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I Was a Staff Photographer at Newsday for 22 1/2 Days

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Avoid all the signs that it’s a hard time for photojournalists. Four years later your determination may pay off in a reduced job market.

My last two semesters of journalism school were riddled with accounts of massive editorial layoffs in the country’s most distinguished newsrooms.

Kwazi Peters and his son, Elijah, 5, both of Yonkers, walk along Riverdale Avenue while on their way to a deli before heading home on a rainy day in Yonkers. (June 10, 2013)

Kwazi Peters and his son, Elijah, 5, both of Yonkers, walk along Riverdale Avenue while on their way to a deli before heading home on a rainy day in Yonkers. (June 10, 2013)

Family members embrace following the 117th commencement exercise of Yonkers Middle/High School at the Westchester County Center in White Plains. (June 20, 2013)

Family members embrace following the 117th commencement exercise of Yonkers Middle/High School at the Westchester County Center in White Plains. (June 20, 2013)

First days of internships are typically not met with a staff photographer making a case for the fall of print journalism. However, that is what I received on a ride-along with a staffer as I began my first internship a week after graduating.

That car ride seemed like a long-winded warning to back away from any print product; ending with a proclamation that he would never suggest to his children, as he once may have, to pursue a career in his field.

Graduates before the 117th commencement exercise of Yonkers Middle/High School at the Westchester County Center in White Plains. (June 20, 2013)

Graduates before the 117th commencement exercise of Yonkers Middle/High School at the Westchester County Center in White Plains. (June 20, 2013)

A woman uses her mobile device during a press conference in the county office building with Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino and representatives from nine Westchester municipalities to address reports cards sent from the federal monitor of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. (June 12, 2013)

A woman uses her mobile device during a press conference in the county office building with Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino and representatives from nine Westchester municipalities to address reports cards sent from the federal monitor of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. (June 12, 2013)

Along the job-hunting trail I applied for a gig in the Pacific Northwest. At one point the hiring editor informed me that the staff photographer position he was hiring for attracted three applicants a few years earlier. Now he was beset with hundreds of portfolios from the newly-graduated to the nearly-retired.

Seven weeks ago, shortly after announcing to my colleagues at Newsweek Daily Beast that I accepted a job as a staff photojournalist at Newsday, one of the talented photo editors said to me “I didn’t know they still had those [positions].”

Reneissance Francis, 18, a senior at Saunders High School, in her Yonkers home two days before graduating. (June 21, 2013)

Reneissance Francis, 18, a senior at Saunders High School, in her Yonkers home two days before graduating. (June 21, 2013)

Peter Harckham, majority leader of the Westchester County Board of Legislators, announced his re-election campaign for the 2nd Legislative District at Mount Kisco Village Hall. (June 18, 2013)

Peter Harckham, majority leader of the Westchester County Board of Legislators, announced his re-election campaign for the 2nd Legislative District at Mount Kisco Village Hall. (June 18, 2013)

Such a successful job of avoiding the signs was so complete that I was actually offered a staff photographer’s position.

No room for doubt is left after the millisecond storytelling’s sweetness is revealed for the first time. Avoiding signs to abandon photojournalism as a career is the most potent side effect of the moment you “get it.”

Once “it” was “got”, feet hit the pavement and the “110%” feeling never stopped. The convictions of visual journalism were now bound in personal duty.

A student studies in a classroom as board members of the East Ramapo Central School District give Newsday for a tour of Ramapo Senior High School after complaints of vermin, mold and air quality issues were reported in the school district. (June 11, 2013)

A student studies in a classroom as board members of the East Ramapo Central School District give Newsday for a tour of Ramapo Senior High School after complaints of vermin, mold and air quality issues were reported in the school district. (June 11, 2013)

Bill DeGroat, of Stony Point, points to the site of a temporary desalination intake near a proposed site for a new permanent plant intake in Haverstraw along the Hudson River. The previously used intake, ran for multiple years, sat adjunct to the Haverstraw Marina. DeGroat's family has kept a fishing cottage underneath the US Gypsum oring operation, which sits yards from the defunct intake. (June 18, 2013)

Bill DeGroat, of Stony Point, points to the site of a temporary desalination intake near a proposed site for a new permanent plant intake in Haverstraw along the Hudson River. The previously used intake, ran for multiple years, sat adjunct to the Haverstraw Marina. DeGroat’s family has kept a fishing cottage underneath the US Gypsum oring operation, which sits yards from the defunct intake. (June 18, 2013)

After spending 22 1/2 days documenting impressive teenage immigrants graduating high school, construction on the country’s largest infrastructure project and weather art, I was laid off.

I was laid off along with each massively talented editor, reporter, producer and visual journalist producing a web-only news source developed by Newsday, called Newsday Westchester, in the counties north of New York City.

I never received business cards. I was just learning to spell my editor’s last name. Direct deposit had not yet started.

A member of a foursome looks on from a bunker on the ninth hole during the 4th Annual Ahmad Rashad Golf Classic at the Quaker Ridge Golf Club in Scarsdale. (June 24, 2013)

A member of a foursome looks on from a bunker on the ninth hole during the 4th Annual Ahmad Rashad Golf Classic at the Quaker Ridge Golf Club in Scarsdale. (June 24, 2013)

Argentina Ramirez, of Yonkers, makes a call from inside a convenience store during a day of sunny weather with temperatures in the mid-80s in Tarrytown. (June 17, 2013)

Argentina Ramirez, of Yonkers, makes a call from inside a convenience store during a day of sunny weather with temperatures in the mid-80s in Tarrytown. (June 17, 2013)

Terrence O'Brien, the Founding Artistic Director of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, at the Boscobel House and Gardens in Garrison. (June 5, 2013)

Terrence O’Brien, the Founding Artistic Director of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, at the Boscobel House and Gardens in Garrison. (June 5, 2013)

Getting laid off might be the pivotal sign of jostling career paths. One of these signs should be the need to work through the wretchedness of being cast aside. I only had weeks to devote fulltime my ethics and ideologies of photojournalism to a new newsroom.

But even in those few weeks all my expectations were met. I loved every minute of the time spent meeting people and making their photographs, as I did the moment I first realized the strength of photojournalism.

Those few weeks were a gift. The emotions of losing the job were as powerful as receiving the job and I wouldn’t have exchanged that time for anything. Besides a bit of job security.


About the author: Andy Jacobsohn is a photojournalist and avocado aficionado based in New York City. You can connect with him through his website, his blog and on Twitter.