The Spokesman-Review : interns

Monday, July 23, 2007

Stef: Coeur D'Alene River 2 -- Spokesman Interns 0

As Sara aptly put it, the river wins . We surrender.

Yesterday, the interns and former interns (Parker, Lacey, Meghann and Shadra) spent a lazy afternoon rafting down the Coeur D'Alene river.

The trip was a blast, and we had an amazing time.

Of course that was before I practically killed myself trying to scale up the rock face to get back to the car.

We'd finished rafting and deflated all the rafts, and were taking turns playing on the rope swing connected to the underside of the bridge. A little after 4 p.m. I started getting antsy about getting back to Spokane because I had an Indians game to cover at 6 p.m.

So I'm standing on the rocks, behind Megs and a couple of other people, impatiently waiting for them to get up the natural(ish) 'stairway' that led back up to the highway.

But in my haste to get going, I decide what the heck, I'm not gonna wait. I'm just gonna try and scale the steeper side of the rock face to get back up so that we can get this show on the road. I'd climbed that same portion of rock a couple of times already that afternoon, so it wasn't like it was impossible.

More haste less speed apparently.

So I'm reaching up to grab onto a handhold. And my fingers latch onto a chunk of rock. Great. Handhold. I put weight on it, and I distinctly remember that at this point, the thought did occur to me that it might be a better idea to just wait the five seconds it would take for the people in front of me to move.

But of course I dismissed the misgivings.

So I put my weight on my arms, and suddenly the rock seems a lot slicker than it felt the first couple of times I'd climbed up that way. My hands slipped, and then I'm scrabbling at rock with my feet realizing that this was probably A. Bad. Idea., and that this could be bad, because there was nothing beneath me but rock and more rock. The water was a little too far away for me to hope to fall into.

Disaster was averted when Shadra somehow caught me mid-slip and steadied me by the waist.

In my relief, I didn't realize until I was clambering up the easy way, that my left foot was kinda wet.

Reach down with fingers. Fingers touch liquid.

That's blood.

Wait. That's MY blood pooling below me.

Apparently I'd sliced an inch-long gash into the underside of my foot while scrabbling around to try and find purchase on the rock as I was slipping.

Well this is fun.

Parker says he has a first aid kit and he runs to get it. I'm sitting there thinking that he's gonna come back with one of those tiny like hiking aid kits that has like three band aids and a roll-up bandage in it.

Nope. The thing he brings back is like the 5-star version of all first-aid kits. He sits there flipping through a selection of different bandages and I'm marvelling at the sight.

So the former Boy Scout ( :) ) and a bunch of people clean me up, and then Sara and Jess bundle me into the car and we head back to Spokane.

Guess I won't be covering the Indians game after all.

Back in town, we figure I might need a tetanus shot and that we should have a doctor just check out the foot. So Sara and I spend the next two hours at the Emergency Room.

Finally, a tetanus shot and four stitches later, I'm hobbling around on one crutch because two crutches, a gimpy foot and a good leg are too much for me to coordinate all at once, and I do not relish the idea of tripping on one of those damn things and breaking my face.

Today, word on the street in that Shadra's out for the day with Sun Poisoning.

Wow. Some weekend huh? I nearly died as a result of my own sheer dumb impatience, and the person who saved me is now fried.


The River wins already. Okay. We give up and all hail the mighty power of nature.

P.S. The doctor said Parker said an "excellent job" on the field dressing.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Donna: "Near Nature. Near perfect."

My first thought when I arrived in Spokane: I don't think I've ever seen so many trees in my life.

And that was just while I was on the freeway.

Yesterday the outdoor editor Rich Landers led Mark, Stef and I on a hike to Stevens Lakes. He was working on a story about the Spokane Mountaineers club's trail cleanup and was kind enough to invite the interns along.

At the starting point we met with three members of the Mountaineers Club. There was Lin, a one-man forestry crew (he carried garbage bags for picking up trash, as well as cutting shears, an ax and a saw for keeping the trail clear of foliage that would trip clumsy hikers such as myself), Chick, who looks like he has wrestled a bear or two (the man has a full, shaggy, gray beard and talked his adventures in Patagonia for goodness' sake!), and Stephanie, a kind-hearted biologist, who took pity on me and lent me her hiking pole-thingie when my flimsy running shoes started to suffocate my feet.

I had been hiking before at John Muir Woods, a national park near San Francisco. But those were leisurely 5-mile strolls compared to hiking up this mountain.

The hike was 10-miles round trip, a breeze for Rich and the Mountaineers Club, and, it seemed, for Mark and Stef, who are frequent bikers. For me, not so much.

I'm such a city girl.

