We Have an Issue: Meet the Interns
COVID may have robbed our summer interns of the hands-on experience of putting out a paper, but they’re making the most out of their virtual internship
Pre-COVID, I'd be typing this column from my standing desk at the Chronicle, two feet from Managing Editor James Renovitch, and trying to concentrate over the constant buzz of activity from the interns; there was usually at least one – and sometimes up to four – camped out in our not-exactly spacious office. I'd grumble to James about the noise and wonder aloud why the interns preferred doubling up on the couch, laptops on their knees, to sitting elsewhere at the Chronicle, with a proper desk and chair. But I knew the answer then, and I feel it all the more keenly now: Because it was fun. Because they wanted to be in the thick of it, with James cracking jokes and editors and reporters wandering into our office to ask questions, chew over stories, or just complain about a colleague. Interns came to us to know what it was like to work at an alt weekly, and from our couch they had front-row seats to the circus – the collaboration and frustration and sometimes just straight-up silliness. The exuberant messiness of it, all the moving parts.
Our internship program, as with most of our operations, went virtual in mid-March; this current crop of interns has never visited the office. I'm bummed for them – they're missing out on a big part of the experience: the learning by osmosis, the casual conversations that come from proximity, that special kick when a team works together on breaking news.
But on the bright side, we had to simplify what we could teach them remotely, so they've been spared the usual "grunt work" – the boring but necessary stuff of database updating, blog loading, and so on. Instead, they started filing original stories right away, and they've been producing quality work all summer.
Case in point – this week's cover story about Austin's faith community by Nataleah Small, who's getting her master's degree in journalism at UT. Other intern contributions in this week's issue include David Sotelo's piece on how bike shops are dealing with the sharp rise in demand and Selome Hailu's review of the existential rom-com Palm Springs. (I'm a little jealous Hailu nabbed that assignment but mostly I'm just jazzed for her; I remember the thrill of my first film review in the Chronicle 20 years ago.) In last week's issue, you might have caught Clara Ence Morse's news story about booming enrollment at ACC; Morse has a passion for education reporting that will come in handy for our upcoming Back to School issue. They've been doing very fine work online as well, including Victoria Rossi's powerful preview of the performance art piece "In Plain Sight," highlighting the continued plight of migrants in detention, and Irielle Wesley's recent profile of East Austin farm Urban Roots' cook-at-home virtual series. It's good stuff, all of it – and there's lots more of it to come.
Online This Week
"Communism Has No Place in Texas": Staff photographer Jana Birchum caught up with the roughly 200 protesters who showed up at the governor's mansion on July 4 to protest the new face covering mandate.
Willie Forever: While the virtual version of Willie Nelson's annual July Fourth picnic didn't go off without a hitch, Doug Freeman reports, glitches and all, it was a pleasure to behold.
Fantastic on Ice: The Alamo Drafthouse canceled the 2020 IRL iteration of its genre film festival, Fantastic Fest. Plans are afoot for a virtual celebration in September.