I was quite nervous when I first walked into the bottom floor of an office building on West First Street 27 years ago this month.
I was home for the summer, between my junior and senior years of college. Dale Maharidge, my journalism adviser at Stanford University, had connected me with R.V. Scheide, an acquaintance of his from when they were both reporters in Sacramento, to set up a summer internship. R.V. had been sent to Reno about 16 months prior to take the editorial reins of the brand-new Reno News & Review, after the then-new owners had taken over what had been Nevada Weekly.
I had no idea what to expect; I’d never been in a newsroom before (not counting my college newspaper). But I certainly wasn’t expecting the small, cluttered space where I met R.V. (who was getting ready to return to Sacramento), incoming editor Erik Espe, arts editor D. Brian Burghart, staff writers Heidi Hart and Brad Summerhill, and my fellow summer intern, Sheryl Kleinendorst. I was in awe the first time I met Dennis Myers (then an RN&R contributor, and later the longtime news editor), someone whose reports I’d grown up watching on TV news.
My first-ever story for the RN&R—and for any newspaper other than my college daily—was a preview of a brand-new arts festival. “It’s being billed as the largest arts festival in Reno’s history,” was my lede. “Reno will be besieged by all types of artists for ‘Uptown, Downtown, Artown,’ Reno’s summer arts festival.” Today, of course, that festival is simply known as Artown.
That summer, I experienced sides of Reno I’d never seen before. Sheryl and I often zipped around town in her pickup, doing Streetalk and helping each other out with our stories. She was the one who introduced me to sushi, at the now-long-gone Sushi Club. Brian introduced me to Golden Flower, and later Bangkok Cuisine (which opened that year)—the first times I ever ate Vietnamese and Thai food, respectively.
That summer was exhausting—I was working other jobs in addition to the unpaid RN&R internship, because I needed to save for college—but I was also having the time of my life.
That internship wound up paving a career path I had no idea I’d take. My goal had always been to work in the sports department at a large metro daily. My first journalism job after college was as a newsman in The Associated Press’ San Francisco bureau, and I was well on my way toward that goal. I was originally hired by the AP for what amounted to a 20-week tryout, and I did well enough to be offered a permanent position, but I declined it, because I felt the need to return to Reno for personal reasons.
My second journalism job after college? As a temporary staff writer at the RN&R. I filled a two-month gap between one writer leaving, and another writer starting. I then went to the Daily Sparks Tribune for a year and a half before returning to the RN&R as news editor. After less than six months, in January 2000, I was named the editor of the RN&R—a job I probably wasn’t quite ready for—a month shy of my 25th birthday.
In October 2001, I left the RN&R for good (or so I thought)—but I didn’t leave alternative papers. I went to Las Vegas CityLife (one of the country’s most underrated alternative weeklies, one that died way earlier than it should’ve, due to corporate neglect) before moving on to the Tucson Weekly for a decade. In 2013, my now-husband and I moved to Palm Springs to start the Coachella Valley Independent. After stepping in to help revive the RN&R a year and a half ago, we’re now splitting time between Palm Springs and Reno.
Next month, I plan to attend the Association of Alternative Newsmedia’s annual conference in Dallas. I’ve been on the AAN board for nearly a decade (in two different stints), and at the conference, I am likely to be voted in as AAN’s board president.
None of this would have happened if my college adviser hadn’t helped me get a summer internship at my fledgling hometown alternative weekly 27 years ago. The universe truly works in hilariously mysterious ways.