Tag Archives: COVID-19

How China Get Portrayed in Coronavirus News Coverage

How China Get Portrayed in Coronavirus News Coverage

By Megan Xu

Quarantine Life – Mengjia Xu

I was on my way to the supermarket, wearing a N95 and gloves.

Background

Currently there is an outbreak of a novel coronavirus infection, and people are getting nervous about this virus. Novel coronavirus is concerning because no humans have immunity to it, and it’s not the same as SARS. It’s a virus that mainly affects our respiratory system, so mostly our lungs and air pipes, the danger is the disease passing from humans to humans.. It is a new strain that most likely developed from an animal in Wuhan, which then passed to humans. Prior to last night, the coronavirus had reached its 3,249,022 confirmed case in the United States, causing a total of 230,804 deaths.

Five News Outlets

I will do a comparative study on five news outlets about how they covered coronavirus: CNN, AP, The New York Times, NPR and Live Science. 

First of all, a brief introduction on each of the media outlets. CNN ranked third in viewership in 2019, averaging 972,000 viewers. Globally, CNN International is seen over 212 countries and territories. The network is known for its dramatic live coverage of breaking news, some of which has drawn criticism as overly sensationalistic, and for its efforts to be nonpartisan, which have led to accusations of false balance.

Live Science on the other hand, is a science news website run by Future via Purch. It focuses on covering scientific breakthroughs, stories with scientific facts and odd facts from around the world in an online newsmagazine format.

Social Distancing – Mengjia Xu

Social distancing notice is posted in the County Market.

How They Covered Virus?

To this day, people are getting increasingly curious about where coronavirus originated. Though there’s no certain answers, multiple conspiracy theories have widely circulated on the internet. President Trump believes China intentionally handled the coronavirus pandemic in a way to make him lose his re-election bid. He even accused the World Health Organization of being a ‘pipe organ’ for China. With blame on China rolls up, AP published an article with the title “Trump harshly blames China for pandemic; a lab ‘mistake’?” Similarly, CNN wrote the title “Trump administration draws up plans to punish China over coronavirus outbreak.” While The New York Times takes the stance that the overwhelming probability of coronavirus is that it leapt from animal to human in a non-laboratory setting. The Guardian also referred to The New York Times and says intelligence agencies are forced to link coronavirus to Chinese labs under Trump’s pressure. Life Science on the other hand reveals the science and rationale behind why there’s no way coronavirus originated in Wuhan’s lab. 

This is a situation that’s changing all the time, and media outlets are already polarized by taking different stances. Journalists are biased in a way of choosing whose opinion they decide to write on, Trump’s? Or the U.S. intelligence agencies’?

Change Over Time 

The conspiracy theories will continue to grow until the real reason behind COVID-19 being found out. Some say it’s China’s fault, while others claim people could have died of coronavirus early on, but mistaken it as flu. Until then, each party will argue its stance to the death.

What Does It All Mean?

Because mass media are publicizing Trump’s criticism of China, racism and fear against Chinese people are now spreading along with the coronavirus. It’s unwarranted and hateful. Joe Biden also released a video to assail Trump for not doing enough to push China to reveal its “secret”. Before any official conclusion of COVID-19’s origin being made, President Trump shouldn’t blame China for the pandemic, using it as a political weapon to intensify battle with China.

Fridge – Mengjia Xu

My fridge is full of frozen food.

What’s Next?

Misinformation is what needs hype amongst people. As students in the community, through all our social networking channels, we should strive to make sure that the misinformation is not being spread. As long as you are limiting the spread of misinformation and rumors, that is a good service for the community.

There’s a lot of misinformation, and there’s a lot of conspiracy theories going on on the internet. So if we are making sure people are using the right resources, like the CDC or the WHO for information, it would be the best way to improve the image of what’s going on. 

More than a Statistic; Surviving as a minority during the pandemic


By Taylor Howard 

A little over a month after President Trump announced the national “shelter-in-place”, an order that all residents must stay home, US coronavirus cases have surpassed 1 million and the death toll continues to rise. 

Though deaths rates are the highest in the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions, it was recently discovered that minority communities are disproportionately affected by the virus.

Five articles and media outlets covered their reasoning and perspective on the increase in cases within minority groups. 

