KCRA Common Ground – Nicole Hunter – 22 Years to Graduate
When photographers put stories together, it’s always presumed that they’re going to be strong on visuals, filled with lots of cool, exciting images and fast-editing. And many times this is the case. But there are other instances where the story is stronger than the pictures and the responsibility of being a journalist supersedes that of being a photojournalist.
Nicole Hunter’s story is one of those.
When you meet Nicole Hunter, I don’t think you can help but feel an immediate rapport. She is an open, outgoing, vivacious, honest, strong-willed person with a personality that naturally and uncontrollably draws you in.
Embarking on this story, I recognized that the most important role for me would be in getting a good interview. Nicole Hunter is such an engaging, commanding person that, as a journalist-reporter-writer, it was important to keep my writing to a minimum, allowing Nicole to tell her story—in her own voice, in her own words—as much as possible.
Diversity & Being True To Your Community
California is one of the most ethnically diverse states in the U.S. In California, Caucasians make up less than 50% of the population, and the City of Sacramento is recognized as being the most ethnically diverse city in the country.
As a journalist/photojournalist in Sacramento, I feel a great responsibility for the stories I work on to reflect that diversity as much as possible. When I am out shooting a story I will approach people of many different ethnicities and genders, and sexual orientation if it is obvious*, in order to have as inclusive a representation of this community as possible.
(* Not trying to suggest a stereotyping, but if I go up to two people of the same gender who are holding hands and one of them is wearing a rainbow T-shirt, badge, button or symbol, I think it’s reasonable to assume they’re gay.)
With Nicole, being an African American woman who grew up in a low-income area was a crucial element to her story. Another reason why I felt it was so important for her to tell on-camera as much of her story in her own voice.
At one point during the interview I had to say to her, “Nicole, I have to ask you a couple of points of detail so I can get this right. And I know that I’m a white guy talking to a black girl and I don’t want this to come across in anyway as a stereotype, but I have to ask a few things.” And being casual and up front in this way, Nicole was completely cool with.
With Nicole, there was no getting around doing a story where Bing or being an African American woman was not a crucial element in her story. Which is another reason why I felt it was so important for as much of the story to be told in her own voice.
At one point during the interview I had to say to her, “Nicole, I have to ask you a couple of find points of detail so I can get this right. And I know that I’m a white guy talking to a black girl, so I don’t want this to come across in anyway as a stereotype, but I have to ask a few things,” to which Nicole was completely cool with.
How does a journalist find their stories? Most of the time, they find you.
Sometimes I go looking for a story, but most of the times—the vast, vast majority of the time—they just drop out of the sky right in front of you. Nicole Hunter was one of these.
About a month ago, in May, 2016, I was assigned to Sleep Train Arena to cover the graduation ceremony of the Sacramento State Class of 2016, and one particular student, Stefanie Kramer, who had appeared on NBC’s The Today Show talking about her experience on her road to graduation.
After I had finished filming Stephanie Kramer’s commencement address speech, and was waiting to film her receiving her diploma, I listened to one of the other speakers, a woman for whom it had taken 21 years to accomplish her goal of getting a college degree. I found her story to be so moving and powerful that I was wiping tears from my cheeks just listening to her. Then I was thinking, “My God, I should have been filming this!”
I then resolved that I also wanted to get Nicole’s story on KCRA as well. A story of personal drive and inner strength that I felt people needed to hear—that you don’t have to limit yourself to four years or five years or six years to achieve your dream. The main thing is to finish it, no matter how much effort or time it takes. And to accomplish it because it means something to You—because you are the one who is going to do the work and, in the end, you have to be satisfied with what you are doing.
I leave this blog post with Nicole Hunter, and her story. I seriously suspect, and hope, that I will be doing another story about her down the road . . .
From NICOLE HUNTER, after seeing her story on TV:
That was great! I started crying tears of joy. You put it together so well! Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!
Thank you for your time, effort, and dedication! I will stay in touch – please do the same.
Have a great rest of your weekend!