Joyce Terhaar

From the Executive Editor: Interns give Bee some backup

Joyce Terhaar
Joyce Terhaar

The woman on the call was excited; a missing cat had been found. The interesting part was how.

Maury Macht, our continuous news editor, took the call and passed it along to intern Jeffrey Dastin, a Yale student who will graduate next year.

What Dastin discovered was a story emblematic of today's challenges in hospital emergency rooms: An apparently mentally ill woman showed up at UC Davis Medical Center requesting treatment for her dog, which she had in a suitcase and which was decomposed. As it turns out, she also had the missing cat, which was returned to its grateful owner.

The story was a small slice of life in Sacramento, the kind of tip that can easily land on an intern's desk. Dastin is one of 16 interns at The Bee this summer honing skills and giving us a little backup as we transition in a few weeks to a new publishing system and multiplatform desk that will require extensive staff training. All are paid, either by The Bee or through a variety of university and foundation intern grants we help them obtain.

Amy Gebert, a USC student, arrived in our Capitol Bureau in time for an FBI search of Sen. Ron Calderon's offices.

While some reporters already had left for the day, Gebert was still at her desk and was sent to the Capitol immediately to team with longtime reporter Jim Sanders.

A digital native, she turned to Twitter to let Sanders and her editors know what was going on outside the Calderon office. "I never thought, or even noticed until later during the raid, that so many people would be following me on Twitter or retweeting my posts," she said in an email to me this week. (Bee reporters regularly tweet breaking news, particularly those covering the Capitol, where politicians and staff keep a close eye on Twitter.)

A big story under the dome is not for the faint of heart, as Gebert quickly learned. "At first I was really timid and tried to ask a question but kept getting cut off (by other reporters) and then I thought, I just have to go for this."

She asked the Senate's chief sergeant at arms, Tony Beard, to confirm The Bee's reporting that two locations were being searched. That information quieted nearby reporters, she said, giving her an opportunity to ask a second question.

A few days later she was the reporter who found a new thread to the story.

Sanders shared with colleagues a disclosure document listing all sources of income for Tom Calderon (Ron Calderon's brother) of more than $10,000. One was Pacific Hospital of Long Beach, a name Gebert Googled because she had not heard of it. The resulting story began:

"The FBI recently has raided at least two California businesses with connections to former Assemblyman Tom Calderon and his brother, Sen. Ron Calderon, whose offices were searched by federal investigators this week."

Gebert is one of two USC students interning at the Capitol Bureau this summer. The second is Annalise Mantz, a Pleasant Grove High School alum who graduates from USC next year. Both are paid through the Diana Chudacoff Levin Award for students interested in politics and civic engagement.

Dastin is one of two Yale students, joining Jack Newsham, who graduates in 2014. Both are paid through the Yale Journalism Initiative.

Two regional universities provided most of the students. From UC Davis are recent graduates Janelle Bitker, editor-in-chief of the California Aggie, and Richard Chang, who has reported for The Bee since his internship last summer, along with Brian Nguyen, a photography intern who will graduate in 2015. Nguyen is partially paid through the local Asian American Journalists Association.

From Chico State University are Kacey Gardner, a 2014 graduate in her second summer copy editing for us, and Anthony Siino, a Sacramento-area native and recent graduate who also is copy editing.

Benjamin Mullin is our third intern from Chico State. Mullin, Bitker and Loic Hostetter, an editorial board intern who will graduate from UCLA next year, all obtained funding through the California Newspaper Publishers Association and asked to intern at The Bee.

Again this year we have two students from Stanford who are paid through the Rebele Journalism Internship Program, Kurt Chirbas (2014) and Brittany Torrez (2016). Both have local ties: Chirbas was Granite Bay High valedictorian and Torrez graduated from Pleasant Grove High, where she started her journalism career as an editor-in-chief.

Kristopher Rivera, a graduate of the University of Texas, El Paso, and Morgan Searles, who will graduate from Louisiana State University in 2014, both are paid through the Scripps Howard Foundation.

And, finally, we generally have a summer intern from AAAS, which strives to help scientists communicate their work to the public. This year's science writer is Ellen Le, a Pomona College graduate pursuing mathematics at the graduate level.

Keep an eye out for new bylines. And don't hesitate to pass along story tips to continuous news editor Macht, who vets them first because "On occasion, after 40 years in newspapers, I can see stories that interns can't."

Reach Executive Editor Joyce Terhaar at (916) 321-1004. Follow her on Twitter @jterhaar. Back columns,