Journalism 445 Final Self-Reflection Blog

Photo by Ken Erdey

Going into this semester, I knew I was going to have a large amount of work ahead of me and that it would be different compared to other semesters in the past. Having two jobs, taking 18 credit hours, being the Music Director of an A Cappella group on campus, participating in numerous extracurriculars and more resulted in me attempting to get a head start on anything I could for this course. Anytime I saw an opportunity to work ahead, I took it. For example, our first newscast.

Originally, I was scheduled to produce a News Update, which I was both nervous and excited to do, as I had never had an opportunity to do something like this before in a class. Because I knew I was going to have a lot of work to accomplish in the semester, I aimed to produce most of the content on my own. I had planned to complete a VO on the Krannert Hive Exhibit, and a VOSOTVO on a concert taking place at the University of Illinois Spurlock Museum. After filming both of these, I began editing as early as possible. However, my plans changed upon coming to class the following day.

We had been scheduled to have five packages, but by the Tuesday of that week, only four had been worked on. Seeing the stress our producers for the week were facing, I stepped up and volunteered to create a package, as I had captured enough B-Roll and three sources to complete this. I was stressed about completing this in addition to the work I had already signed up for, but I was determined to do whatever I could to help my fellow classmates.

Though it was not perfect, I was proud of the finished result of what I completed. In addition to my own News Update, I was able to assist my fellow classmates who had produced their own News Updates as floor director. This was my first time in this position, and was one I enjoyed for the Updates. It gave me an opportunity to encourage others and get them excited for their solo on-air moments. After the News Updates were completed, our newscast was next.

This was a slightly longer show than we were told about previously, which proved to be somewhat hectic the day of the show. Floor directing was slightly harder in this scene, as it was a faster-paced episode with more content than the News Updates. Near the end of the show, I was brought onto the set to discuss my package I had worked on.

However, due to technical difficulties, my package had not played as it did during my actual News Update. Though this was frustrating to watch and know that there was nothing I could do about it, I remained calm and discussed the concert to the best of my ability. The end result of our newscast was excellent due to the hard work of everyone who helped.

For our following newscast, I was allowed to take a week off since I had completed both a News Update and a package. This came at a great time, as I had several projects, an exam and an interview for graduate school that week. I was instead able to anchor our newscast alongside Yuhan Ma. The following week, I was able to create a package related to the upcoming U.S. Census for 2020. I had some difficulty with this, as I had to miss a class in order to film for it, but I was committed to getting the job done so I could continue to get ahead in this class. In the end, I was able to put together a package I was proud of and later aired on UI-7 News (1:30).

With two packages and one VO completed, I was determined to complete as many of my assignments as possible in order to get prepared for after spring break. I signed up to complete my second and final News Update, so that I could produce more content to ensure my work was aired. For this update, I had planned to film an event on scientific consulting for a VO and a VOSOTVO on a play at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

Upon filming the play, I found that I once again had much more information that I could create into a package instead of squeezing into a VOSOTVO. I decided to create my final package, and was very excited to do so. The actors and producers even requested a copy of my final product for their own use, which I happily sent over to them.

Photo by Ken Erdey

In the midst of editing together work for my News Update, we received word that the University of Illinois would be suspending classes for two weeks after spring break due to the coronavirus. Wanting to report this, I began preparing a VO on the email. A few hours later, President Timothy Killeen announced that the university would indefinitely be holding classes online, so I updated my VO to further reflect this. While doing this, I realized how this would impact the rest of the year for my fellow classmates and myself. Everyone at Richmond Journalism Studio who was part of Good Morning Illini or Illini Sports Night expressed their upset regarding this. People would be missing out on producing shows they were passionate about. They wouldn’t be able to film segments for the programs they loved so much. I not only felt upset for myself, but for them, especially for the seniors.

Following this, we were told that we could not hold class the following day, so those of us who were producing News Updates decided to take matters into our own hands. Alex Agulera, Liam Dwyer, Dan Gerardi, Yuhan Ma, Danielle Williams, Becca Wood and I all stayed at Richmond studio and assisted one another with our News Updates until roughly 2 A.M. that night. We worked switcher, audio, playback, helped one another with mics and cameras and supported each other so we could complete professional and high-quality updates that we could also use for our future reels.

At that time, we still had the technology and resources available to complete works that could be used for a future career. Even though we were all tired and exhausted by the end of the night, this showed our determination to get the job done in order to do well in this course, and I am proud of the work I completed in order to do this. I am extremely grateful for every single one of my fellow classmates who helped out that night, and it reflected on their ability to get the job done, even during a crisis.

Once we learned that we would be working at home for the remainder of the semester, I was concerned how the work I had already accomplished would be reflected in regards to this. However, I tried to work diligently and broke up each section of my article into sections. That allowed me to get a fresh start every day.

In spite of the events that have occurred within the last month, I feel as though this class prepared me for creating the best broadcast productions possible. If I could give any advice, it would be to work ahead and get the job done as soon as possible. Most of my work was completed prior to spring break, which began on March 13. Capture more footage than you think you will need, get an interview if one is available and always help others.

