Interns Phone Home Part 2 | Cover Story | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

September 10, 2020 News » Cover Story

Interns Phone Home Part 2 

Checking in with the boys and girls of summer who help bring our pages to life

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It's often said that interns make the world go round. City Weekly's world has been well rounded by the arrival of fresh-faced college students each semester who serve as our newsroom minions, er, interns. Some have gone on to became longtime staffers, while others reside on distant shores working in diverse fields and endeavors, employing lessons learned at their City Weekly posts.

In this issue, we touch base with just a few of our intern crew, recording their views on the pandemic, protests and what's happening in their corner of the universe. What can we say? We're proud of each one of them.

—Jerre Wroble

P.S. If reading these interviews inspires you apply as an intern—contact editor@cityweekly.net.



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Sarah Kramer
New York City

When were you a City Weekly intern? What were your highlights?
From February to June 2011. I eventually went back to school and graduated with a master's in journalism from Northwestern University in 2015.

One of my high points was in April 2011, when I was assigned a small sidebar on a proposed nuclear power plant in Green River. The story grew and grew, and eventually became a cover feature. It was amazing to see a piece I'd worked so hard on in print, with my byline, on the cover. There are still copies at my parents' house somewhere. The piece started me on a path into science and environmental writing, which has opened up scholarships, grants, opportunities to travel and eventually, my most recent job. The story also won a couple of local and regional awards, which felt like an affirmation that I could actually be a professional writer. And, of course, it's still on my resume.

What type of work are you doing now?
Before COVID hit, I was an exhibition writer at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Basically, I developed and wrote the explanatory labels throughout the exhibits and for interactives, usually in the permanent hall. Before getting laid off, I had just finished working on a renovation of the Halls of Gems and Minerals.

Writing for the museum is still writing for the public, so much of what I learned in journalism still applies—clear and engaging language, working with editors and lots of research. I also do freelance journalism on the side from time to time, most recently for Insider.

Have you remained healthy during the pandemic?
Other than what I think was a cold in March, I've been fine, as are my family members in Utah and elsewhere. I feel really lucky.

How was your work affected by the pandemic?
We started working remotely March 11, and the museum closed completely a few days later. I was let go in May. I'd started work on an exhibition that was supposed to open in spring 2021 and is now on ice till at least 2022. I don't know when I'll have a full-time job like that again, but it's not unusual to be a full-time freelancer here.

What's going on in your city?
New York was really scary for a while—constant sirens, hospitals and morgues overwhelmed, hundreds of people dying every day. I barely left my apartment in April. It feels a lot better now. Summer in NYC usually means a lot of patio dining and hanging out in parks anyway, so that's at least a degree of normalcy. It's a relief to see local restaurants doing business. Most of us limit our social meetups to groups of two or three. It can be hard to connect—you can't get a whole circle of friends together for a birthday or concert. Plus, I haven't taken the subway since March, so I only see friends within biking distance.

Have you been active in Black Lives Matter protests?
I've been to dozens of actions—not just marches and rallies, but bike rides, teach-ins and an abolitionist encampment at City Hall. I haven't seen a single act of violence from a protester. NYPD officers, on the other hand, have beaten, pepper sprayed, stalked and snatched protesters into unmarked vehicles.

Many, if not most, New Yorkers support the movement; people hang out of windows and off fire escapes to cheer on marches going through their neighborhoods. This city—especially its Black and Latinx communities—have suffered enormous losses. We're now facing a major budget crisis, but somehow the police coffers never seem to run dry. People are outraged. The city couldn't protect them from COVID and now refuses to protect them from police violence.

How do you rate local news coverage where you live?
COVID coverage was, across the board, really solid from the news outlets I follow. I was obsessed with The New York Times data trackers this spring, especially at the peak in April. I turn to the New York-based magazines and digital outlet for more local, human stories, especially from the boroughs outside Manhattan.

The uprising has been different. The protests here haven't stopped, even for one day, but the Times has moved on to places like Portland and now, Kenosha. That makes sense for the national pages, but I'd hope for more from the city desk. Hyperlocal blogs are still doing a good job with the smaller protests that are ongoing, like anti-eviction actions. This is why local journalism is so important! I'm also impressed by citizen journalists who are on the ground, sometimes at several actions in a single day and often at great personal risk.