But it was incredibly worth it. The lakes were beautiful. Smooth and clear, they were like polished stones tucked around the mountain peak.

And it was clean. The water was so clear, we could see to the bottom. The fire pits around the lake, aside from ashes from an extinguished camp fire, had no debris or very little. Fire pits and lakes in San Francisco do not look like this.

Rich and the Mountaineers told me that the area and trails are usually not this clean. They still came away with a bag full of garbage

The trip was great, but what I enjoyed most of the passion Rich and the mountaineers had for the environment around them and for hiking. They scoured the lake areas and trails, picking up bits of paper, tape, plastic and foil among other things. They gave us time to stop and appreciate the waterfalls we came across and the views of the tree-coved mountain peaks around us.

We watched as Rich scooped up a baby bird that had fallen out if its nest, putting it in foliage around the trail so it wouldn't get stepped on.

Lin's voice was filled with excitement when he found a nice bear bag (a bag hung up on a tree, used to keep food away from bears) that someone had left behind. Since he already owned one, he courteously left it there in case someone else who needed one came along. Then Rich's eyes lit up when Stef found a metal peg in the shrubbery (not sure what it was for, but apparently it was something very cool and useful).

And all of them couldn't seem to stop smiling.

It was a great inspiration for me. Even though San Francisco is trying to become a zero-waste city, I have many friends and family who often discourage me from worrying about environmental issues. There is a big “What’s the point?” attitude among them.

At the end of the trip, we found out that Lin takes a group hiking every Wednesday evening. These hikes are much shorter and the group consists of expert hikers and novices alike he assured me.

Looks like I’ll be buying my first pair of hiking boots soon. And some more Bengay cream. Lots of it.

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Mark: 4th of July at the newsroom...

I felt lucky on the 4th of July to copy edit the Nathan's Famous hot dog eating championship story.
I don't really know why, but I've become pretty fascinated with the Japanese champ Kobayashi and this whole competitive eating culture. I also have a glow of pride because Joey Chestnut, the new hot dog champ, is from San Jose, my hometown.
My headline for the story: "U.S. champ eats 66 hot dogs in glutton gantlet"
I think that headline got changed, though.
Don't get me wrong. This whole competitive eating craze is disgusting, unhealthy and unnatural. But for those very reasons, the juvenile side of me is intrigued.
Few would deny that it's stupid, but there's a hint of human purity in the quest to achieve something despite bodily harm or common sensibility... even if that quest is shoveling wieners down your stomach.
I think it's the same reason why Evel Knievel had such a following even though he was performing motorcycle stunts that usually pulverized his body.
Fun fact: Evel Knievel supposedly is the only person who has broken every bone in his body. From his record of painful crashes, I don't doubt it.
But with pro competitive eaters, I'm curious what their real motives are for gorging themselves beyond any possibility for pleasure.
I doubt it's money. On Wednesday, Chestnut won a paltry $10,000 for devouring 66 hot dogs in 12 minutes. Unless he's getting massive sponsors or commercial deals, then I doubt he sees much financial gain.
Maybe competitive eaters do it just for the fame. But what kind of fame could one expect from chowing on hot dogs?
Whatever the reasons for why they pursue it, this whole hot dog craze reminded me of an awesome cartoon from SNL that was conveniently posted on YouTube:

Funny stuff!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Spokane: where the roads are lined with flowers

The ride to and from work along the Centennial Trail has become the best work commute I have ever had in my life.

Unlike most of my fellow interns, I work in the evenings and I usually start riding home on my rusty, old bike around midnight. At that time, typically no one is out on the trail.

I got off work a little later than usual last night, and when I started riding through River Front Park, I discovered flowers were scattered all over the path.

At first I thought the flowers were bouquets in tribute to someone who died — maybe Jimmy Marks or one of the recent river drownings.

But actually, they were new flower plants from the concrete planter boxes. Likely for no reason at all, a person had uprooted almost all of the planter-box flowers and discarded them across the ground. I counted about 40 Petunia plants that had been freshly ripped out.

I wish I had a camera at the time to photograph this senseless destruction. I talked with a teenage couple sitting nearby and they said they had heard a group of people making a lot of noise earlier.

I rode along the trail, but I didn't see anymore people or flowers on the path.

But when I got home, I was still angry thinking about how some people could be so reckless. I told my housemate about it, and I liked his response:

“The best thing about a public park is it's public,” he said. “And the worst thing about a public park is it's public.”

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Jessica: Eating More than My Words

I grew increasingly concerned at the end of May with the laughter that followed my announcement: I’m moving to Spokane this summer.

