The Internship Years

Editor’s Note, October 2017

A little explanation: From late 2001 to early 2003, I worked a series of internships alternating between Crain’s Detroit Business and Automotive News.

When it came time for me to find a permanent job, I applied at The Detroit News. I got an interview with a very senior editorial executive right off the bat (which only now strikes me as surprising).

Thinking myself clever, I served up my portfolio of work on a homemade CD. The contents consisted of the web versions of stories, all clickable through links. A website on a disk. Just open the index file and there’s a homepage.

This would demonstrate my adeptness with technology. I had managed two sites, and the better parts of my resume rested on this. I couldn’t just go in there with lame black-and-white photocopies of stories like everyone else.

This also would show me as an original thinker. Editors must be yearning to find the sort of intrepid, creative minds needed to forge good journalism — people who question everything, including the accepted norms of presenting their work experience. Little did I know at the time how little that sort of thing is appreciated by managers of newspapers, one of the last institutions in the country to come to grips with the internet.

Before I even walked in the door, I was having second thoughts. I would be asking this busy person to accommodate my self-involved whimsy. Rather than being a few pages to easily flip through and skim, it would require putting in the CD drive, finding it, opening the folder, and opening the index.htm file. Since there was a good chance this person wouldn’t know to do that, I helpfully included a README.txt file. So looking at my precious intern-quality work would take yet another step.

I wasn’t being clever; I was painfully trying to present myself as such, and this gambit made that all to transparent.

This soured my mood on the drive there, and roused earlier misgivings I had about the whole thing. I didn’t respect the newspaper. Years of training at Wayne State’s journalism school, staffed with refugees from the union strike wars, made sure of that. The papers I interned at, superior in all respects, cemented the prejudice.

By the time I went in there, I was in a surly, cocky mood, predisposed to mentally snub anyone dull-minded enough to dismiss my CD. I could understand not welcoming it, in all its presumptuous pretentiousness, but a wise manager should at least appreciate the earnestness of a young person just starting out.

I didn’t get the job. It’s hard to say how much the CD itself had to do with it. Undoubtedly, my attitude exuded through my pores and the executive could see it. We were like oil and water.

Not much love lost. I forgot about the whole thing for more than a decade. Then in 2017 I found the old folder. I opened the index file and saw that it all miraculously still worked, just as it had in 2003. This is momentous. So rather than recreate the stories to suit this site’s format, I uploaded the collection to the server and left it all as-is to give a dusted-off feel from that era.

The two sites I mentioned were Craintech and (now long defunct). Crain’s put me in charge of daily management and writing. This is why you see stories under those banners, in addition to Crain’s Detroit Business and Automotive News.

Here it is.

And related, my first angry reader letter came in response to one of these stories.