My first professional career job out of college was as an intern with KATV-Channel 7, an ABC affiliate in Little Rock, Arkansas. The previous semester the very first Harding student to intern at KATV was assigned to be in the production department. I was the second Harding student to have an internship at KATV, but was the first to do so in the news room. At the time I had dreams and aspirations of being a news anchor… until I found out that there was a lot of deadlines, and writing, two things I was not very good at! However, I made it known that I was a semi-professional photographer and I could intern under that job description as well.
As an Intern I was subjected to many menial jobs such as getting the news directors lunch, picking up his dry cleaning and even opening up his utilities as he came to his position a couple of months after I started as an intern.
The first few days of being an intern was an eye-opening experience. Sitting in newscast story line-up meeting was fun and enlightening. Riding along with the reporters or simply assisting in carrying the news and photo recording equipment was action packed and exciting for me.
Every now and then, when no one else was available, they called my name and said, “Get a camera! I need you to...” My first assignment besides just tagging along was to go to a scene of a shooting and robbery and just get some footage. I saw what the other channels were shooting and I wanted to do something different… Big mistake on my part… I learned that day that even as a rookie intern, I could learn from others, even if they were from the competition. As I retold of my activities of the assignment I even told of some visuals of the scene, like the bullet holes!
“Great!” said the assignment editor, “let’s see the film of that.”
Sheepishly and embarrassed I said, “Uh, well, I didn’t shoot any of that because I wanted something different than what the other channels were shooting.”
In March of 1977 I was offered a full-time position as a news photographer! The only problem was that I had about eight more weeks of part time enrollment at Harding College. The News Director made it very clear that he was ready to hire a photographer and he didn’t want to wait eight more weeks to do so. And, if I could work something out with Harding and my professor, that the job was mine now!
This job was a dream job for a Mass Communication major and a photographer such as myself. There were lots of candidates from smaller TV markets and other TV stations that would jump at this offer. I told him, “I’ll take it!” Now all I needed to do was explain to my professor at Harding, get him to agree, and I would graduate in May with a full time job.
That conversation went a lot better in my head than it did when I went to see my professor about what I had said yes to! His answer was an unequivocal NO! He mumbled something about and internship is just what it is, and internship where I was supposed to learn… At that point he started sounding like Charlie Brown’s teacher speaking to him and I didn’t understand a single thought that would make me change my mind. I did hear him say that If I went forward with the job, he would drop me from the internship program. The problem with that was that I needed the internship credit hours to graduate. I pushed back a little, but he was firm in his No! I still don’t understand why he said that, because it was supposed to be an internship to help me get a job JUST LIKE THE ONE, I WAS OFFERED!
I left his office consigned to the fact that I was still going to take the job and would simply make myself scarce the last eight weeks of the semester. I figured if I could show myself in class and on the air (at the campus radio station), I could do both. A few days later when he asked me what I was going to do, I flat out lied to him and said, the station was going to wait for me. The end of the semester couldn’t come fast enough for me. It was hard evading my professor, that conversation and with living that lie!
BTW – 40 years after that incident I met up with my former professor when we went out for breakfast while he was in town. We laughed a lot and told stories. I figured it was time to come clean on my lie. When I finally told him that I actually took that job and finished college, I was apologetic. But he laughed and said, “I knew that you did that at the time. I was worried that if you were working full time that your grades would suffer and you wouldn’t finish college, maybe ever! But, I just couldn’t pull the class credit and allow you to not graduate, but I never wanted you to know, that I knew!"