“You’re going where?” was the response from some Berkeley elitists who view any city with fewer than seven different ethnic restaurants as uninhabitable.

It’s not my summer internship at The Spokesman-Review that made them scoff. The paper is well regarded in journalism schools for its regional coverage, including the one I attend, University of California-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. What spurred the chuckles was the notion these Northern California die-hards carried about Spokane, described to me as something between a Midwest turnpike stop and an industrial-based, Mohawk-sporting town.

I told them that’s part of the reason I chose to come. It’s an area of the country I’ve never encountered. As I reporter I need to learn how to cover town council meetings as eloquently and thoroughly as protests in Kosovo. Plus, it’s beautiful, I added. To further pacify myself, I would spout off one of Spokane’s numerous mottos and reiterate key phrases from the guidebook regarding scenic views from South Hill or trails along the river.

Actually, I gulped. I packed my Vietnamese hot sauce and rice noodles. I threw a library of books into the trunk of my car. I read what I thought would be my last hard copy of The New York Times.

Then I arrived.

I entered Huckleberry’s and found that the prices rival San Francisco’s. The beer selection is greater than in my hometown of Washington, D.C. I walked downtown and discovered a minimalist-style wine bar lodged between classic brick buildings. There was even a skyline.

Beyond the availability of goods--although being an outrageous but broke foodie, I did feel some relief at these discoveries--art and music festivals were taking place the weekend I arrived and posters advertised concerts and events throughout the summer.

The city oozed a character that surprised me. Somewhere between yuppie trendiness and blue collar comfort, Spokane is reinventing itself. But it’s doing so at its own pace. First impressions are often overly generalized, and I hesitate to make such assumptions so quickly. Yet, visitor perceptions can sometimes reveal what longtime residents have ceased to notice.

Most importantly, the people characterize a town, and there’s something to be said about community. A Friday afternoon discussion with two women at an outside café in Browne’s Addition grew into a table of eight and an entire evening, followed by sailing on “the lake” the next day.

I might not be used to smiling at strangers and I will probably crave Indian food at some point during these next two months. Yet, to cast aside Spokane as a bland small town on the way to somewhere else is to miss out on a city worth exploring.


Friday, May 25, 2007

Stef: Rare Display of Courage

Eugene, Ore. — Some of the top track and field athletes in the nation convened in Eugene, Ore. this weekend to compete in the NCAA West Regionals. Many of these athletes are legends in the making. Some, like Oregon's Rebekah Noble and Galen Rupp, are the names we'll be hearing at the Beijing Olympics next year.

But when I left the track this evening, the image that resonated in my head was not one of Rupp sprinting to the tape, arms raised in triumph, or of Stanford's Theresa McWalters' come from behind win in the Women's 5000m as she passed Brigham Young's Whitney McDonald with about 40 meters to go down the homestretch of the bell lap.

The image that stuck with me was one of Portland's Amie Dahnke, pale cheeks flushed, rail-thin body wavering as she half-jogged and half-stumbled over the finish line, almost two minutes after McWalters' first place finish.

To me, the fact that Dahnke had even finished was a miracle in itself.

With five laps to go in the 25-lap, 5000m race, Dahnke, had already fallen at least a half-lap behind everyone else. She was dead last by more than 100m, and every time she passed the pen where I was standing with all the journalists, it seemed to me as if she was looking wearier and wearier.

At the 4000m mark, I watched as Dahnke — a Spokane native who graduated from University High School in 2004 — fell farther and farther behind the pack, and I couldn't help but feel bad for her. She was running so slowly she seemed to practically shuffle. Her fists were clenched as she ran, and her face was set in a worried grimace. She no longer appeared to be able to run between the lines the delineated the first lane. Instead, she swayed and wavered into Lane 2, and looked as if she didn't even know she was there.

"I bet she's gonna drop out," I remarked to a fellow journalist. He agreed with me.

"She can't even stay between the lines anymore," he said.

We watched as Dahnke approached the far curve closest to the athletes' holding pen, to see if she would just stop running and walk off the track, just as I'd seen a couple of other laggards do in the men's 5,000m race fifteen minutes earlier.

But to my surprise, she kept going. Her steps were small and measured, and each time she passed the spot where I was standing, the pained expression on her face made it evident that she was struggling. But Dahnke kept running.

On the bell lap, McDonald and McWalters easily lapped Dahnke, and so did the rest of the pack.

My heart went out to Dahnke as she crossed the finish line where the other athletes stood around panting in exhaustion after having finished the race. And I thought she'd just stop and throw in the towel right there.

But once again, Dahnke kept going.

She shuffled past all the bent over atheletes. And it became evident that she was determined to complete the last lap even if it killed her.