While CNN, CBS and British Broadcasting Corporation are news organizations, YouTube and Twitter are web applications that connect people around the world through dialogue through visuals or through text. 

CNN is an American news based television network and it is owned by the following: CNN worldwide, a unit of WarnerMedia, a division of AT&T’s WarnerMedia. Since its founding in 1980 by Ted Turner, it has turned into a 24-hour cable channel and has over 91 million television household subscribers. 

The worldwide streaming broadcast station, CBS News has been on television since its founding in 1927 by William S. Paley and Arthur Judson in New York. CBS broadcasting is a news division of American television and radio service. Though not 24 hours on television, They now operate as a 24-hour digital news network and have over 4 million subscribers. 

Localizing things a bit, the British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service in Westminster, London. Known as the oldest national broadcaster since its founding in 1922, As it is owned by the public and covers over 14 channels.

YouTube is an American online video-sharing platform. Founded in 2005 by Jawed Karim, Steve Chen and Chad Hurley in San Bruno, California, the platform is one of Google’s biggest subsidiaries and brings in over $1.6 billion each year. It houses many news corporations and has over 1.3 billion users. 

Launched in 2006 by several men including Evan Williams and Noah Glass, Twitter is an American blogging and social networking service. As Twitter averages 1.6 billion search queries a day, and holds over 330 million users.

On April 7, 2020, President Trump admitted the racial disparity at the task force briefing, but unsure of what the cause is.

“Why is it three or four times more so for the black community as opposed to other people?” Trump said. “It doesn’t make sense, and I don’t like it…”    

Trump may be unsure on how to solve the issue, but CNN as well as the local station CBS News mentioned that inequity in minority communities make the citizens more vulnerable to COVID-19.  

Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot said the death toll for Black Chicagoans was seven times higher than other groups. 

“The numbers take your breath away,” she said. “The distribution of this disease tells a story about resources and inequality.” 

CBS News mentioned the lack of healthcare and under reporting among minority residents in Chicago. However CNN reported ways the disparity gap is affecting minorities around the country, especially African Americans. 

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said this conversation is long overdue. 

“My office has been talking about the need for people to understand when they are at risk and when to intervene,” he said. 

The video proceeded with Adams listing several factors such as low socioeconomic status, overcrowding of cities and generational health issues like diabetes. 

Though CBS was more specific to Chicago in its initial article, both news organizations used numerical data to educate the public on how the fast- spreading disease through video and graphics. 

(From Left) This graph shows the percentages of population in its comparison to death rate in several US states. The other graph shows the case rates of coronavirus by race. 

Whether it was local or national news, the focus of the articles was to address the gaps in healthcare and statistical data, as well as credibility in their choice of sources. 

Race is still a factor in this newsroom, however BBC took a slightly different approach addressing the disparities. Their article focused on specific examples, rather than just explaining race. 

The article is loaded with many factors pertaining to the coronavirus, which includes income inequality, occupational factors, housing differences and more. Among the several factors listed, food insecurity and massive layoff was mentioned as a potential factor in obtaining health problems, due to lack of nutrition. 

New York resident Cherlora Williamson is a byproduct of this effect. 

Williamson has been put on furlough and is seeking to apply for unemployment. 

“Instead of making 3 thousand dollars a month, I will only be making $600/month,” she said. “That’s basically being unemployed because my rent, utilities are 900/month.” 

The holistic perspective of the BBC article is similar to the CNN article, as they both highlighted issues in America. BCC took it one step further, by highlighting global inequality. 

As the news outlet highlighted inequality, the article also breaks down racial concepts like environmental injustices and racial biases.  

Not mentioned in the previous articles aforementioned is mentioning cultural factors. BBC reporter shared how biases can discourage minority groups from wearing masks  in fear of “ being seen as a criminal or dangerous, rather than as simply protecting their own health.

Senior in Education Ty’Kira Dubose said that masks may be seen as demeaning  to most. 

“In terms of pretty much post- 9/11, I think that for all minority students, specifically of the Islamic nationality,” she said. “I think that has then triggered other minority groups to fear what happens or being judged by having their face covered.” 

BBC did not use graphics or videos, however, they used photojournalism and quotations to convey their message in informing the public. Rather than reporting on facts, this article used a more emotional perspective. 

