I hate to start off with a cliché, but everyone’s always said that a picture is worth 1,000 words. As a writer, primarily, I don’t really want to hear that sort of thing. But in this case, I figure I can add 1,000 words to a really great picture and make a cliché-defying blend of storytelling awesomeness.
Last Thursday, I took to Columbus for the first time to cover the Arnold Sports Festival.
Yes, that Arnold.
To throw a little background info out there, ArnoldFest is the largest sporting event in the world.
It’s not the Olympics. Not the World Cup. But a fusion of bodybuilding, competitive dancing and this thing called mighty mitts… I still don’t know what that is.
Before the Governator was the Governator and “I’ll be back” was more than a simple farewell, Arnold Schwarzenegger was giving back to the Columbus area by bringing thousands of people downtown for a bodybuilding expo of epic proportions.
Now, the event has more than 18,000 competitors and draws more than 175,000 fans.
Sifting through the crowds is beyond frustrating and dealing with the European press is less than pleasant, but I took a lot away from my four days at ArnoldFest.
It’s not often that you’re thrown into something and left completely to fend for yourself. The crew I was working with consisted of nine photographers. They’re very good at what they do. I was the only writer. I was expected to be very good at what I do.
The only way I can describe the madness I was entering into Thursday night is by comparing it to one of those movie scenes where everything is moving in slow motion, getting progressively slower until at one instant — whether it’s the crack of a bat or the drop of a pin — everything ramps back to full speed and shoots out to a wide angle, showcasing the craziness that the character was getting him/herself into.
I was the character, press pass and notebook in tow.
I’ve let myself slip into a rut here at college that isn’t good for me. The working relationship of college athletics and journalists is very good and well-oiled. The journalist calls the media relations dude and he or she gets the journalist in touch with whomever they need to speak with. Information is online and readily available, mostly.
At ArnoldFest, nothing was available, there were no media gurus and I needed to go back to my ways of being a self-sufficient snoop.
Secondly, I learned to appreciate that I’m not as good as I think I am. After stumbling my way through a significant portion of my 51 interviews, I got to thinking that I’m just getting started in this whole scheme of things and I really don’t have much to hang my hat on — which I could probably use, because I haven’t cut my hair in a long time and have had to resort to wearing hats pretty much every day to combat the funkiness.
That applies directly to what I think gives me an edge in this ever-expanding media market. (Not the hat part.) I think that I have skills that are transferrable across more than one medium — everything from the written word to shooting video and messing around with design. That’s why I created the tabs across the top of this website. I’m proud of the work I’ve done. The more I’m around people who actually know these things, however, the more I realize that I’m not quite there yet.
As an example, I don’t think a single photo I’ve ever made would make it into the book we’re putting together. They know their stuff and I don’t. Not yet, at least.
Before writing that last sentence, one of my colleagues who lives in my dorm pulled me aside and asked me to go on camera and speak about the future of journalism for one of her school projects.
In fact, right now she’s shooting B-roll of me jamming away at my keyboard. I’m thinking I should break out in song and dance, but I’ll stay away from it, I guess.
I’ll get back to business.
She asked me to talk about how I think the future media landscape is going to look like. I told her that I don’t know. Nobody does.
Relating this back to ArnoldFest, I know that I can’t pretend to be able to do the things that I do secondarily anywhere close to as well as those who work at them as a profession. And that’s kind of a reality check for me.
By doing things like ArnoldFest, I learn what it takes to make it, which is a lot. And because of this, I think I have a better grasp on it than most. I consistently say that there is no room for a mediocre journalist in tomorrow’s market, simply because mediocrity will not be tolerated.
*As a side note, it’s funny to me that I can turn any topic — a bodybuilding competition, in this case — into a philosophical, gut-spilling story about anything I want. Read back through my stories… It happens every time.
I get pumped when I get back into town way past sundown and am able to rattle off a solid handful of stories from whatever event I was covering. Maybe it’s naïve, but maybe it’s a sign that I’m getting into the right profession, regardless of what everybody says.
There’s a lot that I have left to learn before I can call myself good. Give me three months and I guarantee the gibberish that I spoke into a microphone five minutes ago will be totally irrelevant. But hey, that’s the excitement of it all. I’m just getting started.