Risk, initiative, persistence

You might think the news business is changing faster than ever before, but anyone who started in TV before videotape (like me) can tell you that it’s been in transition for years. John Goheen, the only three-time NPPA Photographer of the Year, has seen plenty of change in the 27 years he’s been shooting. To survive and thrive, he says, he’s had to reinvent himself multiple times. At a seminar in Des Moines this week, Goheen shared his keys to success.

Risk. If you want to grow and improve, get off the safe path. To get a chance to shoot TV news, Goheen took a job at a station in Anchorage even though he had no desire to live in Alaska. Later, he edited his first natural sound story without telling the newscast producer in advance that he’d decided to drop the reporter’s track. Bad idea, but it worked, and Goheen eventually became a nat sound specialist.

Now, he freelances for network news and shoots documentaries—a career move he decided on after taking leave from a job he loved so he could travel to Africa and cover the famine in Somalia.

Initiative. Goheen shot some of his favorite stories on his own time, before work or on a day off. He learned how to do interviews differently so he could get the sound he needed to tell stories without narration. But Goheen also recognized that some stories need narration, so he worked hard to improve his writing. Bottom line, he’s always learning something new.

Persistence. Goheen says he never gives up on stories that he really wants to tell. He keeps a stack of story ideas he’d like to do some day. He’ll even shoot them “on spec” in order to get them on the air. “What stories do you want to cover some day?” Goheen asks. “Set goals, challenge yourself.”

You have to evolve as the business evolves, Goheen says. “It doesn’t happen by accident. You have to make these things happen for yourself.”

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