What’s Your Internship?: Joshua Bessex

Joshua BessexStudent: Joshua Bessex

Major: Journalism

Grade: Senior

Position: Photo intern at Seattle Weekly, one quarter, for credit, hours vary by assignment.

What do your duties include? “They pretty much treat me as an employee there. On my first day, they told me there was a City Council meeting in half an hour and asked me to cover it. They kind of just throw you into it which is really good. I still do my hours at the office, but most of what I do is out in the field which I schedule on my own time. I shoot a lot of photos covering different events. Right now I’m working on a dining guide, so I’ve been shooting at a bunch of restaurants, which I’ve never done in this big of a setting. It has been fun learning how to deal with chefs and working with them directly. It’s mostly a lot of photos, but for instance yesterday I had to write a blog post to go along with my photos.”

Do you use your own equipment? “They have equipment but I use my own, mostly because I prefer that. A big thing with photography is that you have to use what you are comfortable with because you have to use it a lot. But they do have some equipment for students to work with.”

How did you find out about the internship? “I got an email about an Internship Thursday with Mark Baumgarten, the Editor-in-Chief of Seattle Weekly. I already had an internship, but it wasn’t a photo internship, so I decided to take this one instead when he offered it to me.”

What do you like most about it? “It’s fun to be in a position where I’m photographing all the time. I work as Editor-in-Chief of The Daily and before that I worked as the Photo Editor. Since becoming Editor-in-Chief I have to do a lot of administration duties and I don’t get out in the field as much, so it’s nice to have a reason to go out and shoot.

“The staff there is also great. I had a talk with the Editor-in-Chief about what it meant to be an alternative weekly paper and it was cool because they are very aware of everything they do. They know their role in the community and it is fun to work for a paper that serves that role.”

Is there anything you would change about it if you could? “I’d really like to not have to pay to take it, honestly. I think that’s just one of the bigger downsides of unpaid internships because it’s kind of discouraging. I’m paying for it out of pocket, which also drives me to do the best I can with it. But that’s one thing that has always bugged me about the internship process.”

What is the working environment like? “It’s great. I’ve been working closely with writers – it’s a pretty small, tight-knit staff. The editors are all really busy. They rely on me to be independent and have an idea of the task at hand, but when I need advice they always take time when I ask for it.

“Since it’s a lot of fieldwork, the environment changes a lot. One day I’ll be covering protests and the next I’ll be meeting with a restaurant owner.”

How do you think it will help you and your future career goals? “Well I want to go into photojournalism so this is right up that alley. I think it will help me because it allows me to branch out from just covering things for school and a lot of people are more willing to have their photo taken or more willing to let me come in to take photos at an event if I have a larger paper backing me. For instance, I covered my first big concert, which I never would have been able to do at The Daily because they’re not interested in The Daily, but they would love to have Seattle Weekly there. So it allows me at some bigger events to help fill out my portfolio.”

What is your favorite accomplishment so far? “It was really cool to have my photo on the cover for a story about people who play chess in downtown Westlake. At first, it seemed like a ridiculous feature when I heard the idea, but I spent a few hours a day for four days down there – the people there are so funny and it’s such a great atmosphere, and I can totally see now why they wrote about it. It was really cool to see the paper that day and see my photo on the cover. I’m hoping to continue to do that.”

What has been the biggest challenge? “The editors at Seattle Weekly have been really good about this, but since I’m working for two newspapers, sometimes I find myself stuck covering things for both papers. It’s a weird ethical gray area and the Seattle Weekly editors have been really good about recognizing that they aren’t paying me and I get paid at The Daily. But at the same time I feel bad covering an event for one paper and not the other, like the riots that occurred in the University District after the Seahawks won the Super Bowl.”

Do you have anything else to add? “I think that photojournalism is a really important field and if students are interested then they should definitely pursue it. It’s a very important, and sadly disappearing, field.”