This class has taught me that teamwork can truly get the job done. Make sure you save your footage when editing as much as possible so you don’t lose anything! Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help. One thing I’ve learned as a journalism major is that so many other students are in the same boat as you, so someone may have had the same problem or question you have.

Another thing I would mention is to not be discouraged when things do not work out. Personally, I am a detail-oriented person who likes to know a strict plan and stick to it. However, I know this is not how the real world works, and this prepared me more for the future. Using critical thinking skills allowed me to develop more as a professional, and inspired me to think more on the spot about how to accomplish a task to the best of my ability with the resources I had been given.

Photo by Ken Erdey

Additionally, confidence is key. There were times in this class where I felt I did not perform to the best of my ability, but that only inspired me to try harder and to build my confidence. A lot of that confidence came from the support of my wonderful fellow classmates. Our class was one that supported, encouraged and helped one another. When we all put our heads together, we were able make creations that we were all proud of. That is one of the things I will remember most about this class.

As a journalist, there will often times be roadblocks that occur when you least expect them to. The best thing to do is be flexible and try your hardest to do your best work. This goes for anyone in any occupation, not just journalism. Being flexible and working through situations together with the help of others will only make you stronger. At the end of the day, I am grateful for the opportunities I had in this class, because it allowed me to work harder and develop my skills as a journalist and a professional. This was without a doubt the hardest semester I have faced at the University of Illinois, but this class taught me that with hard work, determination and a positive attitude, you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.

On top of everything that has occurred to me personally throughout this semester, I was able to complete nearly every assignment in this class before spring break. Additionally, I led my a cappella group in rehearsal for nine hours a week, and even led us in a competition. I worked two jobs in order to help my family. I applied, interviewed at and got accepted to a graduate school with one of the top programs in the country that I thought I stood no chance of getting into. Looking back on this semester, despite every obstacle I faced, I am proud of that.

A Story of Pandemic Proportions: How Education is Impacted by COVID-19

By Maddie Ehret

Students; Coronavirus: College; Education; Precautions; Multimedia journalism
Students at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Photo Courtesy of Time Magazine

The COVID-19 outbreak has impacted people on an international level, and the media has spared no efforts in attempting to cover these events. People from all over the world have been impacted by the spread of the novel coronavirus, including students.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign announced on March 11 that they would be suspending classes for the time being, which initially resulted in classes for the remainder of the semester being conducted online via Zoom. UI-7 News reported on the initial steps that were taken. However, campus all around the world have been impacted by this outbreak, and several news sources have attributed to the spread of media to the public. This article examines how CNN, Fox News, NBC, Forbes and U.S. News have discussed this issue and how the virus has impacted students.


CNN, which was originally founded in 1980 in Atlanta, Georgia, has kept a steady flow of reports regarding the virus. It is currently owned by Time Warner Inc. and was created by mogul Ted Turner. CNN was also the first network to produce 24-hour full news coverage cycles, making it easier for viewers to catch up on current events that may be occurring. The platform also includes an email service that informs subscribers of the most pressing matters daily. The platform has an average of 1 million total viewers. It has been reporting about the pandemic since the issue first arose in Wuhan, China near the end of 2019.

Originally founded in 1996 by Rupert Murdoch, Fox News is recognized for its rather conservative views, some of which may be reflected in their coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic. The views may be connected to Republican political consultant Roger Ailes, who was enlisted to oversee the network in the 1990s. Fox News is currently owned by 21st Century Fox, and was tied for top-rated basic cable network in total viewers alongside MSNBC, with an average of 2.5 million viewers on air. Their website has the ability for users to search for specific topics related to current news, such as coronavirus.

NBC, which was founded in 1926 in New York, is currently the oldest major broadcast network in the country and is owned by Comcast and parented by Universal. NCB Chicago first began reporting on the air in 1948. As of December 2019, NBC receives roughly 8.1 million viewers. Their national website has been posting updates with articles, statistics and other media since the outbreak began. NBC Chicago has been updating their viewers and readers with local news related to the pandemic with a live blog.

Forbes Magazine is recognized as the original major business magazine in the United States. They currently have roughly seven million readers from around the world. The magazine is also published in 35 languages. Founded in 1926 by Bertie Charles Forbes, the media outlet features stories related to business areas, such as finance, investing, marketing and more. However, they also have sections related to law, science and technology. As of March 2020, they have reached roughly 107 million viewers on their website. Currently, they have a portion of their website dedicated to stories about the coronavirus.

Lastly, United States News, known as U.S. News, was founded in 1933 by David Lawrence. They are currently owned by U.S. News and World Report and are headquartered in Washington D.C., the capital of the United States. Though it provides national and international reports to its readers, it is also known for its popular annual authoritative rankings on universities and hospitals. Their website currently has a page for all recent news updates relating to the virus.

Coronavirus: Face-mask production cranked up in Taiwan to ease ...
Students in class wear masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Photo courtesy of


CNN: In an article posted on April 27 by CNN, the central issue surrounding a majority of schools from around the country is when they will be legally allowed to reopen their doors to students. One option mentioned was to have students wear masks, staggering start times so there are no large groups of students, as well as suspending extracurricular activities and assemblies. Even with those restrictions, school administrators still remained concerned about the possibility of furthering the spread of the virus.

