Nobody ever mentions how hard it is to have an intern.
It’s like having a puppy. An internship program takes a huge amount of time. It takes coddling and stroking: “One of those twenty sentences you wrote was really good.” Counseling: “Don’t take the late shift at the radio station.” It takes housing, if that’s what you could call Intern Acres, in our time. The editing itself is a monster task: cracking down on the inevitable redundancy, boringness, passive voice, and misunderstandings is an Augean task, a Sisyphean struggle. And this instruction, education, support, and in some cases Marine-corps like breaking-down and building-up takes editors and staff away from the hard task of getting out a newspaper. So why do it?
The answer is that the internship at High Country News may be more important than the work of the paper itself, and High Country News has always known it. HCN is a unique,and uniquely desirable place to learn the key skill for any leadership position in the world—writing. Good writing is, of course, good thinking. And good thinking is how we solve problems.
HCN’s program, while “stealth,” in many ways, might well be the best intensive writing education program on the planet. Each of us has used the skills and connections we developed there to slowly, painfully, improve the world. Like the internship, it hasn’t been easy. But that’s part of the fun. If your 200 word “Hotline” didn’t come back with catastrophic edits all over it, what would be the point? Perfection, we know, is secret code for “boring.”
This is all a long way of saying that the HCN internship program isn’t just an internship. It’s part of how we as Americans create an engaged population and develop leaders; it’s how we preserve democracy through independent reporting and thinking; it’s how we protect the environment through a coming together of diverse people and and viewpoints.
Importantly, as a target of your philanthropy, the High Country News Internship Fund is a lean and effective way to pursue goals both ethereal and concrete, but also universal. Citizenship. Environmentalism. Democracy. Compassion. You see the influence of these ideas—and of High Country New’s great program—in the landscape of the West itself, and in the increasingly craggy faces of old interns who reflect that place.
My affiliation with HCN brought me into a questionable fraternity of unbalanced drifters like Clay Fong, a Korean Taco reviewing mediator; Rick Craig, a mountain mystery novel writing fine carpenter (who loaned me his truck); Kristin Howse, a water law practicing landlord (she rented me a walk-in closet). That, plus a network, and learning how to write, sounds like a recipe for a complete life. (HCN did not provide wife and family, however.)
While I didn't realize it at the time, my High Country News internship launched me down a career path touching on journalism, law, and natural resource issues that continues to this day. Not only did my time at HCN give me the opportunity to receive a graduate level education in journalism and environmental issues in the West, and but also to forge lifelong friendships.
Kristin Howse Moseley
I currently work as a water attorney representing ranches, municipalities and recreational interests on water rights and water quality matters in the Rocky Mountain West. My internship at High Country News was very influential on the course of my career, providing me with a wonderful introduction into the myriad conflicts and complexity of Western water issues. I recall with great fondness, my time in Paonia and am grateful to have had the internship experience.
I arrived at High Country News as a twenty-seven-year-old wilderness course instructor and aspiring writer. I came expecting to learn nuts and bolts writing skills, and I did. What I didn’t expect—as a native Westerner deeply in love with our landscape and rather smug about my knowledge of it—was a wealth of new perspectives and clear thinking that showed me how little I actually knew. Economics, biodiversity, public lands policy, water wars, endangered species, grazing rights—a whole host of issues broken into bands of pure light by the prism of HCN’s analysis, then swirled together again into a coherent whole by the ruminating essays some of our best thinkers and writers.
The HCN internship program has enriched a whole generation of thinkers and leaders. Let’s keep it going for generations to come!