The Spokesman-Review : interns

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Sasha Davis: Final Stretch

My mom told me that as you get older time goes by much faster. I am finding this to be incredibly true. I remember in elementary school summer break seemed to last forever. Endless days running around the neighborhood with my friends, those three months felt like a whole school year. In high school I couldn’t wait for school to get back into session during the final days of summer. Hours of pushing shopping carts in 90 degree weather made summer feel like an eternity. Now that I am approaching the end of my final summer before I graduate and no longer have to go back to school, I’m not ready for it to end.
I started my internship at the Spokesman-Review eleven weeks ago, yet I feel like I just got here. Time flew by. The other day, I was looking for decorative tapestries when I realized that I’m moving out in 2 weeks and I still haven’t decorated my apartment, or (shamefully) totally unpacked. The painting I begun 9 weeks ago is still not completed. I told myself I was going to paint all the time this summer. I still want to explore Manito Park, and finish J.D. Salinger’s Nine Stories. Summer can’t be over yet, I still haven’t done everything I wanted to do.
Oh well. Sometimes items on my agenda get moved aside for things I could have never thought to put on a list. I never thought I would find such great friends here in Spokane. The other interns have made my experience so much fun. I guess hours of painting were replaced with hours of swimming in Lake Coeur d’Alene, and cold refreshments at Far West. Last weekend, at Lake Pend Oreille, I went sailing via canoe towed by a sailboat. It was like a Disneyland ride. Now who puts something like that on their to-do list.
Work at the Spokesman-Review did not seem like work at all. I still am in awe that I got paid to do video and meet awesome people. I learned so much about print and video media allowing my growth only to accelerate during my final production classes. I learned that I am on the right career track, because when I wake up in the morning, dread is not an emotion that I feel. I’m going to miss this place.
My tip for future interns is to take advantage of your time here. There is so much to learn both in and out of the newsroom. You will find that a lot of the time, work and enjoyment go hand in hand. I got to see so many beautiful places and meet amazing people during assignments. Explore the area and get to know the town. You are at an advantage, because knowing the community is part of your job working at a newspaper. Don’t worry too much about your summer to-do list and just go with the flow. Oh yeah, and definitely go canoe-sailing on Pend Oreille.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Parker: (Not) Seeing the Light

It's often a difficult task for reporters to truly understand what their sources are experiencing. Such is the case with my stories about Rod Christensen, a 60-year-old Spokane man who has been blind since birth. Christensen lost his guide dog, Justice, July 11 when the dog was killed by a dump truck in North Spokane. I covered the memorial service for Justice - a touching ceremony attended by many of his friends, some of them guide dog owners as well.

On Friday, I did a follow-up article, checking in with Christensen to see how he's adjusting two months after Justice's death. After 20 years of being guided by a guide dog, Christensen now uses a cane because he doesn't want to endanger another dog.

Navigating by cane is much more difficult. I know not only because of what Christensen and his friends at the Lilac Blind Foundation told me, but because some of them encouraged me to step into their shoes for a brief moment Friday by putting on vision-obscuring goggles and trying to navigate using both methods.

Kelly Croft, a rehabilitation teacher for the foundation, first led me into a small closet inside the foundation's building to pick out a white cane. She pulled several green-handled canes from a rack on the wall, holding them next to me to find one long enough. She then showed me a variety of goggles emulating vision disorders, such as glaucoma.

Wearing goggles that made me legally blind, I could see light and colors but only vague shapes as I picked up my cane. With Croft at my side, I navigated via cane through the building and across West Boone Avenue. I was surprised several times when my cane jammed into an unexpected crack, and overhanging branches worried me even though they didn't hit me.

Next, I donned "sleeper shades" that made my world totally black -- much like Christensen's experience. Croft borrowed a guide dog harness from one of Christensen's friends and led me as if she was a guide dog. She walked quickly, and it was difficult to trust her not to run me into any obstacles. When we reached the intersection, Croft told me to listen to traffic and tell her when it was safe to cross. It was not a harrowing experience, but it was certainly uncomfortable.

Walking the busy streets of Spokane as a blind man, even if just for a few minutes, illustrated why a person might choose a dog rather than a cane. It also demonstrated the total state of trust that must exist between a blind person and his or her dog. Christensen and Justice had that trust, and their relationship far surpassed that of a typical human-animal bond. I was grateful to gain greater understanding by walking a little in his shoes.

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