Last year, we introduced this award as a new “Best of Austin” tradition. Named for Chronicle-friend, college prof, and fellow journalist Thea Williams, the award is given to recognize service and to honor Thea’s memory. We knew Thea as an executive producer at KVUE; but it was when we were invited to speak to her class at Austin Community College that we realized how very special she was. As we said last year, Thea treated her students as journalists, not student-journalists. The 2014 Thea Williams Memorial Award for Distinguished Interns goes to Neha Aziz and Nina Hernandez, who both came to us as seniors at UT early last year, and have been essential members of our intern crew since. A friendship struck between Nina and Neha immediately, and their affable natures set other interns at ease. Quickly, they became senior interns, guiding new recruits through the maze of Chronicle databasing, fact-checking, and style. Our fashionista, Neha Aziz is passionate about film and has become a regular at local festivals – even scoring a trip to Sundance this past year. Nina Hernandez is all rock & roll, interviewing local artists, especially up-and-coming women in rock. Both have stuck it out with us, even after graduation, and we are so very fortunate to have them onboard. While each has her own quirky sensibility, their shared eagerness and loyalty results in our sometimes conflating the two. We hope they forgive every time we’ve referred to them as Niha or Nena. And we hope they realize how much we treasure them both. Because for all the times we question our sanity staying in a field where there is no level playing field, where passing fads and smokescreens distract from journalism’s mission, Neha and Nina remind us – with their open hearts and love for this craft – why we’ve stuck around.
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