Furthermore, some are unsure of this would even be allowed or if it would break the current social distancing protocol. Matthew Hazel, an English teacher at Freedom High School in Orlando, Florida said, “Anyone who says there’s a way to socially distance in an American high school is kidding themselves or you. It can’t be done.” The article cites that almost every school in the nation has been closed for the remainder of the 2020 academic school year. However, some state governors have potential plans for the future. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo hopes the state may reopen as early as May 15 with schools reopening shortly after. Former New York resident Melissa Ehret discusses her views on the matter.

Fox News: On April 28, Fox News published an article discussing how President Donald Trump is reacting to the pandemic in relation to the end of the academic school year. He stated in a press conference on Monday, April 27 that it would be a “good idea” to have schools open up again for in-person classes before the school year ends. This is because those who are younger tend to have better immunity to the virus. Vice President Mike Pence also mentioned that “every state” would have the ability to enter phase one of the White House reopening guidelines. Several states, such as Georgia, Oklahoma and Alaska, have started to loosen the rules on social distancing. However, over 30 states have decided to remain closed and continue with online learning for the remainder of the academic year.

NBC Chicago: Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker announced that all Illinois schools would suspend in-person learning this past March. NBC Chicago reported on April 17 that schools would continue to stay closed for the rest of the school year. Pritzker was quoted as saying, “The importance of our schools and our in-person school days is not just a question of tradition and sentimentality, as essential as those things are – the shutting of in-person classroom time also risks a drop in instructional time, an extended window in which students can potentially experience summer learning loss, and an educational landscape in which some districts have more experience with remote learning than others.” The article includes other information, including the current number of cases in Illinois, the belief that the state has yet to hit the peak of the virus and that more tests are becoming available throughout the state.

Forbes: Boston University was the first college in the country to announce it may be suspending in-person learning until January of 2021, as Forbes reported on April 13. This is primarily because so much is unknown about when the virus will end, as some predict a second wave may occur in the fall. The campus is home to nearly 33,000 students from all over the world. University president Robert Brown announced administration was working on a recovery plan since the campus announced its closing in late March. If the current state of the virus were to remain until the fall, the campus would continue with online learning protocol and return to in-person learning in the start of the new year. Currently, the article has about 514,723 views.

U.S. News: Before COVID-19 impacted the United States, it was prominent within Asia and Europe. U.S. News gave a report on March 27 of what would happen to students who were studying abroad at the time. Several colleges cancelled their abroad programs or requested that their students return home early in order to avoid coming into contact with the virus. Students such as Brennan Sisco, who had been studying in London, England for two months, were able to experience a portion of their time abroad. Others, however, were not as lucky. In the article, students recall hearing of the, at the time, epidemic, but not paying as much attention to it. Events began to take a turn as more and more programs became cancelled every day as the virus began to change in threat levels.

Comparing and Contrasting

CNN: Other states were listed to compare what matters they were taking into consideration, as well. This may have enticed their readers to see what precautions their state was taking into the matter, as well as what may happen in the future. Furthermore, educators may have looked into this to see how they can learn from other educational systems in order to see what steps they can take during this time.

Fox News: Based on their conservative viewpoints, this article may have gotten attraction from those who share similar values. Additionally, this may have gotten attention from students who are hoping to return to college sooner rather than later. Included in this article are several other links that lead to other stories related to how Trump has handled the virus up until this point. Additionally, a video that gives a summary of the coronavirus is listed at the beginning of the story.

NBC Chicago: While this article relates to the current state of the schools, it also provides additional insight into other factors of the coronavirus. This can increase the number of people who view the article, as it relates to multiple demographics. Throughout the article, there are multiple links to other stories, as well as a video of Governor Pritzker’s updates on the virus.

Forbes: Because this is the first university in America to announce taking such action in response to COVID-19, the story may have a variety of difference audiences. In terms of other media in the story, one picture of the Boston University campus sits at the introduction of the article. Students and faculty members of the university may have been drawn to this article, as it pertains to their education and employment. Similarly, students and faculty from other universities may have read the article, as they may be concerned that their university will soon be taking the same measures.

U.S. News: This article provides links to other articles related to coronavirus. A picture of the Vatican in Rome is seen at the beginning of the article. Additionally, more study abroad programs scheduled to take place in the summer or fall at several universities have been cancelled due to safety precautions since this article was published.

Among all of these articles, each had a relation to the educational aspect of the coronavirus. Because the articles listed previously are all relatively new, they are mostly up-to-date. However, each of the websites have individual pages where viewers can see new and updated stories related to COVID-19. Each of the outlets covered their stories with as much information as they had. Some included more media links than others. For example, Forbes included only one picture in their article in comparison to Fox News, who included both videos and several other hyperlinks in the story. This may be because Fox News’s work in the broadcasting field contributes to a number of their views, so adding a video may increase the number of views for a story. Forbes, on the other hand, is primarily editorial-based, so they may provide less visual information.

