The first intern landed on the paper's doorstep sometime in the mid-70s, starting a train of 117 short-timers now scattered throughout the West and beyond. The intern program came with the paper from Lander - literally. It was an intern who drove the truck from Wyoming and helped haul boxes into the cramped Paonia office.
High Country News couldn't have
made it this far without interns. In the early days, they were scut
workers; like duct tape on an old engine, they kept operations
running when budgets were slim to nonexistent. Now they are scut
workers who write. Despite any gains, the intern gig remains a
labor of love - and for many, a rite of
We recently sent letters to former
interns asking them to share stories from their time at HCN. Here's
a sample of what trickled in:
summer "77, says she learned go-get-'em environmental reporting
from HCN editors Joan Nice and Marjane Ambler. Her best memories:
collecting wild edibles during a backpacking trip above Atlantic
City, Wyo., and living in a VW bus at Sinks Canyon. She's now the
Glenwood Springs reporter for the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel;
Heather also manages to fill only one garbage bag a year by
Interns past and present
should thank Susan Tweit, January-May "82, for convincing the
Lander staff they did need underlings.
to Geoff O'Gara, then publisher of HCN. His charming letter in
return said HCN didn't have an intern program anymore. Interns just
weren't worth the trouble."
drove to Lander: "I sorted tons of mail, learned how to feed the
clackety-clack trays of metal labels into the ancient address-label
printing machine and mastered the waxer for paste-up."
Once, substituting for the janitor who was let
go during a fiscal crisis, Susan hauled away hefty bags of
treasures from underneath one desk, including a grimy sherry glass.
"I keep that sherry glass still, a memento of what may have been my
best work at HCN." Susan is now a nature writer and radio
commentator in Las Cruces, N.M.
Jeff Stern, fall
"82, remembers "the decrepit, barely functional, manual typewriter
I used to pound out articles on" at the HCN office in Lander. Jeff
now lives in Monte Vista, Colo., owns an environmental consulting
business and writes part time for the Arkansas Valley Journal, a
Colorado agricultural newspaper.
Mary Moran, "83
and staff "83-'86, recounts the lean first years in Paonia, how it
seemed all the freelancers took a break after the move from Lander
and how "Ed wrote, and wrote ' and received complaints that he was
trying to take over the paper. He started to sign his stories "the
As for her time in Paonia: "I had
arrived with a little knowledge of, and feeling for, the West, but
no experience with journalism. The rate of learning was
exponential. It changed my head and my heart."
Florence Williams, "87, staff "89-'92,
freelancing in Steamboat Springs, Colo., remembers skiing and
rollerblading to work, picking apricots behind the old office,
potlucks, dancing at the West Elk Inn, local public radio station
KVNF, great assignments, a paycheck.
Lumpkin, spring "88, described her duties at HCN as writer, canoer,
camper. After a year of fieldwork in Namibia, Africa, she now lives
in El Prado, N.M., where she is finishing a Ph.D. in anthropology.
Kate Gunness Williams, fall "89, writes that
she's been running an outdoor education program at Albuquerque
Academy in New Mexico, for the past five years. This fall, she
moves back East to study systems dynamics at M.I.T. Her best
memories: "Riding my bike to the office and being stopped by a
flock of sheep, laughing with fellow interns over the weird little
stories you begin to follow in your daily newspaper, feeling
engaged in a lively, real and powerful debate just being part of
HCN. I even remember some of the writing pointers Betsy gave so
Gingy Anderson, spring "89, just
finished a master's in education and is looking for a teaching job
where she can work on public school reform.
legacy: "Up until the time I was an intern, we were expected to
help with the mailing. I think I did it once or twice and then
protested so much that Ed and Betsy stopped asking interns to
participate in that process on a bi-weekly basis. Past and present
interns, thank me!'
Steve Ryder, intern "89,
staff "89-'90, is now working on a doctorate at Colorado State
University in Fort Collins and teaching natural resources
Matt Klingle, summer "89, remembers
"writing my first Roundup seven times for Betsy, drinking Yukon
Jack with Steve Hinchman, Richard and Don (fellow interns Hicks and
Mitchell) on Lamborn Mesa, playing amateur DJ at KVNF where my
radio moniker was the "Red Herring" for my big mouth and red
"In Paonia, I learned to write to read,
write, and think in novel and exciting ways," writes Klingle. "I
committed myself to a career of inquiry in and about the West, a
commitment that I continue to this day." Matt is currently a Ph.D.
candidate in American environmental history at the University of
Diane Grauer, fall "90, remembers
reading a past anniversary issue in which Lander staffer Hannah
Hinchman wrote something about her time at HCN. "I read it and
thought, "I hope it's like that for me." " It was: "The mountains
played a big role in the wonder of my experience, but truly it is
the people I met that I'll never forget. I felt welcomed and taken
in by Paonia."
After a brief stint with a Bay
Area environmental group called Greenbelt Alliance, Diane now works
in marketing for a software company in San Francisco.