Any parting shots about "the view" from where you are in this historic year?
This isn't the first time New York City, or this country, has survived a crisis. We'll bounce back. I'm worried about the short term, though—one in five New Yorkers are unemployed, and many are facing eviction. There's general anxiety about COVID cases rising again in the fall and winter, and whether the state and city governments have done enough to prepare.

Some days, I'm optimistic. I hope that this year forces us to reexamine our priorities and change the world for the better. There's renewed interest in local elections, mutual aid groups and neighborhood solidarity. But every time I think I'm getting a grip on 2020, everything turns upside down. Plus, we still have an election to slog through. So, who knows?

Wear a mask, stay safe and support local news. And if you come to New York, please quarantine for the full 14 days—or face the wrath of thousands of fed-up New Yorkers!


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Erik Hight
Provo

When did you serve as a City Weekly intern? What stood out?
In the summer of 2019. Being something of a music junkie, I was especially proud to have written a handful of pre-coverage articles for some of my favorite classic rock bands playing in town last summer. City Weekly published my articles covering groups such as The B52s, OMD, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Sting and the Utah Symphony and Colbie Caillat.

What type of work are you doing now?
My work since I was an intern has been as a Zamboni driver at an ice rink. I've been working in ice maintenance off and on since 2011. During the pandemic, I was able to remain working as a maintenance worker at the venue where I work. Even though our venue closed to the public, members of our department (including me) continued working under precautionary measures.

If not working journalism, are you able to put your skills to use in other ways?
I'm not formally working in the field of journalism, but thanks to my experiences with CW and other publications, I've used my skills to write on my own blog websites. I've collaborated with photographers to self-publish photo-journalistic projects highlighting local artists and musicians. Now, I am living in Provo where I collaborate with the local talent.

Have you remained healthy during the pandemic?
I've been fortunate to remain unscathed by the pandemic. As is common in urban cities all over the country, my hometown of Provo was shut down during the initial wave of the pandemic. Unlike other parts of Utah, Provo was somewhat complacent in implementing strict measures to protect people from infection. As of now, that still seems to be the case, and there has been a backlash from the public to prioritize people over businesses.

Have you been involved in Black Lives Matter protests?
I participated in BLM protests in Salt Lake City following the death of George Floyd. Lately, I've been much less interested in the BLM protests where I live in Provo. I fully support the soul of the movement that still exists, but it seems that emotional un-regulation has become rampant on this side of the divide as well as the other.

What's your view of local media coverage?
I cannot cast a single shadow of judgment over the local news coverage in reference to this year's events. The effort to report is really necessary, although I remain critical of "if" and "when" personal bias is reporting the narrative. I would extend that same criticism to the Deseret News, The Salt Lake Tribune, Daily Herald and even City Weekly.

What's your outlook?
The future is uncertain. Whatever will be the fate of humanity is completely dependent on what we are doing now. That's all I can say about that.


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Nic Renshaw
Logan

When did you serve as a City Weekly intern and what were your highlights?
The summer of 2018. For one of my first few bylines in CW, I did a live music pick for a YOB concert that ended up turning out really well. That was the first moment I felt like I actually sort of had a handle on the format and how to pitch a band and their live show.

What have you done since?
After my internship, I stayed on as an occasional music freelancer, doing regular weekly live music write-ups and a handful of interview music features. For a while, I was playing in a country-western band, too, which was a lot of fun.

Pretty much right after my internship ended, I moved up to Logan (initially for college but I am currently taking time off from school to focus on other things). I've been working at a call survey center for about a year and a half now, mostly doing customer satisfaction surveys and political surveys—definitely interesting given the current political and economic climate.

Are you able to put your journalism skills to use in other ways?
I'm pretty active on Twitter, and I've done some sporadic album reviews for spunikmusic.com, which, for those unaware, is like half a notch above writing Medium articles in terms of how high the barrier for entry is.

My main pet project over the past year or so has been "Pop Goes the Year," a writing series covering the history of Billboard Magazine's year-end hot 100 chart that they've been publishing annually since 1959. I'm fascinated by these lists, because I think you can really get a feel for all these specific cultural moments listening through them.

