AccessLocal proved to be a much richer and more multifaceted experience than the simple news job I took it for at first. I learned this at our first meeting, when instead of stepping into the sophisticated and austere television studio I was interviewed in, I found myself sitting at a table of journalists my age with EDM playing in the background. This environment wasn’t to be mistaken as lax, I quickly learned, but rather a professional environment for a discussion designed to make the news correspondents feel at ease enough to discuss stories and relevant topics comfortably as they would outside of a ‘job’.  My wonderful boss, Isaac Gonzalez, led the assignment sections and relevant discussions with a calm tone, maintaining the balance between professional and colloquial.

The first project alone sent me into the deep end of filming, editing and writing an article on a deadline with only the bare essential tools to guide me: a short tutorial video playlist for filming, iMovie and basic journalism tactics, an iPod touch equipped with iMovie, and a microphone and camera attachments to make a viable filming device. The prompt was simply: what is your community?

While I was pleased with the result, the process of making the video was a complete disaster. I spent half a day figuring out iMovie and planning the clip arrangements for the final product. I submitted my report right on the nose of the deadline and wished I had more of a plan going into the project to better know what I was doing.

These steps were absolutely critical to my progress as a Neighborhood News Correspondent. I learned more from arranging my friends to talk about what they thought about our community and the first 30 minutes of tampering with iMovie than I did in the whole hour of tutorial videos that were the entirety of my education in journalism.

I’m beyond grateful for the independent and self-reliant method of learning that Isaac and AccessLocal based the program on. In four months I’ve gone to city hall meetings, an art exhibition and an art workshop, a protest at the state capital, and even a gun show where I pressed tough questions to a reclusive and closed audience. If the program would have spent all that time on the textbook approach of teaching me how to film, how not to film, who to film, what to focus on and so on, I would never have really learned how to film in the way I did. I picked all of these skills up through doing the work assigned to me, and Isaac was always there to give advice and strategies if I was unsure. I now know how to cover stories confidently and have months of experience doing so. The paychecks were gravy on top of what I’ve gained from all of this.

I could not recommend AccessLocal more to anyone interested in journalism, writing, filming, debate or even public-speaking. Whether or not I choose to pursue journalism as a career, I am immensely grateful for the opportunity I was provided and the valuable, interdisciplinary skills I gained. I would like to thank my coworkers: the outgoing and amiable Levi Harvey, the quietly confident and ever-friendly Ivan Caballero, the understated and brilliant Dominique Mejia, the bold, hilarious and completely unique Bruce Tran, and most of all my boss, the attentive, caring, engaging and one-of-a-kind Isaac Gonzalez. I would also like to thank Gary Martin from our parent company for seeing something to let me into this amazing program. Good luck future Neighborhood News Correspondents!