The similarities among the news organizations are challenged to remain objective, while Twitter users are challenged to exercise their freedom of speech. 

With exercising freedom, comes with conflicting viewpoints. One Twitter account stated their opinion that constates the articles used. 

The user said in a Tweet, “Corona is not a racist disease stop. people are getting it because they’re being stupid and going out and touching…”.  This form of social media has become a direct source of news outlets. The strategy behind posting such tweets is to provide immediate response and can subconsciously skew the way people perceive specific issues. 

A person’s opinion holds validity in which the platform they serve and what Twitter and YouTube have in common is the control users have to post, with no limitations. Used by many news outlets, the video platform captures an array of topics. 

It might be questioned on whether or not a disease can, or cannot be racist, but on ABC’s YouTube, Dr. Fauci said that disparities cannot be overlooked after the coronavirus. 

“We are very concerned about that and it’s very sad, but there is nothing we can do about it right now, except to give them the best possible care with its complications.”

ABC posting the task force briefing is another way to reach large masses of people. Because YouTube is the largest video hosting website, the wanting to publish on the channel has increased due to the phenomenon of visual journalism. 

The emphasis on racial disparities is fairly newer information in the media, however, each platform continued to seek additional solutions. 

Circling back to news outlets CNN and CBS, both platforms have utilized video reporting instead. Both produced packages, however, their target audiences have both expanded. 

In the beginning of April when both of the articles were initially published, CNN provided national coverage regarding minority groups and CBS covered local news. However, in the recent articles published, CNN extended their target audience to global news and CBS extended their audiences to national coverage. 

The tone of the articles has taken two different approaches-  the UK minority coverage is updating the increase of minority deaths are causing citizens to make coffins, while the U.S. minority population is getting the virus at a rapid rate, testing sites are being prioritized for communities, like New York. 

“So in Brooklyn alone there are 2.5 million people. So once again, I think they are trying to do their best to provide testing centers close to or in each neighborhood, but I feel like it’s unrealistic. “

Less than 24 hours after its initial post, BBC did not sway from their ethos strategy and also posted a video. This time around, the news organization uploaded a package on YouTube and discussed the healthcare workers who had died. Since the initial article published on April 21, BBC has reached more audiences outside of their website through video outlets and social media outlets. 

Speaking of social media outlets, Twitter audiences continued to voice their opinion regarding the impact on minorities. Whether or not users agree, the application provides an outlet for people to say what they want to say. BBC is an example of how tweets incite opinion. 

Lastly, YouTube has been partnering with various news outlets and has provided NBC, Global News and more. The number of views for packages and briefings have remained consistent throughout the last month. 

  Pew Research has proven that social media has surpassed print newspapers as a source for American. As one-in-five U.S. adults said that they often use social media to retrieve their news over print, consumers can have all the information they need with a touch of an app, and with limited text. 

With nearly 2.4 billion internet users, 64.5 percent utilize Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other non traditional media outlets. It is shown that despite initial publications on such topics as minority issues during a pandemic, news outlets are aware that visualization grabs people’s attention quickly.

The phenomenon of visual journalism has been prevalent within the 21st century and has increasingly become more popular. With the absence of video, photos, or audio journalism, the story will lack in the quality of coverage of the effects of an issue such as this. 

Using microblogging websites and YouTube with open commentary allows news to be reshared, but has outlets for people to engage and express their opinions as well. It provides a diversity and point of view that objective news outlets cannot provide. 

Senior in the College of Media, Coltrane Zerai-Che agrees that having a platform to voice her opinions has heightened her interest with worldly issues. 

“A lot of times when opinions are based, people want facts to back them up and people are looking for credible and reliable resources and oftentimes a place where you can get those reliable resources are through the news .” 

There is power in respected media outlets and informing the public, but influence in citizen journalism and the freedom of opinion is a privilege Americans have. The mass media plays a crucial role in the millennial generation and by providing a public space for that, it allows one to express themselves, as well as encompass large numbers of people worldwide as well. 

The coronavirus still does not have a cure, but public officials and healthcare/ frontline workers are working to flatten the curve. Despite the differences of the platforms, one thing that remained consistent was the concern to address the disparities in the world. The media industry is only getting more creative in its way of storytelling and traditional networks are shifting with the culture. 

