Student journalism in the time of COVID-19

If you had asked me in January what I thought the most important topic I would cover this year would be, the last thing I would have said would have been a pandemic.

When I applied for a position with my school newspaper, I thought I would be writing about campus events, taking photos at sports games or maybe covering something interesting downtown. I never thought I would be asking a fellow student how they are handling life under quarantine.

I feel like my job is now more important than ever for two reasons.

First, a lot of students are feeling stranded. When we switched to online classes, students were encouraged to move out of their dorms and go back home. In a matter of days, campus went from being flooded with students to a complete ghost town.

A lot of people are scared right now, so I think it is special that I get to be a part of a group that can act as a link back to campus, whether that is highlighting what other groups are doing virtually or just making sure that students are up-to-date on the latest messages from the president.

Second, we are pretty much living through a very complicated chapter of a history textbook that hasn’t been written yet. When future historians look back at life during COVID-19, they are going to want to know how students handled it.

It’s hard to believe that it is my job to document a historical event. At first, I thought I would feel pressured, but honestly, it feels more like a relief. In years to come, when people look back and study this time period, they might read one of my articles to get a better look into life during COVID-19.

The aspect of this job I probably like the most is being able to shine a light on issues or topics that some people may be completely unaware of. Yes, we all know that classes are online now, but not everyone knows what it is like to be unemployed. Not everyone knows about the sacrifices that some students have had to make for their loved ones who work in healthcare.

While I do think it is important to keep working, I have definitely struggled with the transition into working and learning remotely.

It’s hard to work remotely for a job like this. I miss sitting down for interviews and being able to have conversations instead of just sending a flurry of politely-worded emails. Taking photos at events and sports games feels like a distant memory, and it is sad that I don’t exactly know when I’ll get to experience it again.

I think more than anything, I miss working in the office. I was fortunate enough to have such a unique work environment where I felt close to my coworkers. I miss our inside jokes and our shared struggles. Even though we are far apart, the staff has found new ways to communicate to ensure that we can stay connected.

I’m hoping that when all of this is over, our morale will remain unchanged. Every article and every photo is its own historical event, even if it’s not tied to a pandemic.

I don’t know when we will be back on campus. My job is the best way I can stay connected, so I know it’s important that I do it right.