When she is not hunting moose or catching fish, Rashah McChesney is shooting photographs and reeling in stories for the Peninsula Clarion, a newspaper for Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula.
McChesney has not always lived in a community of only 6,000 people; in fact, she was born and raised in Houston and came to Iowa State to follow her love of photojournalism. She was particularly interested in the Russian culture and language, of which Greenlee Associate Professor Dennis Chamberlin had extensive knowledge.
After graduating from Iowa State in 2010, McChesney landed an internship, then job at the Quad City Times. But eventually she decided to try her hand at community reporting so she moved to Alaska.
“As a community reporter, it’s a much smaller circulation but I hear from so many more of my readers and it feels more impactful,” said McChesney. “I have never lived in a community that size. I have to say I’ve learned more about how to be a storyteller and a good reporter, a conscientious reporter and a sensitive reporter.”
McChesney said she struggled to find that sensitivity needed to determine which information is important to share in a story and which information could do damage in a town where everyone knows everybody.
“It’s a fascinating trip around this world of journalism to spend time in a community where you can’t hide from people.”
McChesney also works for a Polish documentary company called Testigo, a group of photographers based in Poland that travel the world telling stories for different media outlets. McChesney has traveled to many places through this organization, including New Orleans and the Ukraine. She hopes to end up running the organization in the future.
After 10-hour workdays McChesney blows off steam by coaching and playing on a roller derby team. Her roller derby moniker is “Destroyovsky,” a play on the name of her favorite Russian author. “There’s nothing that gets rid of the stress of journalism like getting to hit people.”