I've been listening through every list, all 6,000 of these songs (give or take), and then writing up capsule reviews for my 10 favorites and 10 least favorites of each year.

It's sort of a junk food-y, listicle-type format, and trying to actually be a good critic and provide a little insight within that format has been a fun challenge.

I'm currently in the process of building up a decent-size buffer before the project's website (popgoestheyear.net) officially goes online on Oct. 5, so I can post regularly for a while without having to scramble to churn out content.

How has your day job been affected?
I've been working from home since March. Since I do survey work there's definitely a lot of "Thank you for your business in these challenging times"-type statements I have to read off, and pretty much every political survey company has really had to scramble to keep up with the news cycle, you know? It seems like every few days, there's some new development we need to start asking people about.

What's going on in Logan? Is the town shut down?
Luckily, since it's a somewhat less densely populated area, we up here in Logan had a little more time to kind of brace ourselves for COVID-19. I don't recall there even being any cases in our county until almost April. Like everywhere else, most businesses were closed for a little while, and I know the diner just down the street had to shut down for a few weeks after there was a confirmed case among their kitchen staff. But thankfully, all the local fixtures seem to have remained intact, at least for the moment.

Have you been involved in the Black Lives Matter protests?
In my community, it really hasn't been much of a thing. Cache County is almost 90% white and, like most of Utah outside of Salt Lake City, has a conservative majority by a pretty wide margin. I know that back when the protests first broke out, there was a little peaceful vigil some people organized outside the police station, and the police came and, like, brought pizza or cookies or something for everybody.

It was honestly a bit disappointing for the part of me that feels some degree of antagonism is necessary to achieve meaningful change, but I'm glad nobody was hurt.

What's your outlook for the future?
It can be hard to stay optimistic about things given the state of the world, but you still have to wake up and get out of bed every day, right?


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Not the summer for an internship
Graduating during a pandemic

Jasmine Johnson, 21
Who knows? She might have applied to be an intern; we might have brought her on board, had the City Weekly newsroom itself not been a ghost town all summer, with most employees working from home. We're sharing our interview with Jasmine Johnson where she describes what it was like to livestream her graduation ceremony.

Where did you matriculate, and what are you most proud of?
I graduated from the University of Utah with a double emphasis BA in film and media arts with an emphasis in both film production and entertainment arts and engineering (game design). I also graduated with honors.

What were your final months in school like?
I started online studies in March. It was difficult to keep up communication at times when it came to team-based projects I was involved in, but we all pushed through. Other than the team projects, most of my other classes were focused on individual work, so it didn't really feel all that different. I missed physically going to class and seeing my professors, though.

Do you feel you got a pass on final exams?
Not really! Instructors were less strict with deadlines and such, but I feel like I didn't do any less work. My professors were very accommodating with those who needed a break for any health or life circumstances, but I was fortunate enough to not have to ask.

Were you able to avoid COVID-19 and stay healthy?
I didn't leave my home often except for necessities. I suffered from food poisoning once during quarantine but that fortunately was not at all related to COVID-19.

How did your school recognize graduating seniors?
The U had a livestream graduation for us, which was really nice to enjoy with my immediate family. It was sad that it couldn't be the big celebration I'd hoped for that included my grandparents, extended family and friends, but I still got to celebrate. There is supposed to be a December convocation as well, and I hope to be able to celebrate with friends at that event.

Did your friends or family do anything special for you?
We got takeout at my favorite Thai restaurant close to my parents' house the day of the commencement stream. Family members who couldn't celebrate with me in person also sent cards which I was very grateful for.

Do you currently have a job?
No. I have actually struggled with finding employment, especially in my field. I would like to be an editor, which is more of a desk job, but those aren't the jobs that are available right now for new graduates with minimal experience outside of school like me. The film industry is really hurting because of the pandemic and is hiring far less people than it normally would. I'll keep searching!

Did graduating in a pandemic give you a lot to think about?
Spending so much time in isolation did give me a lot to think about. I think it made me appreciate the experience of college more and if I had ever thought I'd suddenly lose the classroom experience, I would never have taken it for granted. I'm an introvert, but I think I might like being around people more than I'll admit at times. I really missed seeing my classmates and professors every day. Zoom just doesn't feel the same.

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