In this edition of Meet the Media, we’d like to introduce a journalist who is the definition of adaptability and creativity! Her love of photography guided her on an exciting journey through her career and education, and her passion for telling uplifting and meaningful stories shows in her work. Meet Joanna Kresge, the managing editor at Premier Media Group.
What was the path to your current career?
Starting around 8 years old, I would steal my dad’s Polaroid camera and set up crazy photoshoots in the garage with my dog. From that point on, I lived and breathed photography.
I started college with the intention of earning a BFA in fine art photography, but coming from a single-parent household and not getting sufficient financial aid, I was soon forced to drop out and start saving for my education myself. During that time, I married by high school sweetheart, took classes when I could, and eventually enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. Serving gave me the opportunity to work as a military photographer and I got to try out every possible form of photography including portrait, combat, group, crime scene, sports, aerial and more. But the best part of my job was photographing for our base newspaper and becoming the official photographer for the Air Force Cycling Team. Through these experiences, I was able to refine my passion for photography into one clear path: photojournalism.
When I left the military in 2011, I quickly pivoted to get an associate degree in photography so I could go on to earn my bachelor’s in journalism. While studying at the University of Washington, I learned about 425 Business through the school’s Interview to Internship program. Always endeavoring to learn more, I took the internship that was completely out of my comfort zone with gusto and tried to “wow” the team at the magazine’s parent, Premier Media Group. Apparently, I did because I’ve been here ever since and over the course of the last six and a half years, I’ve climbed the ladder to the managing editor of our four magazines.
Which of your stories are you most proud of?
I’m not sure there’s any one story that rises above the others, but I do really love my award-winning column in South Sound magazine called “Now You Know.” The South Sound has such a colorful and robust history, and it is one I get to dig into and showcase the story behind the things people see on a daily basis. I really enjoy keeping the past alive by sharing those stories with our readers.
What is your favorite thing about your job?
We’re living through a really difficult time in our country/world right now and Premier Media Group’s mission is to be a breath of fresh air for our communities. While hard-hitting, investigative journalism is quite honestly the backbone of our democracy, there also has to be another side to the industry that doesn’t bombard readers with doom and gloom all day, every day. Just as much as we need critical news, we need the lighter side to balance things out. The best part of my job is finding those stories that are really relatable and warm, but also make you think while lifting up the voices of folks in our community who most need to be heard.
What skills have you found to be most useful in your job?
Curiosity, adaptability, attention to detail and the ability to engage in whole-body listening.
What is something unexpected that you have learned from your career?
Honestly, my career itself is unexpected. When I was young, my mom would read my school reports and insist I was a gifted writer. I wasn’t inclined to believe her because moms are biased, and I knew my passions and talents were firmly in the arts. Imagine my surprise all these years later to find photography largely on the back burner while writing is how I make my living. So, I guess what I really learned is that … my mom was right. Please don’t tell her.
What do you look for in a story?
I look for stories that are going to resonate with our audience, while checking a few necessary boxes. Premier Media Group’s publications are hyper local to the Eastside (425 and 425 Business magazines) and the South Sound (South Sound and South Sound Business magazines) respectively, therefore we tend to only report on stories within those geographical boundaries. So, any stories we go after have to first check that box. From there, I make sure a story aligns with our publisher’s mission of being a breath of fresh air. After that, I endeavor to find stories that will inspire and uplift. As a parent to two kiddos with disabilities, I’m passionate about intersectional equity and inclusion, and I try to bring that forward in my reporting. I’m also a huge nerd, so anything pop culture-related is definitely in my reporting wheelhouse.
What is your day like at your job?
I can’t even remember what things were like pre-COVID. These days, there is no workday, it’s just life. Like many small businesses, we’ve largely abandoned the in-office model for a virtual one. Once a week, I’ll journey to Tacoma or Bellevue to hunker down in one of our co-working spaces, but most days I’m at home. The day typically starts with getting my kiddos up, dressed and fed. The hours until (late) lunch pass in a blur with writing, editing and virtual meetings coupled with making sure my son finishes his summer reading before logging into Minecraft or taking my daughter into the backyard to play in the sprinkler. Repeat after lunch until dinnertime. After dinner, I take 3 to 4-mile walk. Depending on whether I’ve met my work hours for the day, I’ll log back into work, work on my (hopefully) upcoming book or relax on the couch with some gelato while I rewatch Gilmore Girls for the 78th time.
Who do you most look up to in the journalism industry?
Right now, I am just so dedicated to learning everything I can from our two amazing editors in chief, Jeff Burlingame and Lisa Patterson. They are friends, leaders and collectively my ultimate guidepost in work and in life. Lisa is closing in on a decade and a half with our publishing company and as a mom and woman leader, she is the kind of easy going, yet tenacious, editor I endeavor to be. Jeff is thoughtful and kind, he constantly challenges and pushes me when he sees that my anxiety is getting the best of me, and he holds me accountable when I need it the most. I will also admit, however, to being quite enamored with the late Nora Ephron. I’ve read all of her books — some more than once — and, although she hailed from a different era in journalism, her work still inspires me.
Fill in the blank:
- If I am not working, I am… a mom.
- If I could interview anyone, it would be… Glennon Doyle.
- The last concert I attended was to see… 98 Degrees and Boyz II Men (2019).
- My favorite thing about Seattle is… The Seattle Public Library building.
Interested in sharing your work through our Meet the Media series? Email us here.