John Temple interviews Pulitzer-winning photographer Kim Komenich who took a buyout at the San Francisco Chronicle in 2009.
The interview covers a broad range of subjects, but Komenich talks most about how he went from shooting to teaching. He turned down a 2007 buyout but saw the writing on the wall. Knowing things had “started to implode,” he spent the next two years building a teaching portfolio, collecting evaluation forms and thank-you notes from workshops he’d led. So when in mid-March the guild voted to give back 150 jobs through buyouts and layoffs, he was ready.
Earlier in the year I put feelers out for possible full-time teaching jobs in the Bay Area. Dr. Michael Cheers mentioned that there was a tenure-track assistant professorship in multimedia at my alma mater, San Jose State University. The same weekend of the Guild vote I emailed my CV to the chair of the search committee. They asked me to come in for an interview on April 2. On April 3, I took my last staff picture for the Chronicle- a portrait of an Oakland Raiderette. A few weeks later I was offered the job at San Jose State.
He doesn’t see it as an exit from journalism, just an exit from newspapers:
Until now, I’ve founded my career on a circle of three things: practice journalism professionally, then teach what I know, then go to schools and workshops to learn more so that I can practice journalism more effectively. … I am finding that I’m still doing, teaching and learning. I suspect the journalism I do now won’t be driven by assignments and “problem solving” for an editor. … I’ll be able to fund my work through my teaching and in the process, I hope, I’ll be able to move more sincerely into documentary photography and filmmaking.