As stay-at-home orders due to the coronavirus remain in place across the country, working from home has been the biggest adjustment for journalists who are accustomed to working out in the field.
Reporting went from personal to virtual. Although journalists have used electronic modes of communication to report before, it has never been used this much before to interact with the public.
For Brittany Taylor, a digital producer at KPRC in Houston, juggling between taking care of her child while having to work was a struggle in the beginning.
“Having a child while managing work was hard to adjust. Not only that, I felt very isolated in the beginning. I no longer had my co-workers around and working remotely created lots of miscommunication.,” she says.
Many Americans did not believe coronavirus would change future plans, careers, or lives.
Julissa Garza, a recent graduate from Sam Houston State University landed her first job as a reporter at KIII news in Corpus Christi, Texas. Just after two weeks of being hired, she did not expect to start working remotely so suddenly.
“I honestly did not think COVID-19 would get in the way of my job. I was just so excited to be starting my very first job as a reporter since I had recently graduated. I heard about coronavirus but it didn’t hit me until I went to a press conference where local officials talked about the virus and how to take precautions,” she says.
It is critical for reporters to be able to sift through the information, distinguish between fact and fiction, because it can lead to health consequences for the public. Someone who takes this into serious consideration is solo anchor and producer for KSAN news in San Angelo, Texas – Lisette Hernandez.
“Being a journalist, you have to be accurate on everything. With COIVD-19 specifically. When it comes to numbers, different age groups, and demographics, you have to be perfect,” Hernandez said, “It could change the game when it comes to people making decisions based on what I am saying. I am the one writing my scripts and gathering information from the health department. The smallest mistake that I can make during this time can really mean a lot and it can affect other people’s lives.”
With the task of being surrounded with the latest COVID-19 updates, it can take a toll on journalists’ mental health.
“At one point all our coverage was only on coronavirus, it was overwhelming talking about the deaths and unemployment rates. It became depressing,” Taylor said, “My job offers to counsel because so many of our staff members were being affected mentally.”
Taking precautions for safety is key when reporting during the coronavirus – like social distancing. Although working remotely is the safest way to social distance, some anchors are expected to report at the studio.
Hernandez is still expected to work onsite. She says sanitizing is an essential part of the newsroom.
“In the back of our newsroom, we are less than ten staff members. When walking into the station we must have our face mask on and always make sure to constantly wash our hands,” said Hernandez, “As soon as I get to work I sanitize my station and in the studio. Our floor crew is responsible for disinfecting the iPads, earpieces, mics, and other things that we constantly touch.”
In this new era of reporting, many journalists have learned a lot of new things they didn’t know about themselves.
“I learned how to be a better communicator. At first, our team did go through a lot of miscommunication but with time it’s gotten much better. I am working harder from home because I have to prove that I am being productive,” said Taylor.