Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Even a newspaperman dad worries about his photojournalist daughter

Victim of Salt Lake City mall shooting (Photo by Ashley Franscell)

I remember the day my daughter told me she might be interested in a journalism career. I was shocked. After all, I and her mother -- also a newspaperwoman -- had tried mightily to convince her to pursue something more lucrative and less corrosive to your personal life. Now, in retrospect, we should have encouraged her to go into newspapering if we'd ever hoped that she wouldn't.

But she did. She studied photojournalism in the best journalism school in America (maybe the world) at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and is now a professional news photographer in Utah. She's traveled to Europe, and Central and South America, studied with Pulitzer Prize-winner Eddie Adams, and is just starting her career.

Dads worry about daughters (and sons) ... especially if Dad knows the lengths to which a journalist must sometimes go on a news assignment. I was mildly worried when she was shooting in the slums of Ecuador and El Salvador, but I knew Ashley was nothing if not careful.

Besides, I wasn't exactly the best role model. I'd wandered around the Middle East after 9/11, flown in a stunt plane, gone hunting for radical militiamen in backwoods Montana (after which a bullet hole was found in the back panel of my Jeep), spent the longest night of my life at the scene of a grisly murder, and stumbled into the middle of a store robbery after beating cops to an emergency call ... all to get a story.

When Ashley told me she'd been sent to Monday's mall shooting in Salt Lake City, I shuddered like an Accountant Dad, not a Newspaperman Dad. Why was she taking such risks? Couldn't they use wire photos? What imbecile editor was sending my sweet little girl to a mass murder?

But the Newspaperman Dad took charge. Did she get the shot? What obstacles to access did she have at the scene ... and how did she get around them? What did she do differently from everyone else? Did she zig when they zagged? What questions did she answer for readers with her camera?

When we finally talked about it and I saw her grim photos of death and fear, I was neither the Accountant Dad nor the Newspaperman Dad. I was just Dad.

"Are you doing OK?" I asked her.

"I cried," she said. "But I'm OK now."


Read Ashley's blog-posting about the shooting here.

Mother and child leaving shooting scene (Photo by Ashley Franscell)


Jill said...

Oh my, oh my. That's unnerving. Glad she is ok.

SingingSkies said...

Being a parent has its rough spots, doesn't it? Times when you hold your breath and hope things come out ok on the other side.

As terrifying as it was, what a compliment that Ashley received the assignment! I suspect you and her mom taught her well. Take a deep breath (all of you!). But, then, you knew that. Right?

Anonymous said...

Emil anonymously said, "Welcome to the 'worry more about your kids after they leave home' club. If nothing else this gives us a new appreciation of what our parents went through.
"Back in the dark ages when I went to Mizzou, girl photogs (and I was one--one of three) weren't sent on Missourian nightside assignments. One of the first jobs I applied for I was told, 'Yeah, I'll look at your portfolio but I don't hire women.' Like I said dark ages.
"Haven't looked at Ashley's pix yet--have every confidence they are great."

Love, Rita said...

Ron, once you are able to breathe again, you should let your daughter know how very proud you are of her.

It takes a tremendous strength of character to look upon such carnage without flinching--and without letting it wreck you emotionally.

I'm glad your daughter was okay. That was some photo. It made my stomach clench.