July 19, 2013 | by Joey DiGuglielmo
Meet the Blade’s summer interns
Washington Blade, gay news, Will Owen, Damien Salas, Alwyn Dippenaar

Blade summer interns Will Owen, Alwyn Dippenaar and Damien Salas discuss their time working with the nation’s oldest LGBT weekly print newspaper. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Washington Blade continues its summer intern program this year with three students from diverse backgrounds to help in its sales, photo and features departments.

Alwyn Dippenaar, 20, finished an internship last week crafting a series of business profiles. His profile of Dave Perruzza, manager of JR.’s is in this week’s edition. Dippenaar worked here as one of 17 students in the South Africa-Washington International Program (SAWIP) through his school, the University of Pretoria in his native South Africa. He arrived in the U.S. June 20 and found the Blade through attorney Glen Ackerman whose practice is near the SAWIP D.C. office on Connecticut Avenue, N.W.

“This has been such a nice experience for me to really see the LGBT community here up close,” Dippenaar says. “It’s been great to see how small businesses run in the U.S. and learn several things I can take back with me to South Africa where they’re trying to create more of a culture of entrepreneurship.”

Dippenaar also wrote profiles of local businesses Maid to Clean and Evolve Property Management, LLC, which will be published during the next two weeks.

Dippenaar is a native Afrikaans speaker, one of several languages spoken in South Africa. He learned English — which he speaks fluently — in college. He’s straight but says having a gay uncle helped him grow comfortable around gays. Dippenaar hopes to work in international relations when he graduates at the end of the year.

Damien Salas, a 23-year-old student at University of Georgia majoring in visual journalism, started his internship in the photo department working with Blade Photo Editor Michael Key in early May. He finishes next month and says he’s enjoyed his time here.

“It’s really been a diverse and exciting internship,” says Salas, who’s gay.

He says his most memorable assignment was his first — with a press pass yet secured (it came later), he had to “talk my way in” to a Capitol Hill press conference for the “Every Child Deserves a Family Act.”

“I was only used to covering college sports and D.C. isn’t always as welcoming to photojournalists, so it’s forced me to really show up and have the credentials and be ready to run with the big dogs,” Salas says. “You have to be willing to run toward the storm, not away from it and this has given me a good chance to do that.”

Salas got a camera from his parents when he was about 14 and became hooked on photography. He says he’s concerned about newspapers axing their photo departments but he hopes in time it will “be revitalized.”

Will Owen, a 21-year-old soon-to-be senior at Tufts University near Boston, is an international relations/Spanish major but has a strong interest in journalism. He interned at the Blade last summer as well and returned this year to work in the features department.

Owen, who’s gay, remembers seeing the Blade at the AFI Silver before he was out and was intrigued by it. He says working at the Blade has been satisfying.

“I just like feeling informed and connected to the city and the gay community in D.C.,” says Owen, who’s based in Bethesda when school is out. “It’s been really good and I feel I’ve had more opportunities here than I probably would have at other places.”

The Blade offers internship opportunities year-round in various departments. To apply, email a resume, letter of interest and work samples to features editor Joey DiGuglielmo at joeyd@washblade.com or editor Kevin Naff at knaff@washblade.com.

Joey DiGuglielmo is the Features Editor for the Washington Blade.

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