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

September 03, 2020 News » Cover Story

Interns Phone Home 

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

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Every semester, but especially in the summer, City Weekly eagerly awaits the arrival of fresh-faced college students who have agreed to serve as our newsroom minions, er, interns. What these talented scholars may lack in their command of AP style, they make up for in creativity, enthusiasm, passion and even trepidation, shyness and seething sarcasm.

Several of our interns have become longtime staffers, including Eric S. Peterson, who now leads the Utah Investigative Journalism Project, and former music editor—now local photographer—Austen Diamond. Others have branched out into the community and across the country, some working for other publications and in diverse fields. In this issue, we touch base with just a few of our old 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.

P.S. If you're a former intern who'd like to be included in Part II—or if reading these interviews inspires you apply as an intern—contact editor@cityweekly.net.
—Jerre Wroble


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Naomi Zeveloff
New York

When were you a City Weeklyintern? Where did you go to college?
It was the summer of 2005. I loved reporting on national issues like immigration and abortion through a local lens. City Weekly was one of my first opportunities to experiment with longform narrative writing. Working alongside former editor Jamie Gadette was a lot of fun; she introduced me to the Salt Lake City music scene.

In 2006, I graduated from Colorado College, where I majored in political science and minored in journalism. In 2011, I graduated from the Columbia University School of Journalism with an M.A. in political journalism.

Where did you land after college?
I was based in Israel and the Palestinian Territories for six years. For the first three, I was the Middle East correspondent at The Forward, a Jewish news organization. After that, I freelanced for outlets such as NPR, PRI's The World, The Atlantic, The National, Foreign Policy and others.

Where do you work now now?
As the new features editor at the Committee to Protect Journalists in New York City. Believe it or not, 2020 is the year I made a major international move for a new job. After living in Israel and the Palestinian Territories since 2014, in June, I donned plastic gloves, a KN95 mask, a face shield and goggles, and boarded a plane from Tel Aviv to Newark Liberty International Airport. I am now living in Flatbush, Brooklyn. 

How have you been affected by the pandemic?
I have, very thankfully, remained healthy. The one, and comparatively small, impact on my life is that I haven't been able to visit my family in Utah. I am eager to see them but quarantine regulations across the U.S. have complicated my ability to travel out west. 

How has your work been affected?
I started my new job remotely, so that has entailed getting to know my new colleagues over email and video calls. It's not quite what I pictured when I envisioned moving back to the U.S., but I feel grateful for the opportunity. The Committee to Protect Journalists has a global focus, and I love being able to keep my finger on the pulse of international news from my living room in south Brooklyn. 

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What's going on where you live?
Compared to the severe health crisis in the spring, New York City is doing very well, with a positivity rate below 1 percent for many days in a row now. Parks are crowded, the subway is running with limited hours and people are dining at outdoor restaurants. Still, the city feels like it has been turned upside down. Many wealthy New Yorkers fled, and the city's most expensive neighborhoods are full of shuttered storefronts and empty apartment buildings and offices. In places where people couldn't afford to leave, it feels more lively, but many are worried about making rent. And as the city mourns COVID deaths, a spate of recent shootings has claimed even more lives. But there are glimpses of beauty—like a cello and violin duo I saw play in the garden outside the shuttered American Museum of Natural History.

Have you been involved covering Black Lives Matter?
The Committee to Protect Journalists is a founding member of the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, which is in the process of verifying and documenting hundreds of reported attacks on the U.S. press during the Black Lives Matter protests. At the beginning of the protests, when I was still in Israel, I was helping with those documentation efforts, keeping tabs on the way law enforcement was responding to protests across the country. The protests quieted down before I arrived in New York, but I see BLM signs everywhere, especially in the windows and the fences of the city's grand churches. 

How would you rate local news coverage of the pandemic and the social unrest?
In spite of the fact that so many journalists are working remotely, New York City still feels like the center of the U.S. media world. Once a week, I grab a copy of New York Magazine from the local bodega and sigh with pleasure over the sheer beauty of the sentences. In terms of local media, I feel like I'm in capable hands in this uncertain moment. I do have one bone to pick, though. There's an issue roiling the city right now; the mayor moved thousands of homeless people into hotels, some in very expensive areas, to stop the spread of COVID-19 in shelters. Several local papers have run stories on panicked neighbors who want the homeless out without interviewing any of the homeless people. It's a blind spot that needs to be corrected. 

