First six months, introducing Ashley Conti


I can’t believe it’s been six months since I started at the Bangor Daily News as a visual journalist. Time sure does fly when you’re getting shipped off to different parts of the state.

To be honest I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I first started here. I’ve been to Maine a few times, and to Bangor specifically, to visit friends, but didn’t know much more about it other than it gets cold in the winter.

To give a little back history of me, I grew up in Canfield, Ohio. The buckeye state. I went to school in Upstate New York at RIT (go Tigers!), then from there I’ve pretty much been a gypsy. I’ve lived in six states in six years. New York, Massachusetts, Michigan, Indiana, Vermont, and now Maine. Some of these places I’ve worked at newspapers, some I’ve freelanced or interned at, others I worked for photo related companies. All of them have allowed me to grow in some aspect of photography.

image1When I saw the opening at the BDN, I knew it would be a perfect fit. Maine seemed like a great place to explore more, and the staff really pushed how to present stories online.

Some of the assignments I’ve had are ones I would have never been able to cover had I not had this job. I’ve covered your daily assignments of press conferences and high school sports, but I’ve also been given the opportunities to cover national news and some really fun features.

I’ve been to the County more times than some people who have worked here for years have. My second month I was shipped up north for two weekends in August to cover the 2014 World Acadian Congress, a huge festival of Acadian and Cajun culture and history, held every five years. I was totally unfamiliar with Acadian culture, but dove right in and was able to learn so much.

Recently, I was sent up north again to cover the Kaci Hickox, Ebola quarantine story. This was my first time dealing with national news and the media that comes along with it. For four days I spent about 16 years each day staking out Ms. Hickox’s home with 40 other journalists to see what her next move would be. My photos ended up getting national play on Good Morning America, The New York Times, and various other publications. It’s really cool to see your hard work plastered everywhere.

But this isn’t why I got into this journalism. It wasn’t to have my photos go viral, or to hit huge publications. Instead, it’s to help tell the stories of the people of Maine.

A few of those assignments that stick out are Bangor police chief Don Winslow’s funeral, a special performance from the Bangor Band to honor Henry F. Watson, Saint George Greek Orthodox Church moving forward after their priest was arrested, independent logger Tom Pelkey whose business would be impacted from the Verso Paper mill closing, and Bob and Julie Miner who own and run DEW Animal Kingdom & Sanctuary.

All of these people opened their lives to me and allowed me access that many other people would never be able to have. I’ve seen communities come together to help each other out in times of need. I’ve seen the good in people, and I’ve seen the bad. I’ve held people’s hands when they’ve felt scared. I’ve hugged them. I’ve lent my shoulder for them to cry on. I’ve ran through sprinklers and shared meals with them. I’ve given away many high-fives and laughs and they’ve given them right back. I wouldn’t change a thing. I haven’t worked a day at this job yet.

I’m beyond stoked to meet more people as my journey at the BDN continues.

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