Statistics provide audiences the facts. Photos and Videos show audiences the reality. Social media gives audiences the ability to talk through issues and seek change in communities in which they live. Visual journalism allows audiences the most authentic story. 

Zerai-Che said she believes as journalism increases its multimedia dynamics, it will convey more symbolism and emotion. 

“When I think about how a picture can capture a story, I think of the quote, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” she said , “Those images tell those stories through those words.”  

With these pictures and addressing racial polarization through these platforms, change can happen in the near future.

Let’s do this one last time

Photo by: Alexandar Aguilera

By: Alexandar Aguilera

My last semester as a college student was different and I think many other students would say something similar. I went about my semester like I had in previous years and did what I had to do in order to pass my classes. All of a sudden I went back home and found out I wouldn’t be able to walk across the stage for graduation. If there is one big thing I learned this past semester it was to roll with the punches.

I had many days where I was fed up with school. Taking one day at a time was the best piece I gave myself to get through any tough day. But they weren’t all that bad. I think what I always enjoyed was just hanging out with my friends. Knowing there were other people going through the same stuff as I was made the journey a little easier. 

Obviously with a world changing pandemic it made this semester a lot different from others. As a graduating senior the realization hit me that I will be entering a tough job market. In general I’ve had to think about my future more in this semester than any other semester. For the first time I really don’t know what’s in front of me. I feel the journey of this semester has been different mainly because it’s sort of a transition point for me. 

Photo by: Alexandar Aguilera
A basketball court sits empty during COVID-19

When I first heard about COVID-19 I didn’t fully understand the scope of it. I probably reacted differently to COVID-19 than most people. In all honesty I didn’t realize how big it was until NBA player Rudy Gobert got the virus. Sports has and always will be a passion of mine. To see something I’ve admired since I was little come to a sudden stop was the realization that this thing is serious. 

With technology being the way it is made this whole pandemic scary. Hearing everyday a couple hundred people a gone because of a virus is just frightening. It’s hard to avoid when it’s the first thing you see on your phone or the first thing you hear on TV. 

Photo by: Alexandar Aguilera
A plant overlooks a vacant street.

It’s weird that even though things sort of look the same, nothing feels right at all. I look outside and everything just feels odd. One month ago I had no clue what social distancing was and now I feel like I say it everyday. Everyone had to adjust to a new normal in what seems like an instant. 

As the pandemic has progressed I feel I’ve viewed it as both a regular person and a journalist. I feel like any other person in the sense of being concerned about the situation and how to go about it. At the same time as a journalist I’m looking at the news more than ever to learn and understand any and everything I need to know about the pandemic. 

Photo by: Alexandar Aguilera
A once busy Chicago neighborhood sidewalk is empty.

I will say being a student during this pandemic has also been an adjustment. Being at home and still having assignments to do is different. Something I feel I’ve always done in school is finding a way to get things done one way or another. I think the many scenarios I’ve faced in college where I’ve had to think outside the box has sort of prepared me for this. Considering the circumstances I adjusted to getting my work done one way or another. I also feel the fact that I’ve gotten this far has also given me confidence that I can finish the semester and earn my degree.

Looking at this class and college in general I think it has prepared me to face adversity at any given moment. I gave myself a personal goal at the beginning of the semester to bounce back and finish off strong. I think TV2 and this semester as a whole I feel that I’ve bounced back and gathered myself to push through one last semester. I think for any college student out there they should take things one day at a time. College is not any easy thing and it takes a toll on you mentally. Whatever you do to relax, do it. Give yourself time to rest that way you can push yourself and get things done. Take the time to make sure you’re alright and you will be alright at the end of the day. 

What to expect from the media during COVID-19

Photo by: Alexandar Aguilera
Two people practice social distancing at a park.

By: Alexandar Aguilera

The world has been blindsided by the massive effects of the COVID-19 virus. It has left many to wonder it’s true risks and unknown lasting effects. From stay at home orders, to face mask requirements. Many news outlets have been flooding TV’s, news feeds, and websites on the latest updates on COVID-19. The news has been a vital source of information during a constantly changing pandemic. 