What's your outlook for the future?
I have never lived in the U.S. under the Trump administration; after six years overseas, I feel I have a lot to catch up on. I hesitate to predict what the future holds; in this totally anomalous time one thing that keeps me sane is reading historical nonfiction. Right now, I'm reading The Island at the Center of the World, about the 17th-century Dutch settlement in Manhattan, back when the city was mostly rivers and forests and farmland. Imagining the past helps me have some perspective—to see this moment on the human continuum.


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Kylee Ehmann
Ogden

When were you a City Weekly intern, and where did you go for your college degree?
I was a City Weekly intern during the fall of 2015. I went to the University of Utah for my Bachelor of Arts in English and communication as well as a Master's of Education in the Education, Culture and Society program.

What are you doing now?
I work at the Natural History Museum of Utah as a part of the school programs department. Before COVID, I was working with field trips—helping around 500 kids every day have a fun visit. Now that field trips are a thing of the "Before Times," I'm working on developing curriculum for online resources for teachers.

It's been nice to be able to write more and put my English and journalism degrees to work, but I miss teaching and being around kids. It's been hard to realize that there probably won't be field trips at all this year, even if I completely agree with not having kids visit the museum this year.

With my certificate in public history, I hope to work full-time as a general educator in the museum field, either in Salt Lake or Ogden. Museums are such a vital part of the community. We need to make sure that educational opportunities provided by museums are accessible to all.

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The need to live at home right now
I'm living at my dad's house in North Ogden. I lived with my parents to save money while I went to graduate school and planned to move out afterward. But with all the hiring freezes and freelance jobs on hiatus, I've decided to stay put. We all get along, and there's nowhere to go anyways.

On earning a master's degree during a pandemic
I consider myself fortunate in regard to the pandemic. I'm still employed, no one in my family—immediate or extended—has gotten sick, and there's a good walking trail in my neighborhood that's never crowded for when I get hit by cabin fever.

The biggest upset from the pandemic was shifting to finishing my graduate degree online with no warning and no real clear path to the finish line. I'd been working on a case study as my capstone project, and all of that work had to be modified as I lost access to my interviewees.

Fortunately, I had an incredibly understanding adviser who helped me finish. I was more disappointed than I thought I'd be to realize I wouldn't be walking across the stage at graduation. It was hard not to celebrate finishing with my friends—it felt super anticlimactic.

Another challenge has been not being able to visit my grandpa. Due to health problems, he moved to a care facility before the pandemic. And I haven't hugged him since February. We can go see him and talk to him from 6 feet away on the patio of the care home and through the screen of his room, but it's been incredibly frustrating not to be able to get any closer.

Has city life been disrupted for you?
North Ogden is relatively residential, so there hasn't been that drastic of a change—outside of seeing the few diners and restaurants going to curbside pick-up. I have seen more people out on walks. In fact, I haven't seen so many people outside in the neighborhood since that summer Pokémon Go came out.

My social circle has never been focused around festivals and concerts. The thing we've had to change is our weekly movie nights. Fortunately, Netflix Party and Zoom movie nights have been able to fill the void. We're all excited for the day we can watch terrible fantasy movies in the comfort of each other's living rooms again, though.

Her involvement with Black Lives Matter
I have been watching the Black Lives Matter protests from afar. Since Ogden hasn't had the sustained, ongoing protests that Salt Lake City has had, I've been primarily supporting the protests monetarily and by pushing those in my family to vote in upcoming elections and calling elected officials. It's probably best for me not to go to another city to protest in these COVID times.

How do you rate the local news coverage of all that is going on?
I've been impressed with City Weekly's and The Salt Lake Tribune's coverage, while I think most of the TV news stations have done a middling-to-poor job. When it comes to the virus, most of the news stations do well at emphasizing wearing masks but their coverage of the protests has been mostly to look at property damage and ignore the reasons why people are protesting.

