By Maez Estrada
During a health and economic crisis that incapacitated schools worldwide, I learned more than I ever have in any four-walled classroom (physical or virtual)—working as a journalism intern at Altermidya Network.
I am a BA Journalism student with a burning desire to enter the field last year, looking for an internship program at the height of a pandemic.
As an iskolar ng bayan who struggled with distance learning, on-the-job training sounded like another cross to bear at first, but my experience in Altermidya erased the notion that an internship is just a series of menial tasks needed to fulfill academic requirements. My first dive into community journalism impressed upon me the value of reporting – and learning – from the ground up.
Covering the 2022 elections
I was accepted as an intern in November 2021, at a time when pre-election activities gradually hogged the news cycle. In compliance with our university’s rules and regulations, we initially underwent a work-from-home arrangement for our internship.
I experienced first-hand how difficult it is to be a journalist reporting without going out to do what seasoned reporters call “legwork” or field research. How does one gather information, more so verify reports – especially on issues and topics rarely covered by the dominant media without leaving the comfort of your own room? Yet with the help of our mentors in Altermidya, me and my fellow interns were still able to publish articles despite the odds. Practicing community media in the time of the pandemic may prove daunting, but with proper support and collective effort, it is not impossible.
A few months into the internship program, Altermidya entrusted me with what I consider as a greater responsibility: fighting disinformation. With Altermidya joining the #FactsFirstPH initiative, I was asked to serve as a fact-checker.
The fact-checking journey opened my eyes to the vast ramifications of twisted stories in communities. Every week, we were asked to propose topics and stories to fact-check, and most of our fact-check reports involved attacks in communities and their leaders. In each fact-check report, we ensured that the community impact of the fake news we were investigating was thoroughly discussed in the report’s “why it matters” portion. Our editors ensured that the value of community journalism remained intact in every fact-checking report we produced.
The fact-checking initiative made me more keen on discerning hearsay from factual reporting, and this proved to be useful when D-Day finally came: Election Day. Altermidya secured Commission on Elections IDs for us, enabling us to cover the elections in-person. I consider this as one of the highlights of my internship experience, as I was able to personally gather information and report anomalies and questionable events, and report blow-by-blow accounts which Altermidya published almost instantaneously.
Election Day coverage was nerve-racking, to say the least. I experienced first-hand how disinformation was actively peddled even on ground, near the polling precincts. With this experience, I can attest that the machinery that initiates false information, historical distortion, red-tagging, and media attacks indeed has vast resources at its disposal, and will stop at nothing to ensure that their version of reality is upheld.
My experience covering the elections made me realize how important the alternative media is, because without their reportage, key issues would remain unreported, effectively rendering invisible vast segments of society already marginalized by their socioeconomic status. I reflected how fortunate I was to have been trained as a community journalist: where passion and drive come first, skills and competency will follow. During my time as an intern for Altermidya, I realized why they are constantly attacked by those who are greedy for power: because they tell the stories that threaten their position at the top of the pyramid.
I will never forget being an Altermidya intern, as my experience taught me more than what my years in academia did. Altermidya’s unfiltered and honest reporting of stories showed me the actual meaning of the line in the book “Elements of Journalism” by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosentiel: that “the primary purpose of journalism is to provide citizens with the information they need to be free and self-governing.” And to do that kind of reporting, a journalist needs to be equipped with a critical mind, a heart for the masses, and the guts to confront reality.
(Maez Estrada is a graduating Journalism student of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines.)
Interested in joining Altermidya’s Internship and Volunteer program? Email your application letter and resume at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “APPLICATION FOR INTERNSHIP_Name.”