I wanted a change. I got what I wanted, and it is hell. I chose to move from San Francisco, California, straight to Green Bay, Wisconsin, for another internship. This one is for a local newspaper.
The contrast between the vibrant online newsroom and the drab, depressing print one is stark. I like my coworkers, but they do not seem happy. There is one Internet connection, on a battered Windows 3.1 PC. I cover city council meetings and make a lot of phone calls.
On the other hand, I write many stories and cover the presidential election. I moderate focus groups consisting of Green Bay townsfolk on opposite sides of the political spectrum. I love moderating focus groups. I write about the shortage of food at the Red Cross — and donations roll in. I get to make a difference.
But I decide I will never work for a newspaper. I base this decision on one incident that — perhaps disproportionately — colors my perception. I am sitting at my desk, researching a story, when my editor approaches. A young teacher who was several months pregnant has died of an aneurysm. My mission: Call her family and get the story, then write a thoughtful and touching piece.
I sit at my desk for twenty minutes, staring at the phone. I want to get up and walk out, but I feel rooted to the spot. I do not realize that I can refuse the assignment. I am 20 and inexperienced in these things. I pick up the phone. Dial a number. A man answers. “Hello,” I say. “I’m calling from the Green Bay [paper]. I’m sorry for your loss. Do you think you can give me a couple of quotes about C_____?”
He hangs up. I feel like standing and applauding. (The story works out, with quotes from the woman’s coworkers who really want to talk about how wonderful she was.)
During this internship, I am living in a hotel. I originally signed up for a cruddy apartment owned by the Green Bay Holiday Inn. I was to pay $600 per month to live in a marginal neighborhood within walking distance of the paper’s headquarters. When I went to the check-in counter to pick up my keys, they told me the previous tenant had decided not to move out. He might leave in six weeks, but they just couldn’t say.
My dad was my savior. He got angry. He insisted that I needed a safe place to stay. The hotel caved, no doubt fearing a lawsuit if they turned me away and I was later killed or attacked while living in a less suitable location.
I pay $600 a month. I live in a hotel room. With daily maid service and readily available room service. I get so sick of their menu that I go to the Taco Bell at the mall across the street for variety.
The Green Bay Packers rock the house. The hotel is always sold out, with revelers shouting at their TV sets and populating sports bars. I am a drain on the hotel’s revenue. I am as glad as they are when I leave.