Community Connections: It began with Brea but started with Sally – Former interns profiled

Mike Christopherson

If you’re a bit confused by the headline that appears above these words, you’re likely not alone, so let me explain:

In one of the four sections that make up the Crookston Times’ 2021 Community Connections special edition, you will find profiles in a sort of “Where are they now?” vein of 17 former Times summer interns and student writers/photographers who occupied our newsroom during the school year, not for pay like in the summer but instead for academic credit, through a partnership with Crookston High School.

I wasn’t able to track down every single intern or student writer who’s spent time at the Times, but of the 18 I was able to find, all but one was able to participate in this special edition by answering a series of questions I came up with and also submitting some of their favorite photos. Each former intern/student writer was asked the same half-dozen or so questions, but then, based on things I know about them personally either before, during or after their time at the Times, I came up with a couple of individualized questions as well for them to answer.

So, back to the headline accompanying this little write-up. A little more than 20 years ago, the Times was short-staffed in the newsroom and in a bit of a pickle. We needed someone to help out, and we needed that someone fast.

Enter Sally Palmer, a CHS student. We learned of her interest and availability through our now-retired graphic designer, Lynn Oakes, a Palmer herself, and soon Sally was spending the summer at the Times and filling our newsroom with the energy only a teenager could bring.

When Sally’s time was finished at the Times, even though we’d since hired a full-time professional journalist to fill our vacancy, we realized that we missed having a student around to help out and keep us – the Times – more wired into the local youth scene.

But the budget was tight; the money couldn’t be found, so it appeared Sally would be our one and only student “intern” of sorts.

Enter Brea Aamoth. Or, to be more precise, enter her mom, Jan Aamoth.

In the spring of 2004, on the very pages of the Times but somehow unbeknownst to the newsroom staff, the Minnesota Newspaper Association, in partnership with the Carl & Eloise Pohlad Foundation, sponsored a summer intern program for high school students or current-year high school graduates, ages 16 to 19. They were advertising the program in MNA-member newspapers across the state, including the Times. But I certainly never noticed the ad. Hey, I’m a journalist, I look at the stories and photos on the pages way more than anything else. If you’re into sales, you probably look at the ads first. That’s just how people are.

Jan saw the MNA intern ad and contacted the Times because her daughter, Brea, wrapping up her sophomore year at CHS, was interested in being a Times intern.

I literally didn’t know what she was talking about, and then she showed me the ad. Eureka!

The interns would be paid $8 an hour and had to work 200 hours over the summer. The key was that the MNA and the Pohlad Foundation would cover 3/4 of their salary, with the local participating newspaper picking up the rest.

This was doable financially, and Brea Aamoth worked in our newsroom that summer. 

Many other summer interns followed in her footsteps, and soon the Times teamed up with CHS to staff the newsroom with a student during the school year as well, for academic credit. Often, if a summer intern enjoyed their time at the Times, they’d stay on during the school year.

A few years ago, the Pohlad Foundation shifted their funding focus to housing insecurity, and the intern program ended. But thanks to some creative budgeting and a slightly scaled-back work schedule, the presence of students working in the Times’ newsroom did not end.

The COVID-19 pandemic did slam the brakes on students working at the Times, however. As of this writing, for reasons that extend beyond the pandemic, it’s not known when, or if, students will once again develop their writing and photography skills, not too mention their life skills, as valued staff members of the Times’ newsroom.

But, for now, we celebrate these tremendous young people, some of which aren’t so young anymore. They’re gone places and they’re going places. They’ve done great things and they’re doing great things. And there are no doubt great things to come.

In the coming days at crookstontimes.com, you'll see these 17 profiles pop-up on our homepage. I hope you enjoy them. I sure enjoyed tracking down our former interns and catching up with them.