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|| News Item: Posted 2009-12-18

The other side of intern diaries: The Seattle Times
Sports picture editor Kevin Fujii says your internship application is a test of your photojournalism education.

By Kevin Fujii, The Seattle Times

Photo by
You're being tested.

An intern applicant faces a small series of challenges to begin the journalism process. From this day forward, think of your internship or job application as another exam in your photojournalism education.

It’s a simple test.

To get a passing grade at The Seattle Times you must meet these requirements:

1. Make deadline. If the deadline says Nov. 2, your application should be on my desk by the end of the business day on, or before, that date. Do not assume that date is a postmark deadline. THERE IS NO "ASSUME" IN JOURNALISM.

2. Follow directions. The Seattle Times photo internship requires a cover letter, resume with three references and their phone numbers and a portfolio with 20 or less images.

3. Check your spelling and basic grammar. Double-check it. Triple-check it. Enlist the help of a copy-editing friend.

While these may seem rudimentary, I’m dumbfounded by how many applicants failed to follow these simple directions. As the hiring manager, it leads me to believe this applicant would not be able to complete an assignment accurately, thoroughly and properly.

Deadline: If an assignment says your photo will run in Sunday's paper, then you must turn in the photo by Saturday. Likewise, why would you mail your application on the day that it's due? Even if you overnight it, it will still arrive a day late. And, keep in mind, your application packet goes from the deliverer then gets sorted out in our mailroom. So it's better to get it in early.

Bottom line: If you can’t make the deadline to apply for an internship, then why should I trust that you will make daily deadlines for The Seattle Times?

Directions: If an assignment says to photograph Mayor Jane Doe cutting a ribbon to open the new health center, then I expect to see a photo of such. But it’s your job to make the assignment better. It’s your job to look beyond the obvious and make chicken soup out of chicken poop.

Bottom line: If your application only has two references and no phone numbers, or if you have 21 single images, then why should I trust that you will follow directions on a photo assignment?

Spelling and grammar: Just because you’re a photographer doesn’t excuse you from bad spelling and poor grammar.

Bottom line: If your application contains errors, then how can I be confident that your daily caption information will be correct, accurate and fair?

Second bottom line: If you misspelled my name, your application went right into the trash. I have a unique surname. Many of your subjects will have interestingly spelled family names, too. Get my name wrong and I believe you will do the same with a subject’s name.

Third bottom line: If you applied for an internship at the Seattle Times, then you sent your application to the wrong newspaper. If you applied for an internship at The Seattle Times, then I received your application and didn’t put little red editing marks on your cover letter. Conversely, if you applied to The Houston Chronicle, then you would’ve received the same treatment from me. It’s the Houston Chronicle. Always check the proper name of the newspaper to which you are applying. This shows me you pay attention to details and more likely to spell correctly a person’s name, title, company or school.

Last word on words: Keep it short. There’s not enough time to read every word on every applicant’s resume and cover letter. A cover letter with four paragraphs of two sentences each should tell me all I need to know. Awards are great. But it doesn’t influence my selection. I can tell by looking at your portfolio if you’ve won an award.

Oh yeah, this is a photography internship.

The most common question is, "What kind of pictures are you looking for?"

This is a broad subject. What I look for in a portfolio is variety. I want to see that you can shoot everything from news to features, sports to portraits, business to photo stories.

Applicants who only show sports are at a disadvantage. It’s a rare occasion that one photographer would only shoot one genre during their internship, let alone their career. The same goes for students who say, "I only shoot photo stories."

Interns are expected to walk into the newsroom and contribute as a staff photographer immediately.

The norm for a portfolio is 20 images. I allow more than 20 if one entry is a photo story. Everyone should have photo stories. So, in essence, you may have more than 20 images. For example, if you have 18 single images and two photo stories: one with five photos and your second photo story has seven, then you could possibly have a total of 30 photos.

Your portfolio may have less than 20 photos. I would rather see 12 great pictures instead of 12 great pictures and eight mediocre photos to make up 20. Putting in less than 20 photos shows me you can edit yourself and edit critically. That’s a plus when you’re jammed with four assignments in one day and you must transmit on the go instead of coming into the newsroom for an editor to eye your take.

Multimedia is icing on the cake. It’s the wave of the future. But I’m still looking for bread-and-butter photographers to fill the needs of our print edition. Come back with good stills. If you turn in a video edited by yourself, then you’ll find some important eyes and ears noticing your work, your efforts and possibly your future.

You must get my attention first.

One thing I like is a small booklet of images or sheets of paper with thumbnails of your portfolio and captions. It’s much easier to view and compare your work to others. This is also your first impression to me. Fold up and cram your application into an envelope and I’m likely to think you’re a slob in every aspect of your life.

Show me your smarts.

Back yourself up. If your CD or DVD is not readable on my computer, I am not going to spend my time looking for a computer that will. If you include printed thumbnails of your portfolio, I have your images in hand. You should also include your resume and cover letter on your disc in case your papers get lost.

Simple is best.

While I appreciate the time an applicant puts forth to build their portfolio on indexed Web browsers with a timed slide show, I don't appreciate how long I must stare at one image. I usually dig through these discs to find the folder of images and launch them in Photo Mechanic’s contact-sheet browser. I would rather have a folder that contains your images. That’s it, plain and simple.

When in doubt, call or email the hiring manager. By putting forth the effort to ask questions, it shows me your concern to get information correct and accurate.

(Kevin Fujii is the sports picture editor at The Seattle Times. Take note on how to spell the last name.)

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