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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Meet the Public Intern

posted by on August 15 at 9:00 AM

Like all quality newspapers—the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Moses Lake Frontier BugleThe Stranger employs a public editor. A. Birch Steen scrutinizes The Stranger’s content and takes our editors and writers to task for omissions and errors. But great newspapers are not just created by editors and writers. The Stranger, like all great newspapers, also relies on a large group of unpaid interns.

Without the efforts of these trust-funded young men and women, paid staffers wouldn’t be able to drink at lunch and do bong hits at their desks and still put out Seattle’s Only Newspaper. We salute them, even if we don’t always bother to learn their names.

We held many discussions during our redesign process—a fresher, more confusing Stranger hits the streets today—about how we could better serve the public. During one of those discussions an editor pointed out that while we rely on interns to do our thankless grunt work—filing, sorting faxes, basic research, fetching coffee—our readers don’t have interns to do their thankless grunt work.

Until now.


Meet Steven Blum. A graduate of Roosevelt High School in Seattle, Steven is the first to hold the newly created position of public intern. So far as we’re aware, Steven is the first public intern at any publication in the United States.

What does a public intern do? Well, just as the public editor works on behalf of readers, the public intern interns on behalf of readers. Steven is your intern, Seattle, he works for you. So what do you need done? A little research? Some filing? Gardens need weeding?

Steven will be taking three assignments per week. Yesterday we gave Steven his first assignment: We handed him a bottle of Formula 409 and a roll of paper towels and sent him out to clean a Metro bus. Steven will be writing about his experiences as the public intern on Slog and you can read about how his first assignment went later today.

If you have an assignment for Steven—he’s your intern—e-mail it to, or suggest in the comments thread. Thank you.

RSS icon Comments


Oh, he looks so innocent and trusting! hehe. Rock on public intern!

Posted by Kristin Bell | August 15, 2007 8:55 AM

You guys are whacked. Poor kid.

Posted by Cat in Chicago | August 15, 2007 8:57 AM
Posted by Ajax | August 15, 2007 9:02 AM

I agree. I feel bad for him. God only knows what Charles has him do at night.

Posted by Mr. Poe | August 15, 2007 9:07 AM

You are aware, aren't you, that Formula 409 is full of nasty, persistent chemicals that fuck up womens reproductive systems or give kids asthma or cause - the word escapes me - memory loss or something? (I forget what ... can the new p.i. look it up for me?)

Oh, the humanity! Who do I take this up with? The public editor? WASHPIRG? The kickball team?

Posted by RonK, Seattle | August 15, 2007 9:07 AM

Stefan, I take my coffee with half and half, no sugar. And I hope I do not have to tell you that again.

Posted by Jude Fawley | August 15, 2007 9:10 AM

I want Steven to be my DD this weekend!

Posted by Darcy | August 15, 2007 9:11 AM

Steven, we're gonna need to go ahead and move you downstairs into storage B. We have some new people coming in, and we need all the space we can get. So if you could just go ahead and pack up your stuff and move it down there, that would be terrific, OK? Oh, and remember: next Friday... is Hawaiian shirt day. So, you know, if you want to, go ahead and wear a Hawaiian shirt and jeans.

Posted by Bill Lumbergh | August 15, 2007 9:11 AM

I live on a corner, and my parking strips need work. I mow what little grass there is and have done some nice planting, but like a lot of things in my life, I've left the project half-done, and I haven't kept up with weeding or watering at all. It shows. I am lame.

Why do I think this is a job for the public intern? Because of my neighbors. I live in close to Gasworks Park in Wallingford, well-known as "Nosy (and Anti-noisy) Neighbor Central." In the past, when I spent considerable time outside gardening, neighbors would stop by to chat and, occasionally, offer unsolicited and unhelpful advice on my planting choices. In addition, next door to me are a WINE DISTRIBUTOR (maybe some underage drinking could be had?), some sort of healthcare activist organization whose amiable employees smoke and talk trash on my sidewalk, a secretive eco-manufacturing company (at least I think that's what they are; they won't say), and a vintage car restoration place that never seems open and occasionally leaves barrels around which fall over and leak toxic waste into the ground (and, presumably, Lake Union).

So I need an intern to do my gardening.

Posted by Will in 98103 | August 15, 2007 9:16 AM


I would like you to rebuild the viaduct. Or build a tunnel. Or both. Thanks.

Posted by Mr. Poe | August 15, 2007 9:17 AM

WOW!! Slog has a personal Boy B*tch to do our bidding!!!

Enjoy that bus cleaning, pick one of the busses to the U-District like a 72, 71 or 49. Those are already so clean it should be easy for you. HA HA HA HA HA!!!

Posted by Cato the Younger Younger | August 15, 2007 9:29 AM

Wither A. Birch Steen?

Posted by brappy | August 15, 2007 9:36 AM

Not to be confused with the public editor who edits the public.

Posted by Gabriel | August 15, 2007 9:37 AM

I like the bus cleaning idea, but step it up a notch: maybe Metro could take a hint from a few dozen people bombarding buses with brooms, mops, 409 and paper towels, with a few people outside with brushes, squeegees and buckets of water, a la fundraiser carwash.

Make it happen, Steven.

