photos, made sure code replacements, captions, hard drive files, etc. were all in place for the game, ate a quick lunch, and went to shoot Georgia players getting to the stadium at 2 p.m. After that, we went back to the photo room to edit and send off what we had of those. Then we got out on the field around 3:20 to get ready to shoot the game. We shot pre-game and the first half and came back in at halftime to send in our selects from the first half, which was at about 6 p.m. Then we went back out, shot the second half and post-game, and came back to edit and send off those ones, probably at around 8:15 p.m., which was great because the special SEC paper of The Red & Black had a 9:00 p.m. deadline. Then, we hung out a bit longer in the photo room, I edited a few more of my favorites, and we went to hang with the writers (Nathan Berg and Emily Giambalvo) in the press box while they finished up their stories. We headed out from the stadium around 11:30 p.m.

GC: What facets of your Grady photojournalism education prepared you to cover this event so well?

RH:  I could not have done what I did on Saturday night without the experience that I have gained going through the photojournalism program at Grady. While I know there are certain photos that I know I have to make, I have been taught to look for more than just what is right in front of me. There is always a story that needs to be told and I have learned to be able to effectively try to tell either side of the story, win or lose in this situation.

CS: Professor Mark Johnson always emphasizes the importance of people over things, and I’ve always tried to carry that with me when I shoot sports. He says stuff like, ‘don’t show me the game, show me what it means’. That goes a long way.

GC: We know the trophy presentation was chaotic. How did you position yourselves so well to get the incredible images that you did?

RH: The presentation of the championship trophy was probably the most chaotic photo situation that I have ever been placed in. To make a dynamic photo, I’ve been taught to either get higher or lower and with the crowd pooling around the stage, I knew I needed to get up as high as I could. Thankfully, they had a smaller side stage set up for photographers to photograph from that I could get up to. Granted, a lot of pushing and shoving was happening and that was one of the only ways to get where I needed to be but it turned out for the better in the long run.

CS:  I made sure to secure the giant telephoto lens 5 minutes before the end of the 4th quarter to lighten my load, and then I edged as close to the Georgia bench as the police would let me as the clock wound down. Then at the final spike I literally full-on sprinted toward the center of the field to get the coach handshake shot which only kind of worked. After that, I looked for Fromm, Chubb, any other notable playmakers in sight and shot whatever they were doing. The actual trophy presentation was chill because they were up on a stage and the photographers just kind of assembled in front of them. Reann was obviously doing something right though! Her shots from that are so killer.

GC: How many pictures did you take? How many were keepers vs. those that were tossed?

RH: Between pre-game and the entirety of the game, I took just under 3,000 photos. I have found that in most situations I get 10-15% of my images that I take I can actually use and that number decreases even more now that I know what will be good for paper or our online galleries.

CS: The total photos I took was 3640. About 200 were keepers. Maybe only 5% ever see the light of day.

GC: It appeared that you both were all places at the right time. How do you plan your work flow when you photograph a game as large as this one?

RH: After shooting football a number of times, both Casey and I have a good grasp at knowing where and when to be at the right time. We balance it out to where we both photograph from opposite sides and we never stop moving. Staying in one spot for the entirety of a quarter is not going to get you a good variety of photos so you have to be able to keep moving and know when and where you should be.

GC: Do you have a favorite picture from the event? If so, which one and why?

CS: I do, and it actually has nothing to do with Georgia. Maybe two hours before kickoff, Reann pointed out that Auburn was gathered in the center of the field praying as a team. Immediately I started looking for Kerryon Johnson, their star running back, but I had only seen a handful of photos of him while looking him up on Google the night before, so I only had a vague recollection of what he looked like, plus they didn’t have their jerseys on. I finally recognized him just after the huddle broke. I suppose he’s used to the press, so he thankfully ignored me as I backpedaled two feet in front of him while shooting, and he started to put in his earbuds with a sort of determined, thousand-yard stare. It was so cool to see because in that moment, just from his body language, I knew he’d be playing in the game. I didn’t even notice the Georgia and Auburn symbols above him until I started editing and that was just the cherry on top. My favorite moments to shoot are always intimate moments like that, that no one else would get to see. When I manage to find them, I definitely feel like I’ve used my access well and have done my job that day.

Highlights of the pictures that Huber and Sykes took of the SEC Championship for the Red & Black are below:

  • Georgia players run out on the field before the start of the SEC Championship game between the #2 Auburn Tigers and the #6 Georgia Bulldogs in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, on Saturday, December 2, 2017. (Photo/Casey Sykes,

To view the complete photo albums that Huber and Sykes photographed for the Red & Black, please view:

SEC Championship/First Half

SEC Championship/Second Half

Woodall Weekend Workshop challenges photojournalism students in the field

Students don’t really expect to hear their professors tell them to “fail faster,” but this is just one of the lessons taught to a group of photojournalism students at the annual Woodall Weekend Workshop led by Mark Johnson, senior lecturer in photojournalism at Grady College.

Photojournalism student Kristin Bradshaw explains Johnson’s approach to “fail faster.”

“I’ve heard this quote on numerous occasions but never experienced it until the workshop,” Bradshaw, an international affairs and journalism double major, said. “And, yet, there I was, failing, and I realized three things: first, failing is part of the job and that’s ok; second, the sooner I accept failure, the sooner I can learn from my mistake and move on; and third, Johnson is always right.”

The 20 students in the documentary photojournalism class traveled March 24-26, 2017, to Gilmer County to attend the 12th year of the workshop. The students are paired with a group of professional photojournalists for an immersive photo assignment to capture the people and personalities of the community. Every few hours up to midnight, the students checked in with the professionals to get critiques on their pictures, many which are brutally honest.

“It was such a huge privilege to have professional photographers looking at my work and spending one-on-one time with me to help me improve my work,” Maureen Sheeran, a journalism major, said.

Bradshaw agreed. “Picture your favorite celebrity. Now picture getting to spend an entire weekend breathing the same air as them. That’s what it was like interacting with Mike Roy, Lyric Lewin, and Robin Nathan, just to name a few. While terrifying and humbling at times, the professionals were spectacular teachers.”

The students were tasked with finding their own subjects and stories to complete their assignments which included focuses on people, on places and an overall story with audio. Many of the students were surprised that the original visions they had for the workshop change quickly once it began.

“For me, the biggest takeaway from the workshop was to be flexible,” Sheeran said. “Challenges will inevitably pop up with most stories, and the best thing you can do is stay calm and figure out how to best adapt to the situation.”

Another benefit of the workshop was being encouraged to work on new skills.

“There’s always going to be a learning curve with new skills, and as a result, I have a lot of photos that are almost there, but not quite,” Sheeran said. “The important thing is that the workshop set me up to master new skills and use them in the future to make better photos.”

The Woodall Weekend Workshop is made possible through a gift from Henry (ABJ ’75) and Lynda Woodall.



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