Though there are differences, each of the platforms include some sort of page or blog dedicated to updates surrounding the coronavirus, and each have been updated on an almost daily basis. CNN had the largest number of reports on a daily basis. Similarly, each page includes a variety of topics related to COVID-19, such as the current political climate, what to do and what not to do, various statistics and more. However, each of the platforms speaks with their own voice and has a number of audiences that tend to graduate towards them. Each platform discusses a different way in which education and students have been impacted, as well as how they have dealt with the problems they have faced.

How Students Can Get Ahead During The COVID-19 School Shutdown
A student uses a computer to complete remote learning. Photo courtesy of

What’s Next?

As the future of the virus remains uncertain, some schools, such as Boston University, have remained undecided about what steps they will take in order to continue education. Others are unsure, but remain hopeful that they will be able to welcome their students back to campus in the fall of 2020. However, how will students be impacted by this in the future? Currently, e-learning may not be ideal for all college students, especially for those with majors who require some sort of physical element to their education, such as engineering, nursing or even broadcast journalism. Similarly, every university provides a different curriculum to each of their programs compared to other universities. What one student may be learning online may be very different from that of what another student may be doing.

The job market looks especially unclear for the moment, and this could impact the likelihood of securing a job for current college seniors. They have already lost great moments of celebrating their successes, as well as being able to spend their final moments of college on their home campus. What remains unknown is when the virus will fully end, which may arise with the help of a vaccine. However, it is not clear when that will be available, as the BBC reports that most experts believe it will be available by mid-2021. E-learning may continue to be in effect until an effective vaccine is released, but universities remain hopeful that they will be able to reinstate normal educational protocol by the time fall classes come around. The media has kept readers up-to-date with current results of COVID-19, and they will hopefully continue to do so as it progresses.

The Year of Quarantine

Written by Taylor Mattingly

When 2020 began, people weren’t worried about the now famed covid, covid-19, coronavirus also known as… Corona…. January and February were seemingly normal, and the United States was doing what it does best, being invincible. Eight year old Jacoby Gabree simplifies Corona which actually isn’t all that simple.

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A Great Course, A Great Semester

Written by: Yushan Guo

Time flies. It feels incredible that another semester is about to end. Although lots of unexpected things happened, it was still a great semester overall. And FAA 110 was one of the main factors that made this semester “great”. I remember I registered this course simply for a general education course. However, this is such a great course that brought me much more than just having a few credits.

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Farewell to FAA110

By Jiaxuan Meng

I had a very fruitful semester with Dr. Collins, Dr. Robinson, and my fellow classmates. This class gave me a lot of great opportunities to see a wide range of performances and artists in Krannert Center and Spurlock Museum. It made me widen my horizons and stimulate my curiosity and creativity in modern society with different forms of arts.

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A Long Journey of Zihan Wang

It’s Me! I’m Zihan Wang!

The semester of 2020 Spring is a pretty strange semester — because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the courses of this semester have to be taken online or implemented through a different approach. Such a situation reminds me of how important the back-up plans shall be, like what we have learned in the course of jour 445. 

In the class, Prof.Collins reminded us to have plans A, B, and C for any situations we have encountered, in order to make sure we can produce the videos. I have never expected that what we have learned in the course could be applied in my life so quickly — I am stuck in my home and it has been impossible to produce any work or do anything outside, only trying to produce works inside the room. Such a moment requires creativity, independence, but also a sense of crisis, which means we should always be prepared for the worst.

But still, it is impossible to imagine that the coronavirus could cause such a horrible influence in the U.S., especially in the first quarter of the year, China has provided quite enough experiences and information we need. Even Trump was racketing his nonsense, there has been proof that we could have done better than the situation we are encountering now. But that’s not only his problem, also the journalism industry, because we have failed to inform the public of the upcoming crisis. The media follows to slow, just like the package I have done about the test, too slow. That’s a combination of different packages.

Since the shelter-in-place regulation affected, I have been stuck at home for a long time. Here are some moments for me in the home.

When I was standing on the balcony of my apartment, I was looking outside, and wondering, when I could go outside?
The life of self-quarantine turns to be boring and boring. We felt that it is going to burying us — just like the paintings in the corner of my apartment.
Exercise can be necessary for this moment — but I felt that I’m just like the dumbbell, teared apart by the self-quarantine.
And when I was looking outside the window, I just found a red wall. Plain, red wall.
And this is a photo I shoot before the self-quarantine. Oh, I really missed those days.

The self-quarantine provided me the most different experience compared with normal days — when people cannot go on streets for stories, the only way they could conduct news stories is through the internet. I surf online news channels every day to keep up with where we are now in the pandemic and also learning the stories of ordinary people. A crisis is a crisis, but one can turn the worst situation into opportunities. It is a great chance for me to learn how to pick information and reorganize them into a story with a more complete format. Besides that, I also have to conduct stories about my roommates or my girlfriend — although it is not quite journalism, only a special method for contingency. 

I think the most enjoyable part of this course shall be producing newscasts in a dynamic environment. Like the first show we have done for this semester, nobody would predict the result of the impeachment release. This is a great opportunity to experience a tight working pace in a real TV newsroom.

