Today marks my one-year anniversary of being at The Daily Caller, so it’s only fitting that the site is hosting a FOX/Google debate watch party tonight. Many of my D.C. friends and acquaintances plan to attend, so I look forward to catching up with them at the bar.
But a year ago yesterday, I was nervous about September 22. Since mid-August, I’d suffered sleepless nights as a result of sheer boredom. After a month and a half in D.C. and zero job application success, I swallowed my pride and considered an unpaid internship. Matt Purple, a former Townhall.com co-worker, advised me to check out The Daily Caller, for which he freelanced from time to time.
“We’ve gotta get you hooked up at The Daily Caller,” he told me over beers at a Foggy Bottom bar two weeks earlier. “It’s the next Huffington Post.”
Conveniently, a brief glance at TheDC’s Twitterfeed revealed that the site needed fall interns. I immediately emailed office manager Laura Banos, who invited me to come in for an interview that week. Sporting my new pair of H&M pumps (that I’ve worn a total of five times in my year here), I entered TheDC office in a state of anxiousness, desperation, and excitement. After chatting with Laura and leaving TheDC, I realized that had been the first hour in months that I hadn’t thought about a painful situation from school. You see, I graduated the University of Arizona on bad terms with someone and took forever to stop thinking about the peculiar circumstances. For the longest time, I simply couldn’t wrap my head around the injustice of it all or why I’d never even gotten a “sorry” from someone who knew he’d let me down immensely. When at TheDC, I forgot about him as well as the amazing life and friendships I’d left behind in Tucson.
On Wednesday September 22, I got to TheDC early to set up my wifi connection and introduce myself to the employees before the staff meeting, which Laura had advised me to attend.
Aside from Laura, the first person I met was Vince Coglianese, who would eventually become one of my best friends on staff. Because I’m soft spoken around new people, I was initially hesitant to interact with the other office mates. Regardless of my obvious bashfulness, I approached Vince, who was patient and helpful with my Internet connection problems. It was clear from the start that he’s a natural leader — undoubtedly the result of being the oldest of three children in a nomadic military family. In spite of my shyness, I knew he’d assist me and was sad to learn Vince covered the night shift. Luckily, he switched to a day time schedule several months later and finally had the opportunity to work with the rest of us.
At 8:30, I stepped into the conference room for the daily staff meeting. The staffers glanced up at me with curiosity but kept their mouths shut. It would have been too awkward to announce I was a new intern (that would have made me seem real cool), so I didn’t say a word. Thankfully Caroline May, whose women-related articles I’d devoured and loved, broke the silence by asking red-haired Peter Tucci if he was related to me.
“Tucci, is that your sister?” she inquired.
We shook our heads and remained quiet. I laughed but said nothing and subsequently worried my silence would be perceived as rude. Nevertheless, I took a seat next to fellow ginger Tucci and observed the meeting. Within months, people would joke that Tucci and I were actually siblings, as we were born two days apart in the same hospital.
I immediately liked the atmosphere because staff members pursued edgy stories, laughed freely, and used foul language if necessary (believe it or not, I struggle to break the cursing habit myself. I’ve accidentally sworn in front of my little nephew Sawyer several times, prompting him to remind me, “We don’t say shit, Aunt Lala.” Got it.) Having worked at a college newspaper for 2.5 years, I knew all about being employed at a goofy place, so I was beyond relieved that TheDC was the opposite of uptight or judgmental.
On day one, I gravitated towards interns Jessica and Chris, who had been at the office for about a week. To me, they were Daily Caller veterans, and I thrust myself upon them. As I noted in a blog post, I’d been lonely for four months before interning at TheDC. Graduating college had that effect on me, and while unemployed I had few outlets to meet new people. With that, I sort of forced myself on those around me because I was starved for human contact. Take a look at my September 26, 2010 blog entry for some evidence of just how lonely I’d been:
“I [just] began interning at an exciting 24-hour news website. I absolutely love the newsroom and staff members, and this gives me something to do while I job search. Who knows, this may even turn into a job (that’s what I’m hoping for). After all, some of the current reporters started off as summer interns, but let’s not get too excited yet.
Anyway, I’m the happiest I’ve been in four months. I realized this when I met up with my co-interns/co-workers on Friday night. It’s so nice to be around people again. Ever since I left Tucson in July, I’ve been kind of lonely, being that the majority of my college friends have either moved to other parts of the country or stayed in Arizona. I kind of got used to just doing my own thing, but it wasn’t very fun. As much as I adore my roommate Anna, I missed having group interaction. Whether or not this is a good thing, I thrive off social consistency and large groups.
I’m glad to be working around people who love new ideas and opinions, and the interns are all really smart. Some of the interns are recent grads like me and the others are college seniors. Everyone is nice and excited about their work.”