Posted by JakeLunden | August 15, 2007 9:43 AM

This guy was GREAT on "The Man Show"!!!

Posted by Shawn | August 15, 2007 9:44 AM

hear hear Gabriel, i knows me some public that needs editing.

Posted by dicker | August 15, 2007 9:46 AM

as long as he's cleaning things, can we get him to clean up the entry way downstairs? it smells like a monkey cage.

Posted by dawn | August 15, 2007 9:55 AM

Have Steven do surveys all around greater Seattle asking people if they think both the Viaduct or SR 520 Bridge will crumble before each gets repaired.

I'm betting most people will say "Yes", which would actually be newsworthy.

Posted by matthew fisher wilder | August 15, 2007 9:56 AM

Hm, sounds suspiciously like Mr. Blum will be taking on the tasks that even "Our Worst Enemy" wouldn't touch with a ten foot cattle-prod.

Oh, and while I'm thinking of it, could you stand on the corner of 22nd & E. Union and tell folks: A.) "please, stop shooting at each other!"; and B.) "slow the fuck down! 22nd is NOT your personal short-cut to avoid the light at 23rd!"

I'll provide the neon-yellow safety vest.

Posted by COMTE | August 15, 2007 9:57 AM

So basically, "This is Steven, and we're hazing him."

Posted by Christin | August 15, 2007 10:04 AM

My kid's (massively under-funded) public school is constantly asking us to work bake sales at functions, help reorganize/paint classrooms for the coming year and go around neighborhoods looking for donations for
a-thons or auctions to pay for stuff like the arts program. I would love to have an intern I could send on one or all of these tasks. Or even make him hold his very own bake sale and give all of the money to one of our public schools.

Posted by lilblackcat | August 15, 2007 10:21 AM

Dear Lilblackcat,

Sounds good, please send us an email at, so we can get in touch.


Posted by Dan Savage | August 15, 2007 10:23 AM

i love this idea.

Posted by kerri harrop | August 15, 2007 10:37 AM

SDOT repaved California Way SW, but forgot to install the bike sharrows. Maybe the intern should get a stencil and some orange cones and do their job for them?

Posted by Greg Barnes | August 15, 2007 11:09 AM

(also in 98103)

My son goes to Roosevelt High School.


Posted by Will in Seattle | August 15, 2007 11:17 AM

i need help painting the outside of my house. um, please?

Posted by boobee | August 15, 2007 11:29 AM

How about creating an "Every child" website? Some readers could probably get a lot of use from something to link to when making comments in response to the statement that "every child needs a mother and father," because suggesting that the phrase simply be typed into the Stranger's search box seems to bring up a lot of comments and it is hard to find the actual stories.


Posted by r | August 15, 2007 11:48 AM

I want the intern to protest at a Seattle School Board meeting. All the cool kids are doing it, but I don't have time. There's one tonight, and every two weeks thereafter...

Posted by wrenn | August 15, 2007 12:23 PM

I'm moved to Seattle last summer, and one thing I have noticed is that everyone I meet socially is from somewhere else. Is this because the out-of-state population is more outgoing and easier to meet? Or do the natives recognize me as an outsider and avoid me? Am I just not looking in the right place? Seriously, I'd like to know the statistics of asking random people on the street where they are from and if they consider themselves to be outgoing and open to new friendships. I'm making lots of friends, just find it odd that we are all ex-pats and no locals.

Posted by Fremonty | August 15, 2007 6:21 PM

Hey, here's a revolutionary concept!!!

I feel obliged to point out that Seattle already has MANY people who come to work every day to be "public" interns. They do research of every variety, from genealogy tips to legal advice. They strive to provide Seattle with services and programs of every size and variety. These noble "public interns" work to give kids and teenagers a place to hang out. One of their many services is free Internet access.

Go visit some of your public interns today!

Or, conversely, make Steven go spend a day with them! (and, by the way, if you DO ask him for research help? I have a pretttttty good feeling where he'll start his search.)

Posted by A Public Intern | August 15, 2007 6:33 PM

A few years ago (five? ten?) hoards of city workers descended on the "planting" areas of the I-5 Mercer Street ramp with backhoes and shovels. They tore out blackberry bushes and weeds, planted a few trees and covered the area with beauty bark. Since then not one moment of maintenance has occurred and the area is once again a grotesque mess of weeds and half dead blackberries. I say give the lad a rake and a few paper yard waste bags and leave him there until he's got the spot looking spiffy again. Having something pleasant to look at might make the horror of the Mercer ramp halfway tolerable.

Posted by TMac | August 15, 2007 7:10 PM

Have him hand out condoms and safer sex information to the bush bunnies in Volunteer Park. They could really use them.

Posted by Gitai | August 15, 2007 7:46 PM


i'd like you to kill everyone who works at microsoft. that way, i'll not be liable for a client's "untimely death." you will be. and i can get back to creating stupid shit for a living.

thanks, mang. seriously.

: ::dan

Posted by dan rather | August 15, 2007 11:09 PM

Dan, having a public intern is just wrong. ( I could go in to more depth on this subject, but it is probably best if I don't ). If the public intern is meant to be satirical, then by all means go ahead.

Posted by anal retentive | August 16, 2007 6:31 AM

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