Behold a Giant Muh

Making Friends with Our Intern

Ashlynd Elizabeth Huffman, our 2019 summer intern, looks completely serious as she covers a three-vehicle injury accident just west of Ada earlier this month.

“Our intern’s last day was Friday. It’s been years since we had an intern, and we had all kind of forgotten how great it can be to have fresh eyes and fresh ideas in the newsroom.”

This was the lede for my column today, part of a straightforward telling of our intern’s adventures this summer. On a more personal note, I won’t hesitate to say that Ashlynd and I became friends this summer, and we both had a great time throwing her into our news cycle, changing her from a slack-jawed Snapchatter into a white hot grease fire of journalism. Okay, okay, she wasn’t really a slack-jawed Snapchatter, but I could make jokes like that all summer with her and she would laugh and laugh.

Ashlynd and I ran out to the scene of a trailer fire earlier this month. She ended up using this photo as her profile picture on social media for a while.

“If you had to use one word to describe me,” she asked, “what you it be?”

Before she finished the sentence I knew the answer. “Fun,” I told her.

“RICH-CHARD!” she chided, hoping I would say something like “journalist” or “professional,” but the truth is she’s a really fun person.

Nothing says, “I’m a journalist” like a highway safety vest that is 11 sizes too large.

Ashlynd has been tagging along with our staff, including me, as we cover all kinds of news events this summer, including items like the severe thunderstorms that blew down trees and power lines across the area June 19, and a tragic fatality accident near Asher July 11.

It was amazing to watch: the scanner would page out a fire or a crash, and she would instantly perk up. “Are we going?” she asked me with anticipation in her voice. When I said yes, she would burst into action, grabbing her phone and her cameras, and putting on the orange safety vest we gave her that was about 11 sizes too big. By the time we got to the car, more details would come over the scanner, and she could hardly contain her excitement.

Ashlynd and I attended the two-day Oklahoma Press Association‘s annual convention in June, and both came away from it with great memories of the event. Part of it was that she was so excited about being around so many journalists.

“I think I learned a lot about photography this summer,” she told me recently. She’d been struggling with it, so I made a point to drag her to a bunch of my assignments. Nothing forges a young journalist like being thrown into the fire. On several occasions with her, I didn’t even grab a camera, telling her, “It’s your show.”

Ashlynd told us she could sleep anywhere, then proved it by sleeping on the floor in the newsroom during her lunch break. Once when she was asleep, when we heard a scanner dispatch about an injury accident, and she was up and in action within a few seconds.

While photographing a trailer fire earlier this month, she got a little too close to the action, so I urged her to step back out of the way. A Byng firefighter looked at her and pointed to me, saying, “He doesn’t know much, but he knows how to get out of the way.”

Ashlynd holds her dog, Jack Frost Huffman, at her desk in the newsroom.

Ashlynd got to meet my wife Abby and our dogs, Hawken the Irish Wolfhound and Summer the Chihuahua, on one of our assignments. Ashlynd is a “dog person” and has a dog of her own, Jack Frost Huffman.

We were at a basketball camp earlier this month when a coach asked me, “Who’s your little helper?” and after that the newsroom and I would tease her about her new title being Little Helper, which she thought was hysterical. I also began calling her “Ashlynd America” because I liked the ring of it, and it halfway stuck too.

Ten days ago we needed some art for an open page inside the paper, so I suggested the splash park, and took Ashlynd with me. Not only did she shoot it really well, as we were leaving, one of the moms told her, “You’re beautiful.”

Ashlynd and I shot the Stratford Peach Festival and Car Show together last weekend, and we both made some great images.

Maybe the thing I like best about Ashlynd is that she looks up to our profession, and she looks up to me. Few things are as flattering as when people, especially young, talented people like her, look up to you and your craft.

As a lifelong photojournalist, I know how great this job can be, and I will be absolutely delighted when my “little helper” becomes a full-time professional journalist.

This might be Ashlynd’s favorite photo from her summer internship, made at the scene of a police-involved shooting in Allen.
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