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Grim's Tales: A good job requires mutual investment

This past week I took a long trip to Burnsville for a drone journalism class. Somewhere along the line I realized that training like this is something I enjoy a great deal. It takes time and a lot of driving, but it is part of what makes my job great.

There are a lot of factors that can make jobs worthwhile to those who work them, from pay to flexibility, rewarding feelings and various benefits. These factors are all a sort of investment.

Of course, we as workers expect our place of work to invest in us with our pay level, and after a while we usually expect a raise. We expect benefits that at least match the type of work we do, and that's an investment too.

If our company does not invest in us, it seems like we might be prone to look to other avenues for work.

However, that goes the other way too. If we don't invest in the company with due levels of professionalism and serious effort in what we do, then we become a worker who is not pulling our weight. Our employers want us to innovate.

Sometimes that means doing something in a way that saves the company money. In some circles that means cleaning whenever we have down time. In most places, it means using our time wisely. Someone who does not invest in a company can expect to never advance, or in some cases, to be let go.

Training can be a great tool on behalf of both the employer and the employee. The employer is often paying for professional development, and perhaps travel time or other costs. The employee is giving their time and attention to something that is quite often optional.

Training is meant to lead to even more investment on both sides. The employee uses what they learned in training to improve the product or service they provide, often at less cost. The company invests in the employee out of gratitude because the value of that employee has increased. It is a great way for both parties to invest in one another.

In my case, training for drone journalism was especially valuable. It has only been since last September that it was realistic for journalists to own and operate drones for small-town newspapers. I gladly forked over my own money to buy a drone and get certified so I could improve our news coverage, and I decided to start a drone photography company in my down time. That was only the first part of it.

Drone journalism isn't like other journalism. If I have a difficult story, I can ask a dozen co-workers how they would cover it. If I am doing photography of a difficult subject, there are at least five other photographers on our staff who may have encountered similar obstacles.

I am the only drone journalist within a great distance. It is still so rare that there is nobody I can ask for advice locally, and even statewide the number of us drone photographers is low. We are all still learning what we can do creatively, legally and ethically, so last week's training was incredibly valuable.

I'll admit I wanted some more creative guidance. I've learned in the last half a year that not everything looks great from the air. Surprisingly, some traditionally boring subjects get a new air of creativity from about 150 feet up.

Photographing a church from the ground is mundane, but a church from about 50 feet higher than the steeple is at its full glory. A photo of the new Highway 371 project from the ground last fall would have been incredibly boring, but a photo from the air showed such a broad view of the new road, old road, forest and other features.

On the other hand, photographs of the ice fishing extravaganza from the air are OK, but not as great as one would hope. Photographs of pond hockey are decent, but only if you get pretty low.

Many other shots that I assumed would really look great from the air are even more boring than they would be from eye level. Unfortunately, my training didn't give me much guidance in that realm. I was one of the most experienced drone photographers at the workshop.

What training did do was give us guidance on legal and ethical issues, which will open countless avenues. So far, laws are not very strict on drones. You can't fly over a person's head and you can't violate privacy with your camera. Drone laws are very common sense and maybe even flexible, which could lead to lots of great photos for the newspaper.

I may not have gotten creative guidance at this workshop, but I will always have an ear open for ideas from our readers. Please feel free to help us invest in our newspaper with new ideas.

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