As a Student Media Journalist During COVID-19

I have to say, I’ve written more about COVID-19 and its effects on my school’s campus than I’ve ever thought possible. It’s been a rough few weeks with the spread of COVID-19 here in Pennsylvania and all across the US, and I’ve found myself struggling to keep up with my job and responsibilities to report information.

Since March 16, 2020, I’ve written three different articles about COVID-19 and how that affects Messiah students. Combining all of those articles, I’ve written 10 pages of information. That’s the length of some college papers. 10 pages of updates for people who need them and assurances that we’re all trying to do the best we can.

Every time I write a new article about COVID-19, I feel a little sad that all I have to report are more reasons why the spring semester has flipped upside down.

(I have realized that this could be a drinking game. If you’re legal and so inclined, take a shot every time you see “COVID-19.” Be responsible with your drinking.)

For those of you who don’t know, my college has effectively shut down for the rest of the semester. Before Spring Break, many people suspected that we’d move online for the rest of the semester, but I held out hope. Then the College announced that we would move online and my heart broke a bit. Okay, maybe more than a bit.

All of that has arrived in a flood of emails. Emails I’ve converted into articles so people have one place to look at everything. Those 10 pages spread across three articles have since been condensed into one article that sorts all information by date of release. Because we’re getting to the point where there’s so much information, even I’m getting confused. On the bright side, I’m a walking mountain of information about most of the College’s decisions about academics and campus. Ask me any question and there’s a 95% chance I’ll have an answer for you.

If you’re wondering why I’m the one writing all this – it’s my job. As Editor-in-Chief, I’m responsible for the more immediate content. I also know who to contact about certain things and have established rapport with several people in administration, but it’s simply cause it’s my job. Someone has to make the information more easily accessible.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. I love it a lot. Yes, there are many times when I’ve felt frustration at things and wished that I was better compensated for all the work I do. The stress isn’t my favorite thing either. But I have loved my job and loved putting out content that takes peoples’ minds off their current stresses. I haven’t really gotten to do that in the past two weeks and it makes me sad.

Like many other student media organizations in the US, we’ve been working on a balance of happier content and informative content. That’s kind of hard when everyone is spread across different states (thankfully Zoom exists). My team and I are working on putting out more encouraging and light-hearted content now, but I have to say, writing over the past two weeks hasn’t been the most fun.

Especially as a journalist during this time, I’m glad that I haven’t received any backlash about the information I’ve written and published. I’m thankful that I don’t have to report on new drug trials or laws regarding COVID-19 that might stir up controversy. And I’m thankful that I can do this from the safety of my apartment.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I wish I had more pleasant things to write about for my fellow students. The weight of this isn’t lost on me. I’ve heard all the updates about NCAA athletes who have lost their chances to compete in their senior year. Several of my friends no longer have the chance to present projects they’ve been working on for months. Many people have had to give up their jobs and income during this time. I’ve had to read through all the updates carefully so that other people can be informed, and I know how hard it is for everyone.

I’ve spent more time writing about COVID-19 and its effect on Messiah than I have working on the final issue of the Swinging Bridge Magazine that comes out in May. I’ve dropped everything several times to pump out an article about more updates Messiah has made because of the spread of COVID-19. It’s the reality of being a journalist during a time when so many things are uncertain and new information is coming out every day.

The thing that helps is knowing that those three articles have helped some people. It’s been an easy format for people to pass along to others and hopefully a little easier to read than mass emails. I’ve heard from a couple of Messiah staff that they’ve been reading each update and my boss that he’s proud of how we’ve been handling all the information. These are some of the things that make me feel a little better about all the unfortunate news I’ve had to write and share.

All I can do during my last six weeks as a senior and as Editor-in-Chief is to keep updating people, generate more encouraging content with my team, and continue working on the final issue of the magazine. It wasn’t what I imagined for my final semester, but I am glad that this will be a piece of the legacy I leave behind. I’d rather be remembered as a student media journalist who reported quickly on important matters than one who only ever wrote the happy stuff.

If you want to read any of the articles I wrote during this time, you can find them here:

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