On an early February evening, in between a week full of snowstorms, Arlington Community Media, Inc. (ACMi) threw open its doors to host the Arlington Public News (APN) Open House.

ACMi Executive Director Norm McLeod and APN News Anchors

ACMi Executive Director Norm McLeod and APN News Anchors Michelle Marino and Paul Wehrlin

The gathering was another in an on going series of ACMI events hosted by APN to share with the community the success of its volunteer news team. The open house was also an open call to the community, inviting Arlingtonians to take action and participate in producing news and other types of programming.

The APN staff welcomed more than 25 guests, including at least five new faces. “We’re here because we got the post card in the mail,” said one father who was in attendance with his high school aged daughter. “She’s interested in news and video and we thought this would be a good way to learn some skills and get exposed to all that goes in to making a program.

“It’s a great resource, especially for high school students preparing for college.”

That was music to Executive Director Norm McLeod’s ears. “ACMi is, in fact, a resource for the community. Our goal is to provide Arlingtonians with an outlet for their creativity as well as the issues and topics that are of interest to them.”

One of those main outlets is the APN broadcast, anchored by Arlington residents Michelle Marino and Paul Wehrlin. The entire APN team consists of volunteer journalists and ACMi staff who are interested in community issues and current events.  News director Sara Alfaro Franco and her team put together a relaxed, informative evening that left all attendees with not only a clear understanding of what APN does but with a sense of possibility about what each person could learn or contribute. “During this time of fast moving information, shorter new cycles, and media conglomeration, local news has seen the largest drop in coverage,” says Ms. Alfaro Franco.

“APN is honored to help fill this void of local coverage and we couldn’t do it without the commitment of our talented and dedicated volunteers.”

It was standing room only in the APN studio as future citizen journalists listened to and watched presentations by various APN news team members as well as assistant news director Lauren Alicandro. They explained that all news team members are offered training and given the opportunity to learn new skills as well as expand on their talents and interests. All presentations highlighted the variety of ways to get involved with the APN team from research, planning, and scheduling to script writing, camera operation, and directing to editing and distribution.

In addition to discovering what APN is all about, attendees were treated to keynote speaker Bestor Cram, creative director of Northern Light Productions (NLP), who discussed the art of nonfiction storytelling. NLP is a documentary film production company which produces both film and interactive work for broadcast and museum displays (www.nlprod.com). Mr. Cram shared several engaging clips of NLP work and took questions from the audience. He explained that much of what both long form film making and news is all about is storytelling. “Television is an opportunity to tell stories of others; to better understand our neighbors with whom we live and work. It’s also an opportunity to have conversations that are very difficult.

“Sometimes we can’t talk about things in our family or town but a careful, well done piece for TV or film can be very effective and healing.

“Remember,” Cram said, “you want the result of your video to be that people want to have a conversation with you or others about what they saw.”

Indeed, conversations abounded as the night came to a close. Those in attendance stayed to chat with Cram as well as the APN team. Several of the new faces in the crowd filled out membership applications and excitedly spoke with ACMi staff about programming ideas. One attendee summed up the ACMi / APN ethos perfectly when he said, “At ACMi there are no boundaries other than your time, attention, or interest.”

If you or someone you know is interested in joining the APN team or have other programming ideas for ACMi in general, please be in touch. We’d love to welcome you to the ACMi community and invite you to attend one of our many monthly workshops.

For more information, contact:

Sara Alfaro-Franco, ACMi News Director: sara@acmi.tv

Dave Casanave, Community Outreach Coordinator: dave@acmi.tv