With the virus being the top story everyday for the past month every outlet has approached its coverage of it in both similar and different ways. In particular, we will be looking at NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, and FOX. Despite different approaches and possible messages they might be trying to send it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. 

On April 22, these news outlets led with different leading stories regarding COVID-19. With NBC’s leading story it can give the impression that they chose to focus on Dr. Bright to highlight President Trump’s handling of the pandemic. This included a video of Dr. Bright speaking on his firing as well as President Trump addressing it.

With ABC, they decided to focus on President Trump avoiding questions which also leans toward the idea that they are also focusing on the President’s response to COVID-19. The story had a photo of him next to Dr. Fauci and a video which discussed Dr. Bright’s firing as well. 

FOX took a different direction compared to NBC and ABC by noting President Trump pushing back on a claim by the CDC of a second wave of COVID-19. The story also leads with a video of what President Trump actually said regarding the claim. 

Both CBS and CNN had stories not related to President Trump. CBS reported on Mitch McConnell while CNN had various stories ranging from health and updates on COVID-19.

As time has passed the focus of stories has shifted. If there is one thing that has been consistent is that there is something new each day. 

One obvious similarity all these outlets share is that each of their leading stories pertains to COVID-19 in some form. However, each outlet also has a different approach or reasoning as to why they went with the story they chose. 

Yolanda Aguilera who works as a Human Resources manager expressed some thoughts on how news outlets are reporting on COVID-19.

As time has passed the focus of stories has shifted. If there is one thing that has been consistent its that there is something new each day. 

She also touched on outlets coverage on state’s reopening specifically. 

There is a lot to take from all this. Outlets such as NBC and ABC can give off the impression that they are presenting stories targeting President Trump’s poor response to the COVID-19 pandemic. A notion can also be made that FOX tends to try and defend President Trump’s action. 

While President Trump can be an easy subject to look at when comparing the coverage of these outlets it isn’t necessarily the point. With anyone of these news outlets regardless of their status or credibility they should be taken with a grain of salt. Each one is going to present a story in their own unique way.

Julio Aguilera who works as a Director of Security addressed outlets presenting different perspectives and saying how you can’t listen to just one.  

There can always be the possibility for one of them to present one side of the story.

Eric Harris, a high school freshman talked about he receives news and outlets’ one-sided coverage of testing

Having several outlets provides a wide variety of perspectives and information to gather. From there it falls upon the reader to do what they will with the information. 

Yolanda spoke on how she reacts to information from news outlets. 

Either way news outlets are going to provide information they believe the public should know during this pandemic. 

The Shadow of Coronavirus on Politics in News Coverage

Zihan Wang

self-quarantine in an apartment in Champaign, IL.

The COVID-19 has been a huge impact on this world. The coronavirus is not only impacting the community’s health, but also politics.

Background

Since the coronavirus firstly outbroke in China, the coronavirus has been not only a pandemic, but also a political issue. While the Chinese community in western countries is helping to combat the coronavirus, also Beijing is sending their help, there has been a wave of questioning and criticizing China from politicians in the world.

While although the attack against China in public opinion field could be treated as methods for political interests, as the Washington Post opinion shows, it is still an interesting topic to observe the news coverage on China in different media outlets, and how their news articles reflect the value or opinion they are holding — also the message they deliver to the public.

Background of the News Outlets

Thus, I would like to choose the following 5 media outlets for discussion, and each of them we will pick one article as an example of their characters.

New York Times:

Coronavirus Diplomacy: How China’s Red Cross Serves the Communist Party

The New York Times Company owns the famous newspaper, the New York Times. As a liberal media, the New York Times has been widely seen as a flag of liberalism, and the news coverage from the New York Times about China has been negative for a long time. This media outlet has been widely accepted by liberals in the U.S., also in the world.

In the article, I picked above — which “unfold” the corruption and connection between CCP and the Red Cross in China. The message of this news outlet, clearly, is attacking China. And so does other articles contain information both about China and coronavirus.

BBC.

Coronavirus: China rejects call for probe into origins of disease

The background of this story is that as China and U.S. are quarreling in the origin of coronavirus, as Chinese spokesman denounced that the U.S. spread the virus in Wuhan while Trump administration rejected that statement. And the story is trying to criticizing that China is not cooperative in the probing of the origins.

