ROUTE – A visual journey down Historic Dixie Highway

Stretching from the tip of Florida to the top of Michigan the historic Dixie Highway created communities along its Route.  Travel with Anna Leachman and Gabi Broekema as they document its path through the state of Kentucky, telling the stories of its people, religion and businesses, along its winding road.

View the entire project here:

Survivors – Finding Hope Beyond Domestic Violence

Ever so often students do a project that shakes you and makes one stop to notice the depth of storytelling that our students are capable of producing. Survivors is a senior capstone project by Allie Schallert and Arthur H. Trickett-Wile that had the room on an emotional rollercoaster during the presentation. It is a story of two women and their journey through the impacts of domestic violence.

View the entire story here:

Roommates: From Western to The White House

Follow the life journey of two Western Kentucky University photojournalism students and see how they landed a career documenting the biggest election in a century

Western Kentucky University’s School of Media and Communication and The John B. Gaines Family Lecture Series present an exhibition of photographs and an evening presentation showcasing Jabin Botsford and Demetrius Freeman’s photographic journey From Western to the White House.

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

6:15 p.m. Photo Exhibition, Jody Richards Hall Gallery, Western Kentucky University

7:00 p.m. Evening Presentation, Jody Richards Hall Auditorium, Western Kentucky University

NOTE: Parking is free after 4:30 in the Chestnut St. lot at the end of Regents Ave.

A little over a decade ago, Western Kentucky University students Jabin Botsford and Demetrius Freeman shared an apartment on Park Street. Their ambition to make a name for themselves in photojournalism was high as they worked their way through the strenuous rigors of academic life. After graduation, they each went their separate way, Botsford landing his first job at The Washington Post while Freeman cut his teeth as a freelance photojournalist and eventually a staff photographer for the New York City Mayor’s Office.

Botsford has documented the Trump Presidency since the beginning, capturing many of the iconic images that became highly discussed news revelations. For four years he reported daily to The White House providing some of the most comprehensive visual documentation of the Trump Presidency. In 2020, Freeman was brought on as a staff photojournalist for The Washington Post. Botsford was assigned to document President Donald Trump and Freeman was assigned to cover Senator Joe Biden’s campaign for President. Following the 2021 Biden inauguration, the two former roommates were back together again, this time on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Both photojournalists will discuss their journey from Western to The White House and photojournalism’s role in political news and its importance during an election year. Presidential campaigns are highly staged events, and they will talk about finding a split second of reality in such high-pressure situations.

A gallery exhibit of over 60 photographs, will showcase their work spanning their career, both in and out of the White House. The gallery will remain on display through April 19.


Our Guests

Jabin Botsford is a staff photographer at The Washington Post.

He is a graduate of Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, KY with a degree in photojournalism and sociology.

Jabin began his career at the Washington Post March 2015 and was assigned to cover Donald J. Trump’s first presidential campaign that summer. Once President Trump took office, Jabin was stationed at The White House throughout his term covering the Presidency.

He was named 2019 and 2017 White House News Photographers Association Photographer of the Year.

Jabin has interned for the New York Times in both New York City and in their Washington DC bureau. He interned at The Los Angeles Times in Los Angeles California and for The Washington Post in Washington DC.

Jabin participated at the 2012 and 2013 Mountain Workshops. In October of 2013 he was a student at The Eddie Adams Workshop XXVI. He has been recognized by Pictures of the Year International, College Photographer of the Year, The William Randolph Hearst Photojournalism Award program, the Associated Collegiate Press, the National Press Photographers Association, the Kentucky News Photographers Association, The Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar, and many others. His images and multimedia have been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, AARP, and numerous other publications throughout the country.

As a student he placed first in the 2014 Hearst National Journalism Awards Championship photojournalism shootout as well as receiving awards for best photo and best portfolio. He has been named Student Photographer of the year two years in a row by the Kentucky News Photographer’s Association and named Sports Photographer of the Year two years in a row by College Photographer of the Year. Jabin has also been named Student Photographer of the year by the Ohio News Photographers Association, the White House News Photographers Association and The NPPA Southern Short Corse.

Jabin is currently based in Washington, DC.


Demetrius Freeman is a Staff Political Photojournalist at The Washington Post.

Demetrius holds a BA in photojournalism with a minor in political science from Western Kentucky University. He has studied abroad in Madrid, Spain and has completed an international master’s program at the Danish School of Media & Journalism in Aarhus, Denmark.

Demetrius began working at The Washington Post in August 2020, covering Joe Biden’s presidential campaign during that summer.  Once President Biden was elected, Demetrius started photographing more often from The White House.

He has worked as a photographer for the New York City Mayor’s office, under Mayor Bill de Blasio. He has also worked as a freelance visual journalism and creative director based in New York City before being hired fulltime by The Washington Post.

