Subberwal: What I learned during my summer internship (column)
September 7, 2016
The Summit Daily News has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest and most painful memories involve getting my chubby little fingers slammed in those omnipresent blue metal paper boxes. There have always been Summit Daily papers lying around our house, because my dad does the crossword religiously. In middle school, I read Summit Up avidly, and I remain curious about the mysterious genius behind that humor column. I have handfuls of clippings from the SDN documenting my time in Summit County, from the obituary of our beloved fourth-grade teacher Mrs. Hanschmidt to a photo of my best friend acting in the middle school play to the coverage of my high school graduation last year.
This summer though, I've had the incredible opportunity to get to know the Summit Daily from an insider's perspective, as an intern. When I nervously sat down in my dorm room for a phone interview with Ben Trollinger last spring, I thought he might ask about my coffee-brewing skills (negligible) or my proficiency at making copies (not bad, if I do say so myself). Instead, he suggested that I write a weekly column and even do some reporting. I couldn't believe my luck.
My summer at the Summit Daily has taught me more than I ever could have anticipated, not only about journalism but also about the community where I've grown up. At the beginning of the summer, I hardly knew what a county commissioner did, I had never been to Camp Hale, and I thought the environmental health department had something to do with conservation. All these institutions had been peripheral to my daily life in Summit County, yet they help form the core of the character of my hometown.
For 15 years I'd been living in this county, skiing on its slopes, going to its schools and shopping at its businesses without ever knowing what goes on behind the scenes. In the past, I'd have acknowledged Copper Mountain Resort's plans for a new alpine coaster and an expansion of its snowmaking and mountain biking infrastructure with nothing more than an "oh, that's cool." After looking at the Forest Service's 139-page environmental assessment on the project, I now realize that a lot more goes into an alpine coaster than I ever would have guessed.
This has been something of a theme during my time at the Daily: there was always more going on under the surface than I expected. On my first day, I learned that the paper tends to push recreational stories later in the week because the people from out of town come up for the weekend to experience the county's natural spaces. When I attended a county commissioner meeting, I learned about the immense amount of planning that is going into the Lake Hill development, from snow storage to parking to the amount of green space on the lawn.
Just by listening to the conversations around me at the Summit Daily office and through the stories that I've written and read, I've learned about local politics, housing issues, environmental threats, local crime, drama in business and innovation in the school district.
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This year, I will be serving as the editor of the Chicago section of my university's political review. At the beginning of the summer, I had imagined this role on a large scale, and I anticipated pitching stories on Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago Teacher's Union, and the role of the city in the upcoming presidential election.
These are big and important stories, to be sure, but interning at the Summit Daily has taught me that there are equally important stories to be found on a smaller scale. Seeing the way Summit Daily reporters interact with local politicians and community members has made me look forward to helping forge the same sense of connection in our little corner of Chicago, talking with aldermen and local community leaders to help tell the stories of the people in our area.
One of the greatest gifts of interning at the Summit Daily has been this column. Over the course of the summer, friends and strangers have gotten in touch with me to share their thoughts about my writing, and I remember and take to heart all the feedback I've received, both the praise and the criticism. To have a voice in a publication at my age is an incredibly rare and precious opportunity, and I am so grateful to have been granted a platform to share my developing thoughts.
It isn't everyone who is lucky enough to grow up in a place with such a strong community, culture and environment. When I showed friends at college a photo of the moonlit Tenmile Range over Breckenridge, they remarked that it didn't seem real, and I had to agree. I grew up in a surreal environment, one that I have had a new type of relationship with this summer. In some ways, I feel more like an outsider after leaving for college. I don't know what the kids in the high school are up to anymore (although, to be fair, I never really did), the road that I took to school for four years is being turned into a bike path, and it seems like as soon as I left, the county decided to construct a new Starbucks in the lot where we used to buy our Christmas trees.
However, interning at the Summit Daily has brought me closer to the place where I grew up; it has allowed me to see the gears churning behind the smooth operations of our idyllic mountain community. I am so grateful for the Summit Daily and its readers for allowing me to connect more deeply with the community that I love and that I will miss desperately this school year.
Kaeli Subberwal graduated from Summit High School in 2015 and finished her first year at the University of Chicago back in May. She was the summer intern at the Summit Daily. Though she turned down our request that she be a weekly columnist for life, Kaeli said she does plan to submit occasional pieces.
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