BBC, as one of the most famous media outlet in this world, is funded by the British government. Although mostly the BBC is treating as an “Independent Media,” there has been questions and criticizing that BBC’s narration in their stories could also be influenced by the propaganda needs of the British government.

FOX

China could have 50 times more coronavirus cases than claimed, Trump administration official says

As a conservative media, the FOX is owned by Disney now. The Fox has been a supporter to the Republicans for years. The audience rating of Fox is the highest among all the media in the U.S.

In the news I picked above, the news coverage showed that source from the White House told the reporter that China has far more cases than the 80,000 more cases that Beijing announced. One thing we need to be alert is that, in this article all the information comes from the White House and “intelligence.”

Foreign Policy

In the Post-Coronavirus World, Chinese Power Is Overrated

This article might be the most “not-news” article in all the articles I have picked. Compared to traditional media, the Foreign Policy is more like a journal of diplomatic and international-relation studies. But still, the news coverage and analysis of the ongoing issues could still be treat as newsworthy, for the value it shows in the stories.

The Foreign Policy magazine is owned by the Graham Group. It is one of the most influential magazine of international relations.

And the article I picked above, which is discussing the hot topic recently, that whether China would be more influential or not for its advantages in the pandemic, could be a good example of how they would deliver the message to the readers.

Reuters

China’s Wuhan ends its coronavirus lockdown but elsewhere one begins

Reuters is among the world top 3 news agency. As a branch owned by Thomson Reuters, the news service is actually partial of its all services — Reuters is also an influential financial data and information provider.

Compared to the BBC, Reuters are more neutral in reporting the cases. In the article above, which is an example I choose, it told the public the message that Wuhan has ended the lockdown while Heilongjiang Province, a northern province in China, is suffering a new surge of cases.

Comparison and Analysis

One thing in common in all the news articles above is that they are all focusing on the coronavirus. However, the difference is more about their standpoints of the message they want to deliver to the public.

The information of the articles is not of vital importance. Actually, they are the least important part of our comparison. The most important part is that, from the organizing of the stories, we can found that the New York Times, the Fox, BBC, and Foreign Policy, are trying to build connections in coronavirus and CCP, the Chinese Communist Party, while the Reuters is more balanced and they are trying to not blend everything with the politics.

And if we take longitude research of the articles in the whole March and April, during the outbreak in the U.S., about the series news coverage conducted by those media, we could find that they have never changed their positions. In fact, nothing changed, only the facts and their angles of reporting.

That has been a long history of these media outlets. But it’s not about the critique of whether they are fake news or not. The similarities and focuses they have could push us to ask a question, how would the reporting shapes the standpoints of the public?

The word “stereotype” firstly introduced by W.Lippman, a famous journalist in 20th century. The word stereotype was from the printing, as a metaphor of the public’s prejudice and cognition towards a group of people or subjects.

It is a great metaphor we could also share here. The different audience of the media outlets shares different stereotype — the conservatives have their stereotypes, as we always say, but it could be also that the liberals share the stereotypes against another group. The stereotypes are simplifying our understanding of the facts, and that is dangerous to us all.

And that’s horrifying, especially when we are doing longitude research on those media because they are all sharing hostility against China in politics. We always say if we want to avoid stereotypes, we need to observe the subjects from different angles. But what if we seem like having multiple choices of information sources, but they are all sharing the same hostility, how we could stay at a neutral position to analyses the information we acquire, and being really informed?

And as we can see now, in the U.S. the racism is raising again because of the coronavirus outbreak — also “thanks” to the great efforts by President Trump — the media outlets are still staying in their traditional position, reporting the news from the angles of criticizing Beijing, how the public could understand that even Beijing and CCP have mistakes, corruptions, and other dirty things, they have valuable experience and methods that could really help with controlling the disease?

The priority now is combating the disease but not escalating the tensions between the two nations, and to the public, the thing they need to understand now is that China is not a monster but also a country has effectively controlled and suppressed the outbreak of coronavirus. The ignorance and arrogance would save no one, but only left pains and death.

And what about the Reuters? Yes, they are staying in a neutral position and reporting the facts but not merging with bias, but what about those people who have already been forged with stereotypes of China? When they receive the facts and information how would they take and understand it?

