2018 Silver Circle Inductee Eric Sowl

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Alaska is a place of extremes: amazing beauty, complicated landscapes, quirky people, new opportunities and rich history. For me, Alaska is home. It's where I met my wife and created our amazing family, and where I've spent most of my professional career caring for my second family—my colleagues.

I've worked at KTUU for more than 28 years. That's a lifetime by any newsroom standard. I've been blessed with adventures near and far, around the world and in Alaska. I've shot stories with kings and presidents, worked the summer and winter Olympics and have hung out on Hollywood sets. But nothing compares to the thrill and reward of covering stories in Alaska. Chasing dogs some 1,000 miles across the frozen wilds of Alaska during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Exploring the oil-imperiled waters and beaches of Prince William Sound following the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill. Standing on sea ice in the arctic chronicling the fate of whales trapped offshore in Barrow. Hefting my camera over the Chilkoot Trail like a gold rush stampeder. There is no end to the adventures, each one unique. Each one worth the effort and investment.

When I look back, my greatest privilege has been the ability to participate in so many unique experiences and join the bonds that string them together—people. It is the human experience I value most. And it is at its greatest not in chasing a story, but in watching other photojournalists grow and succeed. Being a part of their journey is the most important and the most memorable thing I have done. 

I've won a lot of awards. Our station has a reputation for unyielding quality. I'm proud of that. But I'll tell you this: I have never felt as much pride as when I've had a role in helping another photojournalist outgrow us, in watching my colleagues go on to win awards. My biggest wins are when they win. Their success is my success. To me, lifting up those around me is the most honorable recognition of what it means to be a chief photographer. 

My staff probably thinks they work for me. But they're wrong. I work for them—as teacher, mentor, advocate. Humbly, it is these successful journalists, photojournalists and multi-media journalists, who work in varied markets around the country, who stand with me here today. They are my greatest reward, a collective excellence spread far and wide. My very best work is leaving the future of our industry in their hands.