And the journey we come through this semester, which I believe is quite the same as what other students and ordinary citizens are experiencing now. We are all in self-quarantine in our apartments in a country shut down for the pandemic, while also suffering from the same solitude, pain, and anxiety. Students are suffering from learning knowledge virtually, which actually is impossible, especially for some majors like the design. So do we. We can never conduct news in a small room without real talks to people. Citizens in this nation are suffering from anxiety of losing their jobs and shorts in their pockets — so do we. We, journalism students, are facing a terrible job-hunting season this year because of the great hit on the economy, and also have to stay in apartments without any jobs to get paid. Personally I have lost a couple of hundreds of dollars because the coronavirus has caused cancellations of several part-time working invitations — I’m a part-time photographer. 

But to different people, it can be different things. I have interviewed several people for their thoughts on how the coronavirus could impact their life. One of the people, who is my roommate, actually feels not that bad of virtual courses.

I think technology plays a vital role in my journey. Without the pieces of equipment like cameras, mics, and sound recorders, I would never be able to finish my videos. And technology plays an even more important role in my current journey: for working remotely in my apartment, all I could do is relying on my laptop and network. Through my chrome, I reach to the corners of this world. And that’s how I explore the world of journalism in such a difficult time.

And technology also helps me to conduct some videos. I still remembered the hardship I encountered for shooting the drag queen show. It was in Canopy, a local club. It was pretty dark there, and if I used my own camera for that video, that would be a disaster. But thanks to the camera from the College of Media, I could conduct a decent video and capture the highlights of the drag queens’ performances.

I heard about the virus pretty early — since it first broke out in China, I have got plenty of information before it got the outbreak in N.Y.C. At the early stage in China, I was terribly nervous, and I called my parents every day to check if they were ok and followed the necessary self-protection guidance. It was a very horrible disease and I felt very worried about my parents’ safety. But at that time, I have never expected that there could be such a terrible outbreak in the U.S., because since during the two months’ struggle, China has shown the world how we could effectively stop the spread of the disease and how we could stop the disease in a limited scale. Even because of the difference between the two nations’ political system, the U.S. could at least control the disease, but not let it spread like such a terrible condition.

But when I look back at the end of this semester, I felt that something has changed. I would not be so panic about the dynamic reality I’m encountering, and it has been easier for me to stay cool for urgent situations or breaking news. It has also been a great opportunity for me to practice viewing the events in a professional journalism view — for example, like the humanitarian disasters caused by the coronavirus, I could stay calm down and try to cover it in a professional way — I have tried in writing some practice stories of them. Also, I found that I could review the information I got in a more efficient way, like looking for different angles to cover them.

There have been many things playing a role in leading me to success for my assignments. Individually, I believe the key element is the skills to catch the opportunity — for example, when I was shooting a story of the author corner in the bookstore. There was a lecture done by guest speakers. I happened to catch a chance for shooting a video of the authors — there were plenty of people and hard to find a position to set up my camera. The other example would be the experience of shooting the story of tax assistance. In the beginning, I thought it might be just a VO, but when I got there I felt that there could be a chance to turn it into a package– only if I can catch subjects for interviewing as quickly as possible. And finally, as you can see, that was a good package. 

Self-confidence also plays a vital role at such a moment. We need to persuade our subjects for interviewing that we could offer them the best opportunity to tell the public their stories and endeavors. This request a great self-confidence that we believe what we have done is correct, is helpful and is worthful. For so many times I thought that maybe skills and talents are the most important characters we have, but after times and times that I was cast into challenging situations, I found that self-confidence is the last threshold I have to keep moving on and achieve something I want. And that helps me to finish the project about the Spring Festival Gala. The cancelation of the Spring Festival gala was pretty distressful for the Chinese student community. It was good news, but there happened to be many difficulties to finish that story, including tech issues. However, thanks to the self-confidence, I had a sharp and clear mind and finished that project.

I would bring what I have learned from this class to my future professional practice in journalism, including the confidence of our works, the vigilance of unexpected situations, and what’s more, the belief in the cooperations. All that we have learned in the journey to the end would enrich me in understanding the dynamic society, also provide necessary skills and faith in overcoming challenges upon the road. 

In the end, I would say I’m pretty proud of the works we have done for the class. It is the crystal of our cooperation, endeavor, and sacrifice. The proudest part for this semester would be the team we have, that we have come through many unpredictable situations, handled breaking news, together walked through a hard time of coronavirus, and finally achieved to the end of our undergraduate life. I would remember all the people I have met in the class, all the moments we worked together, and I will bring what I have been guaranteed in this class to the future. 

My Works Lists

VO:Purim Drag Show




Cheers to a Fun Semester!

By Willa Wu

Reflecting back on the classes I have taken from freshman year until graduation, it amuses me that the two most impactful classes I have taken throughout my college experience were two that I decided to take on a whim, not for the extra credit hours or any major requirement. FAA 110, one of such classes, has forced me to sit back and spend time appreciating the creativity in the arts, which I have very rarely done due only focusing on STEM subjects most of my life.