What’s Next?

My prediction to the next stage of the news coverage would still be pessimistic — nothing would change. All the media I mentioned above, that I believe, they would follow the same pattern they have already done in the past two months, covering the news in the same angle they have done before.

But there could still be turning points. Donald McNeil, science and health reporter for the New York Times, shared what he saw in Wuhan, and trying to inform the public of the effective methods the Chinese government has been using to control the disease. While the media outlets are stuck in the track of narration they have been holding for years and decades, the journalists can still make their own efforts to tell the public, what they have seen, and what they should do.

And together, the coronavirus can be defeated, so does the racism and sterotypes.

A Semester of Change

By Dan Gerardi

This semester has definitely been different. With all the changes to our class schedule, and then the coronavirus pandemic, it was not easy. We got through it though, and I learned a lot. 

From a news perspective, it is hard to imagine something not only dominating the news cycle for as long as COVID-19 has, but also shutting down as much of American everyday life as it has. COVID-19 has wiped out virtually all events and stories that do not have some sort of coronavirus connection. Many people lost their jobs, and many others are working from home. All “nonessential” businesses are suspended. Schools are closed and students are learning from home. All sports and public events are suspended. People are supposed to stay six feet away from each other and gatherings of ten people are deemed dangerous. It is hard to imagine anything having this kind of a truly global impact. Outside of a world war or some kind of horrible global natural disaster, I can not think of anything else than can touch the lives of virtually everyone around the globe like a worldwide pandemic can. Very quickly, these wholescale changes to the most constant pillars of our everyday lives have become the new normal. It is not ideal, and it is not a very happy time since some of the events postponed were very near and dear to our hearts. It is also not something to feel angry or discouraged by either. The cancellations, postponements, and social distancing are all necessary to slow the spread of the virus, and (somewhat) normal life will return before too long. With all that in mind, there were still classes to finish, chiefly this one – Journalism 445, the last of my major classes. Despite everything that happened this semester, this class really did teach me a lot.

I remember first hearing about the virus over winter break probably in early January. I felt bad for the people of Wuhan and of China, but I never imagined it would affect our daily life like it has. We talked in all my classes about how the virus was affecting life in China as cases started to pop up in South Korea, Italy, Spain, Iran, and other countries throughout Eurasia.  I could see it spreading and figured we would eventually have some cases in the United States. For a long time, I never thought it would get worse anywhere else in the world than it was in China, As the virus started to get a lot more widespread in Italy and other European countries, we started to get a few more cases in the United States. By early March some smaller events started to get postponed, and some precautions started to be put in place, but it still did not seem that bad to me. Then in the span of less than a week, starting on about March 10th, my entire world changed. Large scale events started being postponed. Professional and college sports leagues announced they would continue without fans in attendance. On Wednesday March, 11th Utah Jazz basketball player Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 and the following day actor Tom Hanks tested positive. This put an immediate halt on all American culture. Sports leagues were suspended indefinitely. Then, the University of Illinois announced all classes would convert to online indefinitely. The NCAA College Basketball Tournament was cancelled. All spring NCAA sports were cancelled. After going home for spring break on Friday, March 13th, we were ordered by Governor J.B. Pritzker to “shelter in place” and gatherings of 10 or more people were banned. All Illinois public schools were ordered to move to online learning. Stores even started limiting the number of people allowed inside at one time.

My Mom and I had to wait in line for over 15 minutes just to get inside our local Costco.

My daily life had been so dramatically changed in less than a week that by the time the U of I announced commencement was postponed, it had little effect on me. I had become numb to such massive change.

As an aspiring journalist, this semester was incredibly unique. It is not often that a single news story completely dominates the news cycle for an entire semester, and this one will continue to dominate for a lot longer than that. Even before mid-March brought large scale, COVID-19 related changes to everyday American life, we were doing news stories about the novel coronavirus. As early as January, we were talking about the massive outbreak in China and how it was spreading to Italy and Europe. By mid February, we were talking about the small number of cases that were in the United States. The story was beginning to have Champaign-Urbana related consequences. We have a large population of Chinese students at the U of I and many of them were concerned about their families back in China. I remember I produced our class’s first newscast on February 6. We changed the show from 30 minutes to a full hour because coronavirus was already such a big story. I’ll also never forget Megan Xu’s story during that newscast about U of I students from China who were buying masks in Champaign-Urbana and sending them back to China because there was such a shortage of masks there. This caused Champaign-Urbana to have a shortage of masks. That was the first time I got a sense for how big this virus could get, and Megan brought a perspective I had never thought about. 

