Meg Vogel

Photo courtesy Michelle Kappeler

Today’s Shero Spotlight is Cincinnati-based visual journalist Meg Vogel! I was first connected with Meg through our alma mater Mother of Mercy High School and she has been an incredible role model for me within the journalism industry since then. Meg is a graduate of Ohio University and her career has taken her all over the world, including Thailand, India, Tanzania and The Congo. In 2017, Meg was also on the Pulitzer Prize-winning project entitled “Seven Days of Heroin,” which explores the growing opioid crisis within Cincinnati. I am so honored that Meg took the time to speak with me, and am so excited to feature her on the blog today!

When did you become interested in photography?
I first became interested when I was in high school. I was 16 and I went on a mission trip with [my school] and I was in Jamaica working with young orphan boys, it was my first time out of the country and I’m in this van with all of my friends and everyone’s exhausted from the  trip and we had a three-hour drive to the middle of the island and my eyes  were glued to what was going on outside the windows. I remember I was so mesmerized and enchanted by the whole country and the people and while I was on the service trip I was taking photos because I wanted all of my family and friends to understand what it was like; what it looked like, what it felt like, and just really wanted to try to bring people with me. When I came back home, I printed all my pictures and I was showing people and I realized there was such a power in photography to be able to tell stories, and to be able to experience life thousands of miles away. 

Photo provided by Meg Vogel

Did you know from the start that you would go into photojournalism?
I knew I was interested in journalism, but I had no idea what photojournalism was. I was looking at programs for journalism and Ohio University popped up and I did an interview and I was like, Oh, I want to be a foreign correspondent. While I was talking to a professor and she’s like, you want to be a photojournalist. Originally, I had no idea that all the things that photojournalists do is exactly what I wanted to be doing. So, that’s how I fell into it and my freshman year was my first time ever taking a photography class … [Once] I started making connections and I started telling stories that’s when I really fell in love with it and realized this is something I can do for the rest of my life.

How did you end up at the Cincinnati Enquirer after graduation?
I worked abroad in Thailand, India and Tanzania as a photographer and guide for Rustic Pathways and I led high school students on adventure service learning trips for four to six months, and when I came back [to Cincinnati], that’s kind of how I fell into the Enquirer. I had a gap in between traveling and they needed someone. 

What obstacles did you have to overcome while looking for a job in such a competitive industry?
Trying to find jobs is so much about who you know. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I was very lucky that I had an internship at the Enquirer when I was in college. It was an unpaid internship, but my parents were able to support me during that time and not everyone has that opportunity. But, those few months put me on a path I wasn’t anticipating and led me to another internship and another and then back to the Enquirer. 

Were there any other obstacles you’ve had to overcome in the industry?
I mean, you’re dealing with a male-dominated field, you’re dealing with a field that is not stable — with furloughs and [not a lot] of raises — and people don’t really like the media. So, there’s so many obstacles, but I don’t even think I’ve had to overcome them. I just think my focus has gotten a lot stronger on the storytelling and the impact [journalism] has. You just have to know what you’re signing up for to be able to like withstand it, and [you’ll realize] it’s honestly the best job in the world.

Photo provided by Meg Vogel

What is it about photojournalism that keeps you motivated?
Honestly, I can’t believe that this is my job. Every day I wake up and the people I get to meet and interact with, and the stories I get to tell, and what I’ve been able to learn over the last six years, is absolutely incredible. It’s just such a full and rich life to be able to do these things … I never know what my days are going to be and I think that that excitement really just keeps me going. Also, I’m so honored by the fact that people will open their doors for their homes and their hearts to me to tell these really incredibly intimate and usually heartbreaking stories and that’s the biggest honor. 

What advice would you give to aspiring female journalists or photojournalists? 
My biggest advice for when you’re getting into the industry is to slow down and don’t rush the process. There is plenty of time to make mistakes, to move to new cities, to have different experiences and I think it’s really easy for us to trace these paths of people that have gone before us who are in these positions of power and success that are doing exactly what we want to be doing. It’s so easy to [compare ourselves] and it’s a trap we all fall into, I certainly have, but I think it closes you down to new opportunities and new connections.

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As a senior studying magazine journalism at Ohio University and a passionate feminist, I created Freely Femme as a way to use my love for storytelling to highlight some of the most inspirational women in my personal life and beyond.

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