What’d you do at The Inlander?

This Q&A was written by Zach Powers with Pacific Lutheran University Marketing and Communications to highlight students doing summer internships. It gives some insight to my summer internship with The Inlander in my hometown, Spokane, Wash. 

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What is your title, how many hours per week do you work and what staff members do you work with most?

I’m the Multimedia/Arts and Culture Intern. I work 10 hours a week, roughly – it’s a small staff, a weekly paper, and they have a total of three interns this summer. I work with all sorts of editorial staff members, namely the Arts and Culture editor, Mike Bookey; the Listings editor, Chey Scott; and most of the staff writers. I’ve also had the pleasure of working with their nationally recognized art director, Chris Bovey, and the paper’s editor, Jacob H. Fries, who is a former New York Times reporter.

What sorts of tasks and projects do you work on at The Inlander?

It’s a pretty broad selection of tasks – some days I’m doing really basic journalism internship tasks like finding images or fact-checking lists. The interns also write a lot of the brief stories like area event picks; film recaps; and an on-the-street comment section, where you go to a public place and get five different people to answer the same question related to the feature story. Beyond those basic tasks, we write other stories for print and online.

Have you had the opportunity to attend and report on any events or concerts for The Inlander?

I have! My best friend and I had the opportunity to attend the Walla Walla Gentlemen of the Road Stopover, which is a music festival organized and headlined by Mumford and Sons. We had photo passes, so we got to get up close and personal with artists like the foo fighters, the flaming lips and of course Mumford and sons. I sorted through the 3000 photos we took and put them together in a concert review as soon as we got back. It was a great experience for learning and just for fun.

What has been the highlight of your internship thus far?

It’s always a highlight when your name ends up in print for one of the longer stories: I wrote this piece about restaurants closing, which involved a good amount of investigation to just get people on the phone to confirm information. It was a fun process,  and that solving-the-puzzle aspect was a reminder of why I love doing journalism. I also really loved writing this For Your Consideration column, which rotates weekly between writers, because I’m super-full of myself and think that my opinion is the best and everyone should love the things I love. And getting that column published was validating.

Another great moment was when Macklemore came to Spokane, shooting a secretive new music video, and news outlets were scrambling to get pictures, video and information. I ended up getting pretty good cellphone video from a friend’s Snapchat who filmed him dancing with a full crew of dancers, making that into a video clip and writing a blog post that allowed me to expand on what I knew about hip-hop and Macklemore’s history.

No other outlet had video or that type of reporting that only an alt-publication with young people could pull off. It ended up being one of the Inlander‘s most-liked Facebook posts, and it turns up pretty high on Google results – it was really cool to see how something you’re proud of can end up actually reaching people.

Has this internship challenged any of your perceptions of the field of journalism or of what you’d like do for your career?

It definitely has reassured me that I’m in the right career field. I love reporting, I love writing, and I love experimenting with media. Those moments where I’ve gotten to do something no other local news organization had done yet, when I solved the puzzle of the missing restaurant owner or when my friends tell me they read the book I recommended – those reminded me that what I’m doing is really fun, and can be rewarding.

Sure, I didn’t bring down any governors or expose any corruption (yet!), but these simple things show and remind me that what I’m learning to do can have a great impact. I’m thankful to have worked with the really awesome, brilliant people at the Inlander who are truly improving Spokane with every issue. They’re a great example of how local community journalism works when it’s done well.

How did you land this internship?

With my stunning good looks, naturally.

Well, not quite – but it was actually a simple, painless process. I sent an email to the (Inlander’s) internship coordinators with writing samples, a resume and a cover letter. In the cover letter, I explained how my father had read The Inlander every week since I was a little kid and constantly taught me about the impact it was having in Spokane by telling the stories of the community. I told them that it would be a “full-circle” moment for me to work in a Spokane news organization, especially the Inlander since it was the print publication I grew up trusting. I ended up doing a Skype interview about a week after and got the internship.

What have you learned at The Inlander that you will apply to your work as General Manager of Mast Media?

At a purely logistical level, The Inlander uses a really streamlined approach for writing/editing that relies completely on Google Docs. Definitely going to be working with that. In terms of broad journalism ideology, experiencing a real newsroom has made me recognize that we need to push each other — as reporters — to deliver information that not only is accurate but thorough and helpful.

It’s easy, as students, to just take the first draft and be OK with it. I’m coming back to Mast Media with the approach of getting every question answered and then making sure that information can be digested in a way that leaves readers with useful information.

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