The interns saved my life tonight, Sugarbear. Their youthful spirit, their dorky idealism ...
Kate X Messer
In early 1996, I got my first taste of editing responsibilities at the Chronicle. Sweet comrade Julie Weaver was in a horrific car wreck, and I was given her responsibilities as Listings queen until her return. Soon, I was overseeing special issues, and in particular, the "Best of Austin." I'd always dug that beast of an issue, but knew that working it was like poking chopsticks in your eye during lunch with a pack of jackals. So I demanded help, offering rationalizations of a modern polling process until I was allowed an intern. Karen Rheudasil saved my life. She came to us from UT, a webmaster for a department site. Her position at the Chronicle was that of intern. Unpaid intern.
Not only did Karen open the Pandora's Box of databasing at this previously unwired organization, she became my right hand, confidante, the very first of my many interns to come. Soon enough, she was whisked out of the newly established Chronicle internship program for bigger and better things. She now runs production and the Web. She has a bigger job than I do.
This strange woman walked up to me after one of my high school football games. "Hey, did you get any good shots?" We were in a dimly lit parking lot and I was on my way to my car. "Yeah," I responded, in my cockiest voice. "I guess. Why?" I thought she was probably a parent who wanted me to give her prints of her kid, but she said her name was Kate Messer from the Chronicle and she wanted some art to go with a piece about high school football. She didn't have a business card, so I was skeptical that she was a professional, but at 16, I was up for almost anything. I brought my pictures from the game, plus a photo essay on Afros, to the office, and Kate loved it. She invited me to join the Chronicle team as an intern, and I'm still here. That was almost four years ago.
I started here the summer after my sophomore year of high school, because I'd decided when I was 12 years old that I wanted to be a writer. I started working for my high school paper and then moved on up the ladder. I had an "in" at the Chronicle and got hired as an intern, mostly in production doing paste-up. I also wrote little blurbs for Kate. In the almost three years since, I've written more than 30 articles for the paper and am now a freelance writer. The Chronicle is where I learned my trade.
Sitting on the porch of Mad Dog & Beans with a milkshake in front of me and a Chronicle in front of my dad, I was frustrated because I wanted to read the comics, and he'd spend so much time with the articles. The Chronicle is as old as me -- 20 -- so I grew up with it, or it grew up with me, however you want to look at it.
I remember skipping my biology AP class at LBJ High one day to hang out with my friend Allison. We weren't going to do anything cool like steal cars or smoke pot; I was just following her to the Chronicle to scope out the internship she had. It's all a blur now, but certain things stand out: in particular, sitting on the nasty yellow "intern" couch talking with Kate and being hired right there and then. There was also going with Allison to check out her BOA critics picks places and tentatively asking her if Kate was gay; I had never actually met somebody who was, even though I knew what it meant.
Then there was the matter of never filling out any of the paperwork I was told would make me official. In fact, I think the only record of my time at the Chronicle exists in the last three years of staff boxes with my name under "Interns." I guess that's really the most official it gets at the Chronicle.