Way back in 2016, a local kid by the name of Jared Wenzelburger asked if he could job shadow the photographer at the Nisqually Valley News’ sister newspaper, The Chronicle.
We of course accepted his request, always looking to share the world of journalism with those of younger generations interested in learning the trade.
He joined the photographer on an assignment and spent the day in the newsroom.
That would be that, I thought. We seldom ever hear again from young job shadowers largely interested in satisfying high school graduation requirements.
Then a funny thing happened — he came back.
The young shooter had photographs of a big crash on Interstate 5. The perspectives and angles indicated he had been crawling all over the scene, unafraid of perhaps ruffling a few feathers.
We published the photographs and again sent him on his way.
Then he came back. Again. With more photos.
As this process continued to repeat itself, we made him a bonafide freelancer, paying him per photograph.
He’d return with scenes from early morning house fires, fiery crashes, brush fires and, in one case, a police shooting.
It’s the type of fearless photojournalism that earned him a nickname in the newsroom. We began referring to him simply as The Nightcrawler, a nod to the 2014 film of the same name that focuses on a freelancer who records late-night violence in the streets of Los Angeles.
He earned the moniker.
One morning, I arrived in the newsroom at 4:30 a.m. It reeked of smoke and, for a brief moment, I considered whether the building was perhaps on fire. Nope, it was just The Nightcrawler, editing photos no one asked him to take of a late-night crash no one on staff was aware of.
This became the norm.
In short, he wouldn’t go away.
Before long, I, as the editor at the time, had a decision to make. Either we would continue to pay for his photos individually — a less than economic option considering the volume of must-have photos he was producing — or I could bring him into the fold.
Thus began an internship that lasted longer than any other at Lafromboise Communications.
For two years, he has essentially acted as our staff photographer while attending community college and operating his own photography business on the side.
He’s done so with a lack of fear and a presence of professionalism extremely rare for a young man of his age. Despite a few bumps (file your captions, Crawler!) he’s added great value to our company and newspapers.
His internship ended this month.
That’s because young Nightcrawler — not yet 21 — is now officially part of the team as our photographer.
As part of that promotion, he’s become a member of the staff of the Nisqually Valley News as well. Readers of the NVN will recognize his work on the cover of the Best of Nisqually special section released this month. He’s also been taking in Yelm and Rainier athletics while occasionally filling in as a reporter as well.
In this week’s edition of the Nisqually Valley News, he provided the cover photos of the Thurston County adoption event, images from Yelm boys basketball practice and a story and photos from an art dedication in Rainier.
We look forward to more contributions in the years ahead, all because a teenage job shadower refused to go away.
So, if you see a baby-faced photographer with a $50 haircut and a camera slung over his shoulder, give him a hearty hello.
Here’s to the one who crawls in the night, all for the sake of the news.
Eric Schwartz is the regional executive editor for Lafromboise Communications. He can be reached at email@example.com.