On Thursday, I met business intern Hillary Poirier, an Arkansas girl who has a magical way of charming every single person she meets. Hillary is impossible not to love, especially since she is an incredible event planner. That Friday, she set up an intern happy hour and helped me make new friends. As I noted in my blog a year ago, that was the first evening in four months that I’d felt happy. Though Hillary and Jessica moved back to the south before Christmas, I was grateful that they kept me company during my first few months in D.C. Intern Keith Cottingham was also hysterical and kind.
Aside from the social aspects of TheDC, I enjoyed the writing opportunities. I also took to former executive editor Megan Mulligan immediately. Like me, she had previously lived in France and knew the language. Every few months, she’d travel overseas and return with gifts for everyone. A Columbia grad and former Forbes writer, Megan was as sharp as they come, but understood the cultural significance of light topics and celebrity gossip. One afternoon, I pitched a story about Britney Spears and Ke$ha that I assumed the editors would reject. To the surprise of many, Megan found the article idea hilarious and encouraged me to go forward with it. Megan is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, not because she went to an Ivy league university, but because she recognized that she could learn from all article ideas. Many would be quick to say that there’s nothing to gain from a Hollywood story, but Megan would understand its cultural relevance and treat it with the same respect as she would for a political article.
Though it took me a week and a half to publish my first news story at TheDC, I figured out quickly that I had a good thing going at the office. Before Christmas, they hired me. While outsiders called me irresponsible for interning full-time at an office with no guarantee of employment, the risk turned out to be worthwhile. Within days of starting my internship at TheDC, I knew I wanted to work there, so I did everything possible to prove myself. I took on a broad range of tasks from transcribing interviews to assisting with Capitol Hill reporting. Though unpolished, I worked hard, and luckily Neil and Tucker decided my talents would serve their new site well.
After Christmas, I upgraded from intern to online editor. The transition was a surprising challenge, as I’d previously had the freedom to go on trips without anyone questioning my absence. At first, the position was more stressful than I anticipated, but I got the hang of my duties quickly, all thanks to my trusty fellow online eds Will, Vince, and Steven, all of whom had befriended me long before I became a staffer. I especially enjoyed exchanging creeper/weirdo stories with Steven, who also seems to be a magnet for crazy people.
Spring was tough, but I wrote prolifically, interviewed some of my favorite public figures and celebrities, and tested my limits. Then came the summer 2011 interns, all of whom wowed me with their spirit, enthusiasm, and work ethic so much that I found myself genuinely thrilled to see each of them every morning. To this day, I miss having the summer crowd around but admit their departure did wonders for my productivity, as I spent much of June, July, and August giggling with them about one thing or another.
When they took off, I resurrected my workhorse tendencies and began pushing out several stories a day. A year after starting up at TheDC, I have a healthier approach to social situations. I no longer depend on my workplace for friendship or activity. As my buddy Kyana pointed out, our friend Alec is an amazing organizer and will keep our social calendars completely booked forever. Every weekend, he has some awesome group happy hour special lined up, so I know I’ll never, ever be lonely in this city again. Not only that, but several of my University of Arizona friends — Vishal, Evan, Joey, Katie, Tracey — live in the area now and are always up for adventures.
My first year at TheDC was quite a learning experience, and I know I’ll continue to learn from those around me. I’m thankful for the online editors — Vince for being the voice of reason and genuinely wanting everyone to be happy, Kells for maintaining a positive attitude daily, Paul for his willingness and calming presence, and Steven for patiently listening to my long-winded stories and doling out advice. Long-standing editor Joe, who knows a little bit about everything, is another calming presence at the newsroom. I’ve said this about several people so far, but due to the nature of the office environment, you need these folks to offset the stress of constantly changing news. Matthew Boyle’s energy continues to inspire and shock us on a daily basis, but TheDC wouldn’t be the same without his spirit and intensity.
When I graduated college in May 2010, I worried I’d never have fun again or enjoy a newsroom as much as I had my college publication, Arizona Daily Wildcat. Quite frankly, I was also concerned that I’d be angry at an undeserving certain someone for ten years, and nobody wants to go through life with bottled up disappointment like that. Though I miss Cactus Moon club, Gentle Ben’s bar, the University of Arizona campus, and bars on University Boulevard, I was absolutely wrong that my life had peaked during undergrad. Rather than get lost in my poisonous, bitter thoughts about an apology I never received, I got to know dozens of interesting, intriguing D.C. folks who restored my faith in men and dating (even though I still facetiously gripe about both). Though I often complain about “soulless D.C.,” the city is home to many brilliant people who have more on their minds than constant partying. When I left UA, I feared my post-college pals would wan in comparison to my university friends, but I’m happy to report I was proven wrong. After all, I didn’t even meet Nikki Grey until May 2011, and she is hands down one of the greatest friends I will ever have. I also got to know Kate Robards, a pint-sized Texan who lights up the room and can read others immediately. Life went on after UA, and boy, did it surpass my expectations all thanks to TheDC.