He has held internships at The Chautauquan Daily, The New York Times, and The Tampa Bay Times. He also worked as a photographer for the New York City Mayor’s Office.

Demetrius has participated in several workshops and seminars including The Mountain Workshop, The Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar, The New York Times Portfolio Review, The New York Times Safety & Security Workshop, The Missouri Photo Workshop, and is an alumni of The Eddie Adams Workshop XXVII. Demetrius is a member of the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), and Diversify.Photo.

Contacts for lecture series and gallery exhibition

If you need more information about the lecture series or want to connect with one of the speakers, contact organizer Jonathan Adams

The photo exhibition will be on display March 13 – April 19, from 9-5 M-TH when WKU is open. For more information about the photo exhibit please contact Tim Broekema

About the John B. Gaines Family Lecture Series

The John B. Gaines Family Lecture Series, launched in 2004 in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Gaines’ family-owned newspaper, the Daily Newshas brought several award-winning international journalists to WKU.  Previous lecture participants include the Indianapolis Star Pulitzer Prize-winning team that uncovered the USA Gymnastics sex abuse cases; The Cincinnati Enquirer Pulitzer Prize-winning team that documented the addiction crisis, journalism icon John Seigenthaler and his son, former NBC network news anchor John Seigenthaler Jr.; Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Leonard Pitts of The Miami Herald; and Chicago Tribune photojournalist and official White House photographer Pete Souza.

Documenting a Mennonite family by Emilee Arnold

Junior Visual Journalism & Photography major Emilee Arnold gained access to a family of seven children growing up in a Mennonite community in rural Western Kentucky.

Olivia Beachy, 8, salutes during a Bible verse recitation at Franklin Mennonite School on March 31, 2023. Students at the school memorize 100 Bible verses throughout the year alongside their courses in math, science, history, and English.
Olivia Beachy, 8, collects eggs from the chicken coops in her family’s yard in Auburn, Ky. as part of her evening chores on March 28, 2023. “The reason I make lists of chores all the time is so they learn how to help each other, and how to be responsible for what’s around them,” said Valerie Beachy, Olivia’s mother. “I’ve said that idleness is the devil’s workshop.”
Isaac Beachy, 16, talks with his mother about his cross tattoo during a family dinner on Sunday, April 2, 2023. The tattoo is a point of contention with his mother, who dislikes the tattoo but is “glad it is what it is”.
The Beachy family enjoys a homemade meal of deer steak and potatoes at their residence.

Valerie Beachy and daughter Olivia, 8, pray facing the back of the room during a service at their Mennonite church in rural western Kentucky.

Aging in America by Brett Phelps

Junior Visual Journalism & Photography major Brett Phelps  has spent the past year documenting 87-year-old Billy Salsman as she struggles to live on her own as a childless widow. Her failing health and loneliness is taking a toll on her making day to day life a challenge.

Eighty-seven-year-old Billie Salsman is among the 6 million Americans age 85 or older. She has no children and has lived alone since she became widowed in 2008. Salsman has a multitude of health issues and has recently suffered from three strokes that have affected her speech, swallowing, and mental processing. She lives on a limited retirement income and cannot afford to reside in an assisted living or nursing home facility without losing her home. Salsman’s social life is limited to the neighbors who drive her to the grocery store and doctors appointments and the therapists who provide in-home services To combat her loneliness, Salsman passes the time reading the Bible and researching her family’s genealogy, as Salsman no longer attends in-person church services. Salsman credits her longevity to her Christian faith, “You must remember the word ‘joy.’ Put Jesus first, then others, and then yourself.”

Eighty-seven-year-old Billie Salsman selects a necklace to wear to her doctor’s appointment at her home in Hodgenville, Kentucky on April 7, 2023. According to Salsman, her husband gave her jewelry for birthdays, anniversaries, and Christmas over the years. “I enjoy dressing up on occasion, but it’s hard for me to with my arthritis.”


Salsman winces in pain as she uses an assistive device to pull her leg into the bed at her home in Hodgenville, Kentucky on the evening of April 6, 2023. “I sleep with my Bible, and sometimes when I hurt bad, I beg God to relieve the pain. I take my Bible and lay it on that spot. And you know, I soon doze off to sleep.”

To stay close to God and to combat loneliness, Salsman reads her Bible at her home in Hodgenville, Kentucky on April 23, 2023. Salman reflected, “God is the word. I feel close to him when I read my Bible.”


Salsman takes a moment to reflect at her late husband’s tombstone in Hodgenville, Kentucky on April 9, 2023. “My companion, James Salsman, died on September 17, 2008. He was a good Christian husband, and I thank God that he chose such a good person for me. I miss him. I miss him bad,” shares Salsman.