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A Study of Perseverance and Adaption

Photo by Susan Dwyer

by Liam Dwyer

As I reflect upon the long and tumultuous semester I spent in Journalism 445, I find myself coming back to two key attributes that aided in my success in the class, perseverance and adaptation. These two key traits were vital in the success of not only every assignment I worked on and every newscast I worked with, but also to my bludgeoning career as a journalist as well. I would be remiss, though, to say that there were never moments of celebration or relaxation, that jour445 was a constant battle for success, those moments did exist. But with the coming pandemic, and even before, I found that without constant vigilance on deadlines and assignment progress, things can quickly start to fall apart, as my first assignment taught me.

The first assignment  I worked on was my first package, a story about how issues with Illinois automatic voter registration were leading to people being both incorrectly denied and approved for voting. This assignment started with problems from the get-go, as my original story was about the recent legalization of marijuana with the idea of interviewing a local dispensary. After the interview fell through, I attempted another story that also failed on take-off, before ultimately settling just a few days before the deadline with this story. This meant interviews had to be quickly scheduled and editing was an all-night, day-before-deadline affair. Ultimately the story was a success in my eyes, but only after numerous set-backs where I was forced to adapt and persevere, a strong example for my case on their importance.

My second assignment, I served as an assistant producer under Rebecca Wood to create the Feb. 20th UI7 Newscast. Of the two assignments thus far, I certainly enjoyed this one more, and it perhaps hints at an inclination towards producer over straight reporting. This assignment too saw moments of crisis to be sure, scripts were in later than either me or Becca would have preferred which made creating a working rundown difficult. Also working around the scheduling of the smaller News Updates meant that sometimes the people we needed to talk or work with were busy at the moment, so we had to adapt and multitask. Overall though I found this to be enjoyable, the organizing of stories, helping reporters with questions, and such was engaging. It also served as a good experience for my next assignment when I was the lead producer for the newscast.

Assignment three was a double-edged sword of an assignment. It was by far the most stressful assignment, but also the one I felt most energized and happy about upon its conclusion. This assignment differs from the previous in that for this Newscast I was the lead producer and thus all the accountability and responsibility fell on my shoulders if(and when) things went wrong. Instead of following Becca’s lead now, I was the man in front leading the charge, and that was an aspect I enjoyed. The assignment taught me the importance of delegating work and trusting those you work with, while also showing me what work I myself needed to do that couldn’t be delegated out. I was able to apply the lessons I’d learned from the previous newscast and polish the show up until the last minute. It’s one of the reasons I think this newscast was the best of all three we were able to accomplish.

Some of the things I did still need to adapt to and learn from are my limitations as a producer in both knowledge and skills. I was constantly asking others to print something for me for example, as I didn’t know how to myself. My script-writing also left something to be desired, though by the end I think I was able to get the hang of it. These lessons are what I hope to truly take away from this class, the need to always strive to learn and improve no matter how much you think you have the hang of something. Indeed I thought this week would be my greatest challenge, how woefully unprepared I was for the coming months with such a mind-set.

My final wok before the start of this wild pandemic was two VoSots that I shoot and editing into my first(and last) News Update. The two VoSots were covering local events such as a photography club and a cat show, and both illustrated different lessons I learned from. The cat show illustrated my need to learn how to focus a camera, something after 4 years of college I still appear to have trouble with as my Sot is nowhere near in focus. Always check focus folks, always. The camera club, on the other hand, demonstrated the need for creativity in the field. Held in a single room and consisting mostly of people looking at projected images, filming varied and interesting B-Roll was no easy task. These are lessons you can learn on any VoSot however, and the true test of adaptation and endurance came with the filming of the News Update itself.

School wasn’t the only thing cancelled, even the State Farm center was immune to the shut-downs

TThe day the news updates were supposed to be filmed, the news came out that school would not be resuming classes and were offered the opportunity to film our News Updates on our phones. I and a number of dedicated other Jour445 students were in Richmond Studios finishing edits when the news came down, and as a group, we decided to band together and do it ourselves. Here I must reflect and thank my fellow students, Dan, Becca, Maddie, Alex, Yuhan, and some I’m sure that have slipped my mind. Without their teamwork, I wouldn’t have been able to do it, and it shows just how much of a collaborative process.

Once my favorite place to eat lunch between classes, now just another empty building.

After Winter Break I made the decision to return to cAfter Winter Break I made the decision to return to campus despite the move to online classes. What I returned to wasn’t the University of Illinois I knew, however. The Union was closed for the rest of my time here at the University, no chance for me to say goodbye.

The following weeks as both a journalist and a student have been increasingly difficult in this new world of isolation. Without the thriving campus scene, my walks around town to elevate stress seem again to a post-apocalypse movie, even the quad was empty on days of sunshine and warmth.

Grey skies in this photo, but the scene is much the same even in sunshine.

I found it imperative to find ways to keep my mind busy and active in these less than perfect times, and recently have taken up cooking to better myself between online classes and assignments. I’m no Gordon Ramsey yet, but with time comes skill, and everyone has a lot of that these days.

