Cover Story: As the Intern Turns

(We've trumped more than the Donald)

In some ancient languages, intern means "one who fucks up." In others, like CityBeat-speak, "intern" means "a necessary, helpful, eager and professional person, any age, prone to unpaid grunt work, willing to accept bylines, CDs, movie passes and back slaps in lieu of a paycheck. May often be folded into the roster of paid staffers."

Chief Copy Editor Jason Gargano and his co-editor, Jessica Turner, started as interns. So did world-travelling and soon-to-be children's book author Liz Wu and and longtime Art Director Sean "Shoes" Hughes.

Former Literary/Web Editor Brandon Brady started out under Film Editor Steve Ramos. April L. Martin and Nichelle Bolden came in as interns and have stayed with us, pitching in as freelancers, receptionists and now as a regular contributor and part-time staffer, respectively.

Others, like Katherine Walker, Tim with the beach ball red Afro, Emily Lieb and Katie Gilligan, were superb by any standard. Though they never fetched coffee or dry cleaning and didn't kiss nearly enough ass (mine anyway), they respected deadlines, contributed imaginative and well-written stories and actually acted like they were grateful for the experience.

But those are just the ones we can name.

Before The Donald made "You're fired!" an absurd catchphrase, we were wishing we had the balls to get rid of a few of our own. Some took care of the inevitable themselves, like the frazzled mother and full-time student who found Election Day work overwhelming and quit before the final results came in. It wasn't her fault; she was neither lazy nor crazy.

It's not pretty, glamorous or profitable work, producing what many consider to be a leftist rag distributed throughout this conservative county and city. Particularly if, like many who come here seeking shelter and creative validation, would-be interns list mainly school or life experience on their resumes.

We're like University Hospital — we're a teaching institution. Sometimes it works; others it doesn't. But when it does, we take full credit, thank you very much.

Aaah, we train 'em well.

Hughes says former production intern Amanda Campo, who toiled in old-school, back-of-the-book paste-up, now works in corporate design and publication for The Gap. Along with Dan Mahan, now a Cin Weekly web slinger, Campo won an award from the student chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists for a CityBeat cover depicting LEGOs as journalists.

Former intern-turned-Web Editor Rebecca Lomax is now the art director for a family of community presses in suburban Chicago after a stint in production at The Chicago Reader.

We've had some "wieners" mixed in with the greats, though. Some we couldn't tell if they were eager beaver, overzealous or just plain goofy.

There was one particular intern who joined us along with a gaggle of others from the College of Mount St. Joseph. While sitting at Turner's desk, she one day answered the phone to find an interview subject on the line looking for Turner. Ms. Intern went ahead and conducted the phone interview intended for Turner, speaking with a source she knew nothing about on a subject she knew nothing about.

Another time, while assisting with the Dining Guide, our favorite intern mistook the "wineries" category for "wieners" and called Chateau Pomije to ask if they still sold hot dogs.

And she might go down as the only CityBeat intern to be crushed by a four-drawer file cabinet. Looking for a photo, she fully extended the three top drawers until the weight tilted the cabinet over, temporarily trapping her in a doorway.

Gargano says there are countless interns he doesn't get attached to. Once they encounter the massive club, bar, dining and art listings they're supposed to help compile, they bail.

Others are just too demure for the blue language sometimes zinging about the sixth floor.

News Editor Gregory Flannery says once an intern overheard former news reporter Maria Rogers cursing out someone on the phone.

"She said, 'Mr. Flannery, I don't think I can do this,' " he remembers. "I tried to reassure her that it's not always this angry. She said, 'I just don't think I'm cut out for this kind of work.' "

Then there are those who just don't get it. An intern covering a Ralph Nader speech at UC came back and filed a story that neglected to include the words "Ralph" or "Nader."

However, there were some gems — folks who stepped in and stepped up, bolstering our news section.

"Chris Knight said he wanted to work 40 hours, and he actually showed up for 40 hours and did good work," Flannery says.

Gilligan, who went off to Smith College, was a standout, Gargano says.

"She was productive and organized," he says. "Rare, especially when you're dealing with listings. That's not always the case."

(Every past CityBeat intern, named and not, contributed to this report.)

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