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Q & A with Dr. Joel Beeson


Dr. Joel Beeson joined our PRSSA meeting to explore ethics in a technology based world. Beeson is currently researching virtual reality with his background being in race and representation. Read here the Q & A after the workshop. 

1. How did you initially get involved with your industry? What’s your story?

I became a photojournalist when I was in graduate school at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism in 1990. I did internships at the Hagerstown Daily Mail and the El Paso Herald-Post before being hired by the Los Angeles Times. I've worked in visual reporting and editing, documentary film and earned a PhD. in American Studies in 2012 with an emphasis in African American representation in documentary film.

2. What was one of the best learning experiences you had?

One of the best learning experiences I have had was during my internship at the El Paso newspaper. I was expected to hit the ground running as a staff photographer from day one, and it pushed me to be a problem solver and better journalist. Because of was at the bottom of seniority, I got the more mundane assignments. I worked really hard at making great images and bring back compelling stories from the seemingly dull, day to day events. I came away with a great portfolio and confidence.

3. What is one of your favorite projects/campaigns/initiatives that you have worked on? 

I researched and produced a one-hour documentary for West Virginia PBS on African American WWII veterans that was shown during the premiere of Ken Burns documentary The War in 2008. It was based on four years of oral history interviews and research in archives across the country and I met and talked with amazing Black veterans who suffered harsh treatment in a segregated military with honor and dignity, and with wisdom and strength. It really changed my understanding of racism in the country.

4. Where do you see your particular industry/field going in the next 10 years?

We are at a dangerous crossroads, with the economic, social and cultural disruptions of the digital revolution. The disparity in wealth, the greed of Wall Street and the enormous amounts of money controlling our political system, coupled with ubiquitous personal connectivity, lack of privacy, uncertainties of Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Everything are driving the polarization of our country into haves and have-nots, threatening democracy, and shaking the basis of social trust and shared values. I look to young people to become active, critical citizens and media professionals to stand up and speak truth to power. That’s all I will say.

5. What advice would you give to emerging professionals?

My advice to emerging professionals is to find your passion, educate yourself in politics, literature, history and the humanities, and do the right thing. You will find work is no longer work, and that you can sleep at night without medication. Money is important, you can do things with it, but people and our world becoming a better, more just and enlightened place should be your guide.