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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.

By Steph Berens

Two months ago, I walked into the newsroom for the first time. I suddenly found myself, a North American studies major with only a handful of journalistic experience, surrounded by a bunch of tough-guy reporters who run solely on coffee and cigarettes. Apparently, that environment was perfect for me to thrive in.

Nine weeks, 18 published articles, over 3,000 photos, and uncounted hours of waiting for my computer to cooperate later, my internship at Larson Newspapers is coming to an end — and I’m not ready to go.

People must be able to get facts from their government to make smart decisions and hold public officials accountable. Politicians from both parties agreed on this long ago when they first passed federal, state and local open government laws.

But the things people build — be they bridges, roads or freedom of information laws — wear out without regular maintenance. That’s why Sunshine Week exists, to remind us that it takes effort to keep freedom working. “The natural progress of things,” Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.”

As the weather warms and people begin to get out more, we are sharing common spaces we had avoided when it was colder, snowing or raining over the winter.

It also means we are exposing ourselves to more viruses and infections that have had time to incubate in relative isolation. Heading to work and sending children back to school means those viruses find new incubators — humans — spending hours together in confined spaces.

The recent vote by Cottonwood City Council to split Thunder Valley Rally between Old Town and Riverfront Park defies logic.

If attending bikers are given the choice between Old Town with some vendors and some bikes or Riverfront Park with some vendors, some bikes and live music that goes late into the night, what rationale would keep them in Old Town?

Come Valentine’s Day, couples will spend romantic nights at home or fun time out on the town. The other half, by circumstance or choice, will observe Singles Awareness Day, a tongue-in-cheek protest holiday and head out on the town perhaps to find that special someone.

For me, Valentine’s Day was a chance for a sixth-grade boy to finally tell a certain six-grade girl that he didn’t just “like” her but “like-liked” her in a valentine. Of course, she’d overlooked the brilliant sixth-grade subtlety in how he underlined the pre-printed “I love you” in marker, and went on to break his heart by moving away at the end of junior high.

Cities in the Verde Valley and around the country saw tens of thousands of marchers, hundreds of thousands in some cities, protesting on Saturday, Jan. 21, the day after the inauguration of the country’s 45th president.Jerome women's march sister protest

The Women’s March on Washington and sister marches around the country were focused on a host of issues that affect women specifically and the nation in general, such as ending violence, especially violence against women, defending and promoting worker’s rights, civil rights, disability rights, immigrant rights and environmental justice.

With the start of the new year, we are encouraging our readers to send us letters.

We will have a new president and Congress later this week. There are new members of local municipal councils.

We have a new Yavapai County District 3 supervisor for the first time in 20 years and yet another new Yavapai College board member for District 3.

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