A New Pack of UW Reporters in Olympia

The Olympia Legislative Reporting Program is designed to immerse students in paid, full-time reporting jobs each Winter Quarter with news outlets covering the Washington State Legislature.

Each year, participants travel to Olympia to report on the people and issues that are shaping the creation of state and local policies. This 40-year-old program provides incomparable training in public affairs reporting. The students work directly alongside professional journalists as they cover government for readers around the state and region.

The students selected for this opportunity are some of the brightest and most civically-minded that the UW Department of Communication has to offer. Their dedication to wielding the power of the press to hold Washington legislators accountable to their constituents will serve them well as they embark on this new journalistic journey.

Learn more about this year’s students below in their own words:

Josh Kelety | Washington Newspaper Publishers Association Olympia Bureau | @Josh_Kelety

“I was interested in politics before I even considered journalism as a profession. So, once I fell into the journalism industry-track, I naturally gravitated towards political journalism, with a particular emphasis on—and passion for—local news and politics. What happens in local government and politics is arguably more impactful in many ways on citizens’ everyday lives than what goes on in Washington D.C. And yet, national outlets such as the New York Times and the Washington Post are benefiting from invigorated reader interest and an increase in subscribers, while local media have struggled to find a sustainable, long-term business model and have experienced significant staff cutbacks.

I don’t have any answers to the ongoing industry-wide quest for viable journalism business models, but I do believe that, especially at the local level, it is crucial for the public to have access to high-quality journalism that informs readers of pressing issues in their own communities. In the future, I hope to produce engaging, accessible, and impactful local-level journalism that generates significant interest from readers, whether it be coverage of city hall, the state legislature, the opioid crisis, or homelessness and housing affordability issues. I also want to produce a slew of clips that showcase my ability to quickly turn around clean, concise, and heavily reported copy on complex subjects.

I view myself as a reliable conveyor and analyzer of information to the public. I want to empower them to make informed decisions as active citizens in a democratic society. I try to, with as little jargon and ‘insider-speak’ as possible, illustrate how happenings in the halls of power impact people’s everyday lives. As they say: sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

Taylor McAvoy | Washington Newspaper Publishers Association Olympia Bureau | @TaylorMcAvoy105

“I think one of the pillars of journalism is holding our elected officials and government accountable. Journalism is an important part in the democratic process and ensures that the public have a voice on a larger platform, especially those who are often pushed to the sides of public debate. The people who have traditionally not been included in politics, from LGBTQ to people of different racial backgrounds, are the answer to making our country more equitable.

As a journalist, I want to ensure that lawmakers and politicians hear from those whom they may not otherwise hear from in their daily lives. I strive to represent communities’ interests that are different from my own. I also serve as an educator. It’s important to have a well-informed voter base to elect people and vote for policies that will benefit the progression of our state.

Through this program I hope to gain a better understanding of political reporting and its impacts on the lives of my readers. I know journalism can be a powerful tool. I’m also passionate about photography and multimedia, and I would like to find a way to utilize these skills for my reporting on politics. Henry R. Luce said ‘I became a journalist to come as close as possible to the heart of the world.’ This has been the foundation of my writing through my time at the UW. I think this experience will bring me one step closer.”

Agatha Pacheco | The Seattle Times | @AgathaPachecOh

“I think I’ve always naturally leaned toward politics because I found it to be important. Why? Whether we like it or not, everyone is impacted by politics. Also, stories have always helped me understand how things are connected whenever I’m learning about new or proposed policies. I chose to pursue this opportunity because I want people to be informed, and also to perhaps give them insight on their own perspectives and the perspectives of others. There’s no harm in being self-aware and socially aware; there’s such a need for people to understand each other.

Personally, I feel like I’ve always tried to talk to people about current events and politics (my friends make fun of me because I’m always reading and telling them about what I’ve learned that day). In Olympia, I now get to do that with authority; that not only feels great, but it also makes me really think critically about what I believe, what is newsworthy, and how to best contextualize that for my readership. It’s a huge responsibility that is both thrilling and encouraging.

I am excited to be writing for The Seattle Times. It means a great deal to me that this publication chose to take me on as an intern because it demonstrates their commitment to diversity in news; not only because I am Mexican and undocumented, but also because they allow my work to stay true to my values. I take pride in my identity and feel honored to represent others like myself in this industry.

Through this experience I hope to gain more self-confidence in my skills. I think having confidence is what builds you up and pushes you to do better, and I want to be the best journalist that I can make of myself. I want this internship to cultivate that feeling of striving for ‘more.’ Every time I write a sentence or edit something I get a rush, because I know that there’s something I can learn from every moment.”

Enrique Pérez De La Rosa | KNKX NW News Network | @EnriquePerez17

“My interest in journalism stems from my interest in the stories of struggling communities and people with obstacles to overcome. As such, I take an interest in political journalism because government is one of the biggest forces that affects people’s lives, for better or worse. Through my work, I want to highlight the effects that government has on its citizens. My goal is to inform consumers as to what’s happening in their state government. I think journalists play a vital role in the political process, not just as government watchdogs, but as informants to voters.

I’m really excited to learn how to inform people through working on the radio. I think it’s tough because with a limited window of time, it’s hard to distill complex pieces of legislation. Not only that, but radio audiences are also often listening when multitasking. I have to tell stories succinctly, compellingly, and still do so with accuracy and in a timely fashion.”

Alex Visser | Washington Newspaper Publishers Association Olympia Bureau | @thealexvisser

“I have had an interest in politics from a very young age, which is a large part of why I got involved with journalism in the first place. My young journalism career has mostly centered on political topics, like racial and social equity, but less so on the people creating policy. I see my role in this program as a mediator between members of congress and their constituents. In a representative democracy, there is less direct political participation on the part of citizens, and I see the media as a way for people to feel more involved and engaged with the decision making process in their communities.

From this experience, I hope to gain a number of things on both a professional and personal level. This kind of fast-paced reporting will be somewhat new to me; I imagine that by the program’s end, I will have become proficient in covering news as it breaks. I also hope to become better at confronting sources close to the issues. This job will involve a lot of quick thinking, and I look forward to the challenge. On a personal level, I am excited by the prospect of better understanding the legislative process and why a given issue is important to a community. I don’t plan on doing legislative reporting as a full-time job in my future, but the skills will certainly translate into whichever journalistic path I pursue.”

Max Wasserman | The Tacoma News Tribune |@maxandrw1

“Political journalism interests me because it is so demanding; you’ve really got to think on your toes. I was drawn to political journalism because I wanted to try my hand at a different style of reporting. Journalists are like the fourth branch of the government. They help hold politicians accountable by holding a microphone to their actions. My role as a political reporter is then to help appraise people of the laws being made that affect their lives and the lawmakers behind them.

So far, this experience has been a professional wake-up call. Referring to senators and representatives by their title, and not ‘man,’ has required more effort than I’d like to admit. By the end of this internship, I hope to gain a sense of what it takes to be a professional journalist. That includes learning how to work within a newsroom and build stories in real-time, under the rapid-fire pressure of a legislative environment.”

Communication students, faculty, alumni and other friends of the Department are encouraged to follow this cohort’s progress at the UW Olympia Reporters Facebook page, which will feature articles published by each student throughout their time in Olympia.