SOC Graduate Practices Video Journalism for Washington Post

By Kady Buchanan

WASHINGTON, DC, 28 October 2010 – Alexandra Garcia, a graduate of American University’s School of Communication, returned to a classroom she left six years ago to discuss her efforts to “show the people” through her work at the Washington Post.

Garcia is the latest in Professor Bill Gentile’s Backpack Journalism Speaker Series hosted by his “Photojournalism and Social Documentary” class of undergraduate and graduate students. One of Gentile’s former students, Garcia shared her journey from the classroom, to video journalism for The Washington Post’s new department of video news.

“This is not that far back…and not that far away,” Professor Gentile said as he introduced Garcia to the class. It was a reference to the fact that Garcia had been an undergraduate student sitting in the same classroom only six years prior to her visit.

Although Garcia’s visit was not the first real-world professional that Gentile has hosted, her youth and recent graduation from the same photojournalism course provided a more realistic and obtainable view of success in the craft.

Underlying the importance of networking sooner than later, Garcia said she started off as an intern at The Washington Post as a Web photo editor, and quickly earned a job, partly by being in the right place at the right time.

On her path to the Post’s multimedia section, she not only devoted long hours to the job but also came in on her off days to show her commitment, while still making a concerted effort to never slack in her position as Web Photo Editor.

Garcia described her first years at the Post as very formative for her work today as a photojournalist. One of her first assignments consisted of recording and editing audio for photo slide shows. Having the opportunity to focus solely on audio, she said, helped her truly understand the basics of constructing a story.

Garcia went on to show the class a few highlights from her body of work at the Video Journalism department of The Post. These included work on health care, fashion and a snowball fight in DuPont Circle during “Snow-maggedon.” Garcia said the pieces reflect not only her own style but also a new direction at The Post, in that they address issues in a short, documentary film format. They address issues quickly, as they are broadcasting online, but with each journalist’s style embedded in the piece, as opposed to television news, which still follows a much stricter format.

“We’re not on television, so why should our pieces look like they are?” she said. “We’re on the Web.”

When asked what skills and educational tools helped her on the road to success, Garcia singled out interactive media skills, writing, and photojournalism. Students were taken with Garcia and her work. Her visit gave them yet another perspective on how to use the classroom skills in an industry that is constantly changing.

“My goal in this type of work is to do what video does best, and show the people,” Garcia said. And she has achieved that.

Photos by Areeb Zuaiter