15 Years Ago Today: My Article In The L.A. Times

When I was an awkward teenager in junior high school, I developed a love for writing and decided that I wanted to be a journalist when I grew up. My dream was to one day be a reporter for the L.A. Times.  I even had the prescience back then to believe that “news will come from computers” in the future (although I envisioned newsstands of the future to resemble computer printers, rather than the World Wide Web we see today…). Still, I started writing for Thomas Starr King Jr. High’s The Lion’s Roar and the rest is history.

Well, kinda sorta.

I did graduate from the University of Southern California with a Journalism degree and my first job out of college in the Summer of 1995 was a paid internship at the Los Angeles Times. It was at a now-defunct department of the Times called TimesLink, which was a proto-online news service, jointly run by the newspaper and the online provider Prodigy. Basically, newspaper articles and exclusively online content were available on TimesLink. Eventually the service metamorphosed into today’s LATimes.com website.

In my four months at the Times, I had a great experience. I got to hobnob with staff at the paper. Columnist Patt Morrison wrote a piece about the Raiders moving back to Oakland and how it reinvigorated the fervor of their hardcore fans – one of whom happened to be one of my cousins in Alameda. I got to share that bit of coincidence with her while passing her near the cafeteria (which had great food, BTW). I also made friends with then-Gardening editor Robert Smaus, who I knew through his model railroading work. We’d have lunch once in a while and talk trains, and he’d invite me to his friend’s layout to run my rolling stock there.

But the biggest perk I got there was an opportunity to write an article for the newspaper, as most of us interns aimed to do.

Around that time, a sweatshop in El Monte was busted for employing garment workers from Thailand and subjecting them to slave-like conditions. It just so happened that I also worked part-time for a nonprofit in Historic Filipinotown that housed some of these freed sweatshop workers, which gave me unique access to them. I was allowed to tag along with them on a visit to Universal CityWalk where they got to enjoy the outside world for the first time in a long while. I wrote an article about the experience, which was merged with two other articles being written at the time, and the result was this, which was published 15 years ago today:

Feasting on Kindness
Thais Freed From Sweatshop Discover Good Side of Life in America
(click for article)

August 20, 1995

KARL SCHOENBERGER and PATRICK J. McDONNELL and ELSON TRINIDAD
SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

That was my first (and only, to date) byline in the Times.

During my last days of my internship, I saw many Times staffers leave with cardboard boxes and sullen faces. Even back then, the newspaper embarked on its first wave of layoffs that continue some 15 years later. I also heard their internship program was suspended the next semester, and very few, if any, of us Summer 1995 interns got jobs at the paper. I went back to the nonprofit working as their communications coordinator, and after being laid off from there, worked various stints in the dot-com and IT fields – this was the ’90s after all.

Another nonprofit organization – Thai Community Development Center assisted the freed garment workers in the article. Out of that began my relationship with them and the Thai community and I have been serving as a member of their Board of Directors since 2003.

I don’t know whether I’ll re-enter the media field again, nor do I know whether such an attempt would be worthwhile. The world is much different now, obviously.  I honestly don’t know whether I can actually make a living off of it anymore…but at least I know I can write…

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