I didn't see her come in because I'd turned my attention to the times being announced over the PA. But I did notice that she'd eventually clocked in at 17:52.78. To put that in context, McWalters finished the race in 16:04.92.

Upon to that point, my interest in Dahnke extended only as far as a mere fleeting respect for her tenacity in finishing that race. The magnitude of her courage didn't quite hit me until after I'd left Hayward Field and was walking past the athletes' cool-down fields to get home.

As I walked through the gate separating both fields, I caught sight of a tall, lanky figure decked in Portland's purple-and-white uniform, standing at one corner of the cool down fields crying.

Dahnke was sobbing. She was just standing there, holding her hands to her face and crying in a gut-wrenching manner that conveyed every ounce of the exhaustion and disappointment that I imagined she must have been feeling. One of her teammates came over and hugged her. And as I stood there watching Dahnke cry into that other girl's shoulder, I was suddenly struck by a much deeper respect for her.

As a sportswriter, my gut instinct is to always look out for the winner because I'm trained to believe that that's what matters Get the quote from the guy who wins because he's the one people want to read about in the paper tomorrow.

But at that moment it hit me that it must have been infinitely harder for Amie Dahnke to finish that race — to continue on that final lap knowing that everyone else was already done — than it had been for Galen Rupp to cruise to the tape triumphant.

Dahnke had staggered in so far behind the rest of the field that her result had already ceased to matter. She didn't have to finish that race. But she did anyway, regardless of the fact that she looked dangerously close to passing out throughout the last two laps.

She finished even though it took her just about everything she had.

And that to me is the stuff that real champions are made off.

When I got home, I Googled her and realized that her post-race breakdown probably resulted from acute disappointment. A month ago, Dahnke had run that very same race in 16:51.55.

My greatest regret is that I didn't stop to talk to her this afternoon. I just kept on going. Because as I stood there watching her collapse in disappointment, I decided that I didn't need that story. Not then. Women's track is not my beat, and Dahnke is not a Duck, so there was no reason to put her in our paper anyway. I decided that after that draining race she'd earned her right to some sort of privacy.

But I was touched by her courage nonetheless.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Stef: AWSM Day 3

Originally written, Sunday, May 20, 2007

Growing up, when I told my mother that I wanted to write sports for a living one day, she looked at me skeptically and said that's great honey, but you're going to be working in a man's world.

On some level I've always known that. But in my career thus far, I've been fortunate enough to have worked with men who've been nothing supportive of me, regardless of my gender.

So it was definitely an eye-opener to hear the stories told by some of the pioneering women in the field whom I met over the course of this weekend.

When Margaret Koy Kistler first started writing sports for a Texas daily newspaper in the 1940s, she had to wait on the verdict of a local school board meeting that would decide whether or not she would be allowed into the locker room of the local high school team.

Other women talked about taking flak from players, who spoke disrespectfully to them because of their gender, and still others talked about their struggle to prove themselves in a male-dominated field, and how disheartening it was to never see another woman's byline in the sports section of the paper.

This weekend made me count my blessings. It made me realize that I owe the ease through which I am advancing in my chosen field to so many women who've paved the way for me. To borrow a cycling metaphor, I'm riding on the back wheel of these women who've been pulling for my generation for so many years.

Listening to their stories inspired me and made me grateful for everything they've done to advance women in this business. It serves as motivation because now the way I see it, regardless of the challenges to come in my career, nothing is really insurmountable, and I'm not going to face anything that other women haven't faced and overcome before. I can walk right into a locker room or press box without having to worry about petitioning to the school board. And I owe it all to my predecessors.

So it was an amazing experience to meet people like Christine Brennan — whose columns I've read and enjoyed for years — Margaret Koy Kistler, Jody Conradt, Kristin Huckshorn and Julie Ward, and to realize that obstacles aside, they found a way to succeed in this business.

Stef: AWSM Day 2

Originally written, Saturday, May 19, 2007

Today I met Michelle Kaufman, who has my dream job. Michelle is the Olympics and tennis beat writer for the Miami Herald. She hosted a panel with Darryl Seibel, the Chief Communications Officer for the US Olympic Committee and they talked about balancing the needs of media with the needs of public relations professional and the athletes and coaches whom they serve.

That was interesting in itself, because it was nice to find out that there are media relations people on this planet who are committed to helping journalists do their job — as opposed to those who function more as the athletes' bodyguard, which ends up impeding communication instead of enhancing it.

One of the things I've always wrestled with in my dealings with the media thus far is the question of when it's okay to go around the PR guy, and whether this will impact future relations between the journalist and said PR guy. So it was good to hear Seibel speak up for journalists and admit that there are situations where the journalist is justified in trying to find a way around the PR people.