What's your outlook?
I'm optimistic about the future. There are just too many people working hard to change things for the better to not be a little hopeful for where we're going. I hope this has been the darkest night before the dawn and that the future from here on out will be better and more just for all.


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Jenny Poplar
New Orleans

When she served her internship
In 2005, roughly one year after I graduated with English and economics degrees from Westminster College. My first City Weekly article was about a man named David Miller who had lived with HIV for 20 years. I was very moved by his story. I learned so much working on that piece.

On her relocation to the Big Easy
I left Utah for New Orleans, Louisiana, in 2010, and have lived here ever since. I moved here out of love for the city. My mom is originally from Alabama, and when we would visit in the summer, I'd beg my Southern family to take me to New Orleans. I loved the beautiful flowers and greenery growing everywhere, the gorgeous old buildings and the very unique outspoken residents.

New Orleans has always captured my imagination. It is like no other place. I love this city more than I can say. I live on Frenchmen Street, of the jazz musician Jelly Roll Morton's childhood. Every so often I catch a music buff photographing my house. There's a picture of Jelly Roll in the downstairs window.

Her work since college
I worked with disabled kids in Salt Lake City until 2008. In 2010, I took a summer teaching job in New Orleans but was laid off shortly after my arrival due to low enrollment because of the BP oil spill. I ended up working on a Jonathan Demme documentary about Hurricane Katrina called I'm Carolyn Parker. It wasn't the glamorous experience one would think it would be. It soured me on journalism for a long time and made me realize that I had a lot to learn about New Orleans.

I worked as a cocktail server at a karaoke bar on Bourbon Street until 2013 and then as a server at a fine dining restaurant in the French Quarter until March of 2020. My final shift was on Friday the 13th, when the restaurant closed due to the pandemic. I've since been experimenting with ways to work remotely. I should be able to patch together some sort of lean existence.

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Writing is a primary goal
Living here gives me ample time to read and write—which was always my primary goal. I write virtually every single day—and have since I was 13. In 2019, I completed a book called Incantations that I hope to release this fall. It's a collection of supernatural short stories that take place in Utah. The pandemic placed my book in copyediting limbo, but I know it will find its way when the time is right. I'm also the queen of salty social-media posts. I should probably scale my commentary a little. But there is so much to critique in this busted world we're currently living in.

How she's gotten through the pandemic
New Orleans has been devastated by the pandemic since Day 1. It is estimated that 50% of restaurants may close in the coming months. It breaks my heart to see such a vibrant social city so sedate. New Orleans always finds a way, but 2020 is a very rough time in this city's storied history. Lots of people are hurting financially since so many depend on the service sector to make a living.

I was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2015, so I have been on a strict lockdown since March. My doctor told me not to take any chances. Please wear masks, practice social distancing and wash your hands so that I can leave the house again someday!

How have you experienced the Black Lives Matter protests?
New Orleans is a predominantly Black city, so the protests here have been very powerful. Aside from one ugly incident on an overpass where a group of protesters were tear-gassed, New Orleans has remained peaceful. I do my best to listen and allow Black people to take the lead on issues of race, since they're the ones struggling with injustice daily. I have learned a great deal about racial dynamics since moving to New Orleans. No matter how enlightened you think you are on this topic, you can always expand your knowledge a bit more and strive to be better to your fellow humans.

Has the media got it right where you live?
I have a lot of issues with the local news in New Orleans. I feel they run way too many sports stories, and ignore really important happenings such as the recent sanitation strike where striking workers were replaced with prison laborers. I guess their primary goal is to keep the suburban subscribers in adjacent Metairie happy. More hard-hitting news would serve the community much better.

What's your outlook?
Unfortunately, I think the United States is headed for some very hard times. I don't see the pandemic letting up anytime soon. I know that I will be OK, because my costs are low, and I have the skills to patch together a remote living, but sadly there are millions of people who will suffer tremendously. My heart aches for them. Please be kind and watch out for your friends and neighbors. There are so many people who need a little extra support. Strive to help them without judgment.

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