Since Feb. 6, readers may have noticed a new byline appearing in our three newspapers: Steph Berens.
A North American Studies major at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, Germany, Berens emailed me in December, asking if we had an internship available for a few months this spring.
Longtime readers of our newspaper know that we regularly bring on summer interns from Maureen Barton’s journalism program at Sedona Red Rock High School. Generally, these students are juniors who work with our staff over the summer and return back to school in the fall, bringing their newly acquired skills to Barton’s classroom and SRRHS’ award-winning newspaper, The Sting.
After Berens arrived, she shadowed our journalists in her first week, getting acclimated to our newsroom’s style and workflow, but after the skills she demonstrated, we turned her loose to cover stories on her own.
Berens has been a phenomenal success, covering stories accurately, honestly, thoroughly and without complaint, which is all an editor can ask from a good reporter.
Her first solo assignment was covering a speech by Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk, which she then fact-checked, pointing out much of Polk’s data was out-of-date, inaccurate, from questionable sources or simply false. A journalist’s primary duty is holding elected officials accountable for their statements, which Berens did admirably.
She covered stories I assigned or volunteered to report on events from press releases we received, covering everything from the Electoral College to the Anti-Defamation League’s fight against hate crimes, human trafficking, Verde River conservation, medically assisted suicide, brain science, the LGBTQ community, presentations by both Democratic and Republican clubs, the Sedona International Film Festival and an interview with a Palestinian high school exchange student from Gaza. We have been thankful to add her voice to our papers.
While her writing is sound, it appears she enjoyed learning from photojournalist Jordan Reece even more. She often accompanied him on assignments, turning in photos of the same high quality as Reece and photojournalist Hunt Mercier. Reece was also able to secure her a helicopter flight for a photo assignment for our upcoming Lifestyles of Sedona magazine. She’ll have three stories and related photos in that publication, due out later this month.
Most amazingly, Berens can also hold her own with our sometimes grouchy journalists, myself included, which is a feat in itself.
Yet it is with sadness, dear readers, that I must report Berens has completed her internship and will soon be leaving us to finish her college education back in Germany. We hope she has a long and healthy career in journalism and remembers her time writing for you fondly. We certainly have enjoyed having her on staff.
And should she ever want to return to Larson Newspapers as an full-time journalist, there will always be a desk and notepad waiting.
Christopher Fox Graham