Kristin Howse, fall "91, who's in law school at
the University of Colorado, clerked last summer at an Aspen water
law firm. While in Paonia, she became fast friends with her
octogenarian landlady and still visits whenever she gets the
Jeff Hanissian, spring "91, is now in
the hospital part of medical school. He remembers, fondly, twigs in
his hair and yoga with Tony (Bogart) and Emily (Jackson).
Ann Vileisis, HCN groupie fall "91, intern
spring "92, marvels at the community that High Country News
creates: "It's much better than a baseball or football team in the
loyalty of its fans." She's currently traveling around the country
with her husband, writer Tim Palmer, researching and writing a book
about the history of wetlands in the United
Peter Mali, summer "93, is halfway
through a master's in natural resource policy at the University of
Michigan. Recently, Peter teamed up with another former HCN intern,
Rob Bleiberg, summer "90, to write a term paper on the Bureau of
Land Management. He called Ed to get his thoughts on the agency,
but Peter says they were also visited by the "spirit of Betsy, the
"I had started one paragraph
with the clause, "The germinal phase of this organizational change
at the BLM "" Rob grimaced. As I started to defend my word choice,
Rob said, "Peter, what would Betsy say about that sentence?" I
laughed and immediately changed the clause."
Caroline Byrd, spring "92, hopes to start a
non-profit environmental law firm after clerking this coming year
for the Montana Supreme Court.
While in Ladakh,
India, working with a local "counter-development" group as part of
an M.A. in applied anthropology, Ernie Atencio, winter "93, met
another former intern, Mark Dooley, summer "92. They wanted to
write a Hotline about the chance encounter, but decided the postage
for rewrites would break their meager traveling budget.
Back at home in Flagstaff, Ariz., Ernie still
writes some, teaches Elderhostel courses, brews beer and lives
happily with his wife Elsbeth and daughter Eden. As for anecdotes:
"Ask Adam Duerk, winter "93, about Betsy's reaction to a photo of
our two naked behinds taken by Lisa Jones on a mountain biking
Some now get
Sometimes interns, bruised by rewrites,
swear off journalism after their tenure at HCN. But a fair number
have either forgotten the torture or just plain persevered:
In Glenwood Springs, Colo., David Frey, fall
"93, writes for the Glenwood Post. Dan Gorham, spring "83, is
editor and general manager of the Wood River Journal in Hailey,
Idaho, a "politically independent newspaper" that traces roots back
to 1881. Dan Egan, fall "91, covers politics and the environment
for the Idaho Post-Register in Idaho Falls. Katharine Collins,
summer "86, reports for the Southwestern Wyoming Bureau of the
Casper Star-Tribune in Casper, Wyo. Anders Halverson, winter "94,
covers environment for the Idaho Mountain Express in Ketchum,
Idaho. Becky Rumsey, winter "87, staff "87-'90, is a program
director for KDUR in Durango, Colo., and freelances for the High
Plains News Service and National Public
After a brief stint at Cascadia Times, a
monthly Pacific Northwest tabloid based on the regional HCN model,
Chip Giller, fall "94, has just started as a staff reporter at
Greenwire, a national environmental wire service based in Falls
Church, Va. Jane Bailie, summer "90, works for a business magazine
in San Francisco. Zaz Hollander, fall "92, reports for Oregon's
Daily Astorian. Chris Eldridge, fall "94, came from the South and
returned there to work as a staff reporter at the Eesely Progress
in Eesely, S.C.
Vying for the same job, former
HCN interns Shara Rutberg, fall "94, and Shea Andersen, summer "95,
so impressed the editor of the Crested Butte Mountain Sun that he
hired them both Aug. 9.
Pam Ostermiller, summer
"94, sells flowers first, then words. A full-time florist in Salt
Lake City, Utah, she writes when she can for the city's two
Several former interns have
broken way out of the Hotline mold to write books. Susan Tweit has
two new books due out this fall - Barren, Wild and Worthless:
Living in the Chihuahuan Desert and, for kids, Meet the Wild
Southwest. Ken Wright, summer "90, recently celebrated the
publication of his first book, A Wilder Life. He also helped found
a regional newspaper in Durango, Colo.
summer "90, now studying environmental law at the University of
Colorado, is the co-author of The Community Energy Workbook, just
published by the Rocky Mountain Institute.
has trained not only writers, but environmental leaders as well.
Louisa Willcox, an intern sometime in the "70s, went on to become
program director for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition and is now
working on her own. John Horning, winter "90, works for the Forest
Guardians in Santa Fe, N.M.; Bruce Farling, winter "85, directs the
Montana office of Trout Unlimited. Lisa Lombardi, summer "84, is on
the board of Idaho's Clearwater Forest Watch Coalition and the
steering committee of the Northern Rockies Campaign.
In Colorado, Michael Robinson, spring "88,
founded SINAPU, a Boulder, Colo., group that aims to put gray
wolves back in the Colorado wilderness. Lynda Alfred, winter "85,
works for Western Colorado Congress. Steve Hinchman, "86, staff
"87-'94, is a Paonia organizer for one of WCC's regional groups,
the Western Slope Environmental Resource