The Road Home by Rhiannon Johnston

Rhiannon Johnstone, a junior in the Photojournalism & Documentary program at Western Kentucky University tells a story of the life of a long-haul trucker, Bobby Coffey-Loy. Bobby juggles driving 8,000 weekly miles while caring for his terminally ill mother. Seeking connection and understanding on the road, Bobby turns to the LGBTQ+ Trucking Network, a support system he founded with his husband Ricky. Rhiannon built an interactive multimedia experience to help you better understand the story.

Please view the entire project at

Losing Cherokee by Sean McInnis

Western Kentucky University’s Photojournalism & Documentary Sean McInnis, a junior, explored the culture and language of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians tucked away in the Great Smokey Mountains. While interning last summer at the Charlotte Observer, Sean learned about how the Cherokee language is quickly disappearing, and the efforts that are being taken to preserve it. To better tell story, Sean created a multimedia presentation that pulls together examples of the Cherokee language in written and spoken form and broke down a timeline of the Cherokee Nations struggle the past 200 years to hold onto their culture.  Visit the it at:

Poetic Journey – Advanced Short Form Documentary

In an assignment in the Advanced Short Form Documentary class taught by Tim Broekema, students where given the challenge of creating a video in the idea of Poetic Documentaries, a from first seen in the 1920s.

It prioritize experiences, visuals, and aim to present the world from diverse perspectives. Characterized by abstractness and a flexible narrative structure, this sub-genre of documentaries boldly ventures into unconventional and experimental forms and themes. Its primary objective is to evoke emotions rather than convey a definitive reality.

Here are examples from two of our Photojournalism & Documentary students in the class.

Rod by Sean McInnis

A look inside the underground, do-it-yourself, traveling musical duo ROD, featuring Micah Wu and Angie Willcutt.


Like Father, Like Son by Brett Phelps

Maya Angelou said, “Every journey begins with a single step.” For Michael Phelps, his journey with fishing began with the first cast he made as a child with his father on a dock at the Lake of the Ozarks near Versailles, Missouri. Phelps continues this father-son pastime with his sons on the pond banks and lakes of Kentucky. Phelps understands that it’s not fish he is after, it’s something much more significant.

Emilee Arnold

Emilee Arnold’s first internships last summer had her covering five eastern Kentucky and West Virginia counties, while working for the Appalachian Newspapers, Inc. A Bowling Green, KY native Emilee is a junior Photojournalism major at Western Kentucky University. Here are a few of her pictures from this past year.

Dean Woods, 58, holds his wife Brenda’s hand during an eye exam at a Remote Area Medical (RAM) clinic at Easy Perry Elementary School in Hazard, Ky. RAM clinics offer free vision, dental, and medical care to patients in underserved areas. The couple were among the first to arrive at the clinic at its opening on June 3, 2023.

Olivia Beachy, 8, chases a classmate in a game of tag during indoor recess at her Mennonite school on March 31, 2023.

Family and friends of Martin, Ky. resident Amber Spradlin mourn during a visitation at Hall Funeral Home on June 22, 2023. Spradlin was found dead at a home in Martin on June 18, with Kentucky State Police deeming her death a result of “life-threatening injuries from suspected foul play”. Her family alleged at a later press conference that she was stabbed eleven times. As of September 18, no arrests have yet been made in connection to her case.

In the weeks following her death, relatives of Spradlin made calls for justice through demonstrations, a vigil, and memorial services. Her family says that they seek to keep Amber’s story in the community’s memory and see the perpetrator brought to justice.

Eli Randolph

WKU junior Eli Randolph discovered one of the best things about photojournalism this past year.  Having consistent class assignments pushing him into the community, Eli discovered the photojournalism joy of meeting amazing strangers every day and stepping into their lives for a brief moment. Here are a few pictures the Murfreesboro TN native took the past year at school.

Four cowboys walk through smoke while holding the American flag before a rodeo event in Bowling Green, KY, Saturday, February 11th,2023. The scene depicts a patriotic display of Western heritage and American pride as the riders prepare for the competition. The atmosphere surrounding the flag was unmatched as the bearers honored United States service members. With the smoke and dust in the air the flag was unfurled and the national anthem sang.

Landon and Millie Westbrook sit in their kitchen after returning from a funeral at 10 pm on April 20, for a family friend whose father committed suicide the week prior. “After the tornados tore down all of his barns he was never really the same,” said Landon. According to the CDC farmers are twice as likely as people in other occupations to die by suicide.

Millie walks her zebra, Marti, though the doors of her barn to get it used to being led. Although there is a lot of struggles farming and surviving doing so there are moments of peace. Over the past 4 years Millie has refurbished an old tobacco barn to be a clean, welcoming space for people to rent for anything from weddings to birthday parties. In the early days of using the barn she got increasing questions from customers to pet her animals in one of the adjacent barns. After having so much feedback she decided to make a part of the event barn package.