Twice-baked potatoes, something I didn’t even know existed, cooked deliciously by myself for the first time

One thing that I have learned in all this, especially as a journalist, is that times of trouble can offer some of the greatest opportunities to our profession. On my daily walks, I noticed an increase in construction, for instance. Ever the curious one I began taking photos, as you can see and found that construction was booming in this ghost town of mine.

It would appear without 50,000 students walking and driving around town. Without them using buildings daily, construction is suddenly able to drive heavy equipment through otherwise busy streets even during normal rush hours.

Suddenly the sound of jackhammers and the site of workers lounging around during lunch has become a common occurrence, something just waiting to be documented by the likes of journalists like myself.
Through it all, I think that the most disheartening image has to be of either Green Street barren of people or the University Health Center on Green testing for Corona. Both show just how completely Corona has taken hold of the world, removing any chance of normalcy for the time being

 This of course, brings us to the working of the Final Assignment. Tasked with interviewing 6 individuals for soundbites in a time where close contact is prohibited was no easy task, but here again, adaptability and perseverance rear their heads. Critical thinking was also key to this assignment and I overcame these initial challenges by simply seeking out and talking to people I could still meet in person, namely family, roommates, and girlfriend. Each of these individuals I knew was healthy and willing to talk, especially since I live with 5 out of the 6.

The most prominent challenge, in fact, turned out not to be interviewing my subjects but re-interviewing them. Upon the eve completing my assignment I was uploading my soundbites to my computer when my SD card became corrupted, wiping two interviews from existence. While it turned out all right in the end, it does provide a valuable lesson to always back-up your files. Luckily technology in the form of Zoom allowed me to call those I no longer had easy access to and rerecord their interviews from scratch.

Now we come to the conclusion of my self-reflection of the semester to end all semesters. It’s been one bumpy ride, but in all, I can’t help but look back fondly on it. Sure the stress of Corona was hard, but I’ve been blessed with my health and the health of friends and family during it. The last NewsUpdate was the most hectic I’ve ever felt, but the camaraderie that it created meant I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world, same with the rest of the semester. In all, Jour455 is tough, its hectic, and at times it might seem overwhelming, but if you stick with it and roll with the punches, you’ll come out a better journalist no matter what comes your way. As the old saying goes come rain, come snow, come sleet or hail, a journalist delivers the news… or something along those lines.

Different Generations: Different News

By Liam Dwyer

With the recent pandemic, many people are finding out how different new sources are portraying the event differently.
Photo by Liam Dwyer

The coming of each new generation brings with it a flourish of new ideas, new fashions and tastes, as well as new ways of doing things. In this particular instance, that difference is what news sources different generations trust and listen to. No time has better illustrated that difference than the before and during this current Covid-19 pandemic.

For the younger generation, those currently in college, many are turning to alternative forms of news. They watch Youtubers like Philip Defranco that morph international and Youtube-centric news in short daily videos. Some scroll through Twitter or Facebook following official news organizations or random individuals they trust. For them the news is only found on the screen of their phone or computer, not television.

The older generation of parents and grandparents, however, still prefer their TV news. They tune in every evening to CNN or Fox news for the latest information about world affairs.

A person’s choice in news can shape their perception of the day’s events. It can tell them whether a small viral outbreak in a region in China will bring the world to a halt in the coming months, or whether its nothing to worry about.

On one end of the spectrum stands people like Julian Dwyer, a freshman in General Studies at the University of Illinois. He almost exclusively gets his news secondhand from talking to his friends or via Twitter. Julian attributes his early concerns on the virus to his following of non-mainstream media accounts on twitter,

Some of the account he follows may have “called it” earlier than others, but they also appear to engage in a number of dubious or otherwise proven false conspiracy theories. One such account Julian mentioned following, @LokiJulianus,has also been known to post racist or otherwise discriminatory tweets prior to focusing on the CoronaVirus. In the end Julian admits that while this method of following non-traditional media works for him, it likely wouldn’t work for everyone,

“You’re rolling the dice with these people. It works for me, I don’t think it would work for a large amount of people, a country couldn’t listen to these people as gospel.” – Julian Dwyer

Julian wasn’t the only person to mention primarily getting their news from alternative sources. Cameron Bryum-Ramberg, a second-year senior studying English and Creative Writings, get most of his news from YouTube videos, specifically those by Philip Defranco.

The channel currently has 6.4 million subscribers and puts out daily videos about everything from YouTube drama to national stories to international news. Defranco would be considered a second-hand source as the majority of his information come from other news organizations, but that doesn’t mean he’s slow to report the news.

In fact, while he may not have started talking about Covid-19 as early as late December, the first video he posted on the subject was January 21st, about the first case of the virus in America, the same day that NPR made their post about the story.

Both Twitter and Youtubers have the potential to provide factual news, however, unlike mainstream media, it often isn’t as consistent. Twitter is as likely used to talk about the latest Tik-Tok trends as it is viruses, and Defranco often covers several topics in his videos that aren’t news related.