Michelle Kaufman then regaled us with tales of the Olympics and talked about finding that one story that sets you apart from all the rest of the drabble that's coming through on the wires and from every one of the other 6 million journalists around.

Her advice: You can't cover the ENTIRE Olympic games on your own, so don't even bother to try. Instead, pick an event for the day and stick with it. You don't want to go hammer away at the big storylines that the AP writers are obligated to pick up, you want to milk the human interest angle and find that diamond in the rough — the offbeat story about the Cuban athletes packing shopping carts full of electronics at an appliance store in Greece and shipping all that stuff back to relatives in Cuba because they can't shop like that back home, or the story about the lone Ethiopian cross country skiier who finished dead last but with his sense of pride intact.

All that resonated with me because I've always figured that sportswriting isn't about the stats and numbers, it's about stories about people. And the best way to do that is to fly under the radar and keep your eyes open , right?

Stef: AWSM Day 1

Originally written, Friday, May 18, 2007 (also published in The Oregon Daily Emerald, Tuesday, May 22, 2007)

Until very recently, I'd always scoffed at the legitimacy of NASCAR - a sport that I'd long associated with beer-gulping, pot-bellied hicks waving the Confederate flag, and drivers who drove stock cars because they'd probably never be able to cut it in the European-dominated world of F1 racing, the real motorsport.

As of this moment, I hereby rescind all snide comments.

I spent the weekend in Dallas at the Association for Women in Sports Media's (AWSM) 2007 National Convention.

One of the planned activities was a ride in a specially outfitted stock car: four laps around the Texas Motor Speedway at 160 mph.

My roommate for the convention - a bona fide NASCAR fan from Philadelphia who could match driver to car by numbers alone (apparently Dale Earnhardt Jr. drives the No. 8 Budweiser-sponsored car, and Casey Mears drives the No. 25 National Guard-sponsored car) could hardly contain her excitement. I simply shrugged and said whatever, it'd be a fun little roller coaster, but nothing more awe-inducing than a romp on the Indiana Jones Adventure Ride at Disneyland.

I take that back.

We got to the track and everyone donned firesuits and helmets. I sauntered up the the replica No. 11 FedEx car (usually piloted by Denny Hamlin, who is currently fourth in the standings, my roommate chirped. OK, someone's a little obsessed.)

With my broken left collarbone, it took some effort before I finally managed to crawl through the open window on the front passenger side of the car. I got into my bucket seat and strapped in.

At this point, the experience conjured up visions of astronauts and space shuttles. My body and the bucket seat molded together. This, I thought, must be what it feels like to strap into a seat preparing to blast into space.

The driver climbed in through the window on the driver's side, pulled on his helmet and grinned at me, "You done this before?"

"Uh uh," I shook my head, cheeks squished by the helmet.

"Well, hang on."

Nonchalance aside, I got really excited when all 10 cars revved their engines together.

Then we were off. My driver slid us into third place behind the first two cars, and as we rounded the first curve, it seemed to me that we were veering so close to the side wall that if I'd stuck my hand out the open window, I could have touched it.

But that was not an option because we were already roaring along at 140mph.

The drivers put on a good show, darting from side to side, and every time another car came within a few feet of ours, I cringed and thought we were going to crash.

We quickly maxed out at 160mph, and being the speed demon that I am, I felt myself grinning like an idiot as we whizzed along so fast that I was pinned back in my bucket seat.

I soon lost track of how many laps we'd done. So I blinked in disbelief when my driver took both hands off the wheel to pull his helmet off his head while maintaining the ridiculous speed we were going at.

"Dude, I don't want to die!" I wanted to say when he wedged his knee under the steering wheel and steered like that as he reached up to clip the helmet to a hook in the ceiling.

Just as I was about to grab the wheel and steer for myself, I saw the end in sight, and we came cruising to a halt.

As I clambered out of the car, I'd gained a newfound respect for all NASCAR drivers. Jostling for position and weaving between cars at 160 mph takes a whole lot more skill and quick reflexes than I ever imagined. And anyone who can make those bulky looking machines dart around like Reggie Bush going through a pack of defenders is a champ in my book.

Stef: AWSM Convention 2007

Last weekend, I attended the Association for Women in Sports Media (AWSM's) 2007 Convention in Dallas. In return for some sponsor money, I agreed to blog about the event for the Spokesman, but because I couldn't get on the Internet all weekend at the Hotel, I ended up journalling my thoughts with pen-and-paper instead, and will post all those entries on this blog today.

I had an amazing time and learned a lot from some really inspiring women.


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