« Return to this article

Know the West

Welcoming our newest interns and fellows

Thanks to generous readers, we host our largest cohort ever.

 

It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement: In exchange for six months’ training as full-fledged members of our editorial team, HCN’s interns and fellows produce an astounding array of stories. In many ways, this program — which has nurtured more than 240 individuals — is HCN’s secret sauce. As Executive Director Greg Hanscom says, “If all HCN ever did was its intern and fellow program, we’d still be making a great contribution.”

We’re proud to help launch the next generation of service-minded journalists and now, thanks to your contributions to our 50th Anniversary Campaign, we’ve expanded the program. This summer, we welcomed three new interns and two new fellows. Wufei Yu (he/him), our newest Virginia Spencer Davis fellow, just completed his HCN internship in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Climate justice fellow Sarah Sax (she/they) took a roundabout route to journalism. Her post-college bike trip from Vancouver down the Pacific Coast ended unexpectedly in Santa Cruz, California, with a knee injury. Eight years in academia followed, eventually leading to an environmental reporting job at VICE News Tonight. Sax fell in love with journalism because “it had everything academia didn’t. At its core, journalism is about trying to make information accessible in a coherent way.” Sax, based in rural Washington, aims to produce intriguing stories about climate justice, biodiversity conservation and the intersection of environmental issues with systemic structures.

For intern Kylie Mohr (she/her), three years in the greater Yellowstone region reporting for the Jackson Hole News&Guide catalyzed her interest in Western landscapes. Mohr, who grew up in Spokane, Washington, has since written for National Geographic and Hakai Magazine and recently earned a master’s degree in environmental journalism at the University of Montana. At HCN, Mohr wants to “be holistic about the stories I get to write, mainly to help people care about Western communities and environments that are new or different to them.” She reports from Missoula.

Indigenous Affairs desk intern Brian Oaster (they/them), a citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, has always been a storyteller. Raised in the Santa Cruz Mountains and Colorado’s Front Range, they were initially attracted to animation, because “it brings together so many forms of art into a story-making bundle.” After graduating from the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design and spending several years wandering Cambodia and Costa Rica, Oaster settled in Portland and wrote about Indigenous issues for outlets like Indian Country Today. “While animation is very imaginative,” Oaster said, “journalism is intellectually rigorous and allows me to participate in meaningful change.” Oaster wants to spotlight  colonialism’s environmental consequences, while helping Native people tell their own stories.

A Fulbright fellowship teaching English and creative writing at a community college in southeast India led intern Theo Whitcomb (he/him) to journalism. Writing about how the restoration of India’s Couum River is displacing poor locals “really hooked me,” said Whitcomb, a 2019 graduate of the University of Redlands in California, who has written for Undark and The Baffler and co-founded the literary publication Counterbound. Born in Ashland, Oregon, and now living in Portland, Whitcomb is eager to cover natural resource politics in the Klamath-Siskiyou region. “I want to challenge the harmful stereotypes about whose place this is, how land is supposed to be treated and how we engage with each other.”

A side benefit of this great program is that sometimes we get to hire graduates; five current staffers and three part-timers are former interns. This issue, we welcome Jessica Douglas, who has just completed a year as an intern and fellow, as a staff writer for Indigenous Affairs. For the next 10 months, she’ll fill in for Anna V.  Smith, who just begun a prestigious Ted Scripps Fellowship in Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado. Smith isn’t just on holiday in Boulder, she assures us: “I will be taking media theory and Indigenous studies classes and working on a project to center Indigenous voices within media, starting with sourcing!”

We don’t just hire interns and fellows. Outgoing staffer Laura Dixon came to us five years ago with deep experience in nonprofits, and she tackled every project we threw her way, from selling advertising and syndicating stories to organizing board meetings and executing events, including our online 50th Anniversary Celebration this past June. We will miss Laura, but are thrilled that she’s enjoying her retirement in her new hometown, Bend, Oregon.

And we say hello to Shirley Tipton, who takes over some of Laura’s duties with HCN’s board of directors, while providing administrative support for Hanscom and our Paonia, Colorado, office. Shirley, a former executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education, also served as a La Plata County (Colorado) commissioner and successfully fought to regulate the oil and gas industry. We remain amazed at the rich human constellation HCN attracts!

Email High Country News at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editor.