This may be one reason both Julian and Bryum-Ramberg mentioned not feeling overly concerned about catching the disease as Bryum talks about,

I do look at the global count every so often to keep up with today with how many people are infected, but I still don’t think I personally am scared of the virus. Mainly because I am relatively young and probably wont be affected if I do get it. Like I probably won’t die.“ – Cameron Bryum-Ramberg

Without a 24-hour news cycle constantly talking about and debating the virus, they have time to let other concerns keep their attention. They can choose when to rejoin the conversation by picking a video or opening Twitter, or when turn it off.

More to that point, the two individuals interviewed who partook in a hybrid news experience, i.e using Facebook to follow traditional sources like NPR and NYT or following twitter and watching CNN, seemed more concerned about the disease.

Roberto DeVera is a senior pre-med student at the University of Illinois and until he went home primarily got his news from twitter and friends. When he got home, however, the conversation surrounding Covid-19 was from CNN, and he says he saw a noticeable shift its in his perception,

“When I got home we had CNN playing all the time, my mom was watching CNN… You didn’t know quite what to think but, definitely a lot of concern and not really that many answer to the concern.” – Roberto DeVera

He also noticed a certain amount of misinformation being broadcast, something he felt emphasized the importance of picking your new source carefully as he talks about,

DeVera isn’t the only one that found uncertainty and concern in traditional media. Alexa Yeo, a senior in Engineering, talked about how the severity of the disease hit her one week after a flood of stories from NPR were posted on Facebook,

Just looking at NPR’s archives for March 31st, around the time Alexa remembers her experience being, reveals that out of the 40 or so stories NPR published, around 30 were related to covid-19. While all of those may not have been posted to Facebook, it does bear questioning what amount of news is too much? Does this flood of information serve the public, or simply serve to fuel the public’s fear.

On the flip side of that question is what happens when the media doesn’t tell you enough or take a pandemic seriously enough. Fox News came under fire from several organizations including the Washington Post for what they say was “downplaying of the coronavirus

It’s something that worries people Susan Dwyer, a part-time flight attendant. Her father watches Fox News exclusively and she believes it has lead him to be continuously misinformed about Covid-19,

Proclaiming to be “fair and balanced”, Fox News has often talked about how it stands apart from the traditional mainstream media message. This time, however, it may face legal trouble over its portrayal of the virus according to one Vanity Fair article,

“Fox is now layering up, bracing for a litany of public-interest lawsuits and letters of condemnation for pedaling misinformation for weeks prior to coronavirus’s explosion in the U.S.”

Whether anything is to come of the action is not at this time known, though it is interesting to note that out of the 6 individuals interviewed for this article, 3 mentioned Fox News and the accusations of misinformation, citing it as part of why they don’t trust that particular news source.

This might simply be an indication of their preference in news as those 3 also indicated they viewed CNN as part of their daily news intake. Serving as an example of typical mainstream TV media, CNN, along with Fox News, is often quoted and cited in many of the second-hand news sources mentioned early like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

One notable stand-out among my interview with long-time CNN follower Tom Dwyer is his perception of how long this pandemic might last. CNN has long been critical of the federal government’s, and President Trump’s, response to the Covid-19 pandemic. They have published articles that call out the President for talking about disinfectant in the latest press briefing and calling into question his disagreeing of Georgia’s decision to open up. 

That may well be the origin of Tom Dwyer’s belief that the virus could last up to a year due to the lack of federal response,

In the end, though, every individual is different. The way they watch the news and the way those sources tell the story minutely biased in one way or the other. While Twitter and Youtube might be a quick on-demand option, its sources can often be dubious or secondhand. While official sources do tend to be less biased, the flood of information they produce might be overwhelming, and they may at times give in to bias themselves.

While the question of which new source is the right one can never truly be answered, it is clear that a new generation is taking to less traditional sources of news, to Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube, while the older generation decidedly sticks to TV news. What effect this change will have, if any, remains to be seen, but this pandemic demonstrated now more than ever the generational gap that even reaches as far as our choice of media.

How COVID-19 becomes political: a comparison of news outlets’ coronavirus coverage

Yuhan Ma

 Students are doing grocery shopping at an Asian market at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

COVID-19 — the contagious respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus — continues to spread worldwide. The extent of this outbreak is rapidly evolving and risk assessment changes daily. The first known patients in the U.S. contracted the virus while traveling in other countries or after exposure to someone who had been to China or Europe. Since then, 210 Countries and Territories around the world have reported a total of 2,827,981 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The stay-at-home-order has greatly affected the economy and people’s daily life and work. Zishan Cai, who works in Chicago, shared how his team members communicated while working from home. Students are also facing changes because of the pandemic. Victor Zhou studies at Purdue University, and he said that there were both good and bad changes. As the disease continues to spread in the U.S. creating all kinds of uncertainties to people’s daily life, news outlets become their crucial tool to gain information about the issue that is affecting them all. Therefore, the discussion of how American news outlets are covering the story can be valuable and meaningful. This article will compare news articles from five mainstream news outlets in the U.S. on how coronavirus is being covered. The five outlets include CNN, Fox News, U.S.News, ABC News, and NBC News. Through a careful examination, it appears that American news outlets’ coverage on the coronavirus is closely connected with political stances. 

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