Four journalism students created a documentary explaining their adjustment to working remotely during a pandemic
With help from their professors, four broadcast journalism students — Emma Benson, Joseph Carson, Halston Robinson and Karani Namuno — created a documentary during the end of winter semester covering their adjustment to working remotely as journalists in a quarantined world. The thirteen-minute documentary “Covering News in a Pandemic” explains the impact that the worldwide shutdown had on journalism students at BYU.
“Once all the virus stuff started, we hit a brick wall. No one knew what to do and this was newfound territory for everyone involved,” said senior Halston Robinson. “After it was over and the dust settled, everyone wanted to move on. But we wanted to focus on what happened, we wanted to show how students and teachers had to adapt and all the cool stuff that came out of it. We felt like it was not talked about enough and light needed to be shed on this topic.”
The students created their documentary to highlight the efforts of countless BYU journalism students creating new content while the world dealt with the coronavirus pandemic. From writing the narration for the documentary to finding archived news clips, these four students demonstrated how an interactive profession can still produce interesting content while working remotely.
“I was impressed with the resilience of my classmates and professors,” said senior Joseph Carson. “It was amazing how everyone came together to adapt to difficult circumstances — from having access to labs and computers and cameras— to just having your phone and social media — and still produce news content. Everyone was optimistic and worked hard to do what they could with what they had.”
While the students were forced out of valuable experiences working in a newsroom and being on the air, they did discover benefits to the abrupt changes. Because they were away from the tools and equipment they typically had access to in the newsroom, the students were forced to innovate in a difficult situation and developed skills they can apply in their future careers.
“The students learned tons of new skills during that time,” said journalism professor Melissa Gibbs. “They had to learn to film on their phones, edit on their phones, and learn how to interview using zoom. We actually had students from the Universe and Newsline that still went out during the pandemic, and they learned how to properly social distance but still tell stories. They learned many things that they could have never learned inside the newsroom.”
While the students learned how to adapt to using tools such as phones to produce stories, they also learned skills that will apply to any stage of journalist work.
“Something I’ve really struggled with in this major is thinking on my feet. Especially in news reporting, you have to do things incredibly spontaneously. This pandemic really helped me to learn to just think on my feet,” said Robinson.
Prior to the unexpected transition to remote work, faculty in the journalism department worked on a new way to assist students in their professional experiences on campus. Dr. Edward Carter is in the process of creating a journalism innovations lab that will further the experiences of students in journalism. This lab is still currently in development, and the goal is for faculty and staff to help students be prepared for situations such as the pandemic. The lab will be unique from other labs in the department and will focus on uncovering and teaching the latest innovations in journalism throughout the world.
“We’re trying to create this journalism innovations lab. It is basically a way to see what the professionals are doing, what other schools are doing and what we are doing to push the boundaries of journalism,” said professor Gibbs. “When COVID19 happened and school shut down, it provided a perfect opportunity for us because we were forced to change things, we couldn’t do things the way we’d been doing them. We had to figure out a way to teach students how to storytell under extremely difficult circumstances where we couldn’t be together anymore and they couldn’t be face-to-face when they interviewed people.”
Although they faced limitations unlike any they had before, these students worked through the pandemic in innovative ways. Together — but isolated — the faculty and students continued to create and learn.
“There’s nothing holding anyone back from doing any reporting. You’re only limited by your creativity and skill as a storyteller,” said Carson.
To watch the completed documentary, visit Covering News in a Pandemic.