As a student, this semester was certainly challenging. Being a second semester senior and having to finish up my classwork while trying to find a job was hard enough without the global pandemic. It was not easy at first to convert all classes to online learning. Through it all, I just had to be flexible. I just had to roll with the punches. As classes resumed after spring break, I got into a rhythm of how to handle each class, and it was working out fine. The social aspect of being a student was incredibly missed, especially in the last semester of my academic career. I am a lot more engaged and applied to my schoolwork when I am seeing my friends everyday in class and talking with them about our assignments. That is especially so in a class like this – where we put on a newscast and everything I do affects someone else. I hold myself more accountable if someone else needs my package or VOSOTVO for the newscast as opposed to me having a lot of time to complete an assignment that does not affect anyone else but me. If having to do schoolwork is the price to be paid to go to a classroom full of people who truly are my friends, I will pay it all day long. Being a solitary student unable to truly interact with my peers was by far the hardest part about being a student through all of this. It is a reminder that the drive and motivation to get things done has to come from me. At the end of the day, I am the one who has to care about the quality of my work more than anyone else, regardless of whether anyone else is depending on me to do it. 

As a citizen of the country, it feels like I am going through a historic time. Granted, I would love everything to go back to normal, and I wish this pandemic never happened. I cannot help but feel somewhat fascinated to be going through such a historic time. I feel it is my duty as a citizen to follow the shelter in place order and do my part to ensure I do not spread the virus to others. I get the feeling this is something that will be a “before and after” time in our country’s history. What will a post-coronavirus United States look like? What about the globe? What aspects of everyday life will be different forever because of this pandemic? My dad always talks about what airports were like before the tragic events of 9/11. He mentions the lack of security compared to now and how now it takes so much more time to get through the airports because of increased checks and security measures. I wonder if things like high fives or hand shakes will start to disappear from everyday life after this pandemic. I think about large gatherings like sporting events, concerts, or even churches and wonder if there will be measures put in place at events like these to ensure people do not catch diseases. Living through this unprecedented event in United States history makes me wonder how much of the rest of my life this pandemic will shape. 

This semester made me use many technologies in ways I never have before. Even before the pandemic, things like Facebook and Google Calendar were critical resources to finding story ideas. Facebook was great for finding events on campus that I did not even know existed. Once I found an event that intrigued me, it was also very easy to message the event organizers on Facebook and set up an interview. As the coronavirus pandemic spread across the globe, I was constantly checking my email for messages from my teachers about how classes would change as well as MASSMAIL updates about how the university would be handling the pandemic. In the past, I really did not use my laptop super often for schoolwork, but it quickly turned into my classroom as I started attending video classes on Zoom. My sister, who is a student at Ohio State University, also used her laptop more than usual for all her online work.

My sister takes a test online during quarantine.
My sister used her laptop, iPad, and her phone to help her do homework at home.

Technology also really influenced my mom while at home. She is a preschool teacher, and her class has been sending her videos of them counting and finding different shapes around their house. I also helped my mom film several videos for her to send to her students.

This is a screenshot from a video I filmed of my mom teaching her preschoolers about farm animals during quarantine.
My mom watches videos of her preschoolers finding different shapes around their house.

Television also played a key role in staying informed throughout the pandemic. My family and I watched countless press conferences from Governor J.B. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot talking about how our local areas and our state were handling the pandemic. We also watched many press conferences from President Donald Trump as he explained the national response to the virus. Where I once went to class with dozens of other students every day and talked to them about our common experience of our class together, my phone became the only way to keep up with these people both as fellow students and as friends. Technology played an instrumental role in helping me get through this semester. 

I think I viewed the events of the coronavirus pandemic as part journalist and part citizen. As a student journalist studying towards a journalism degree, I naturally viewed the pandemic through a journalistic angle. Coronavirus completely dominated the news cycle in the U.S. from mid-February or early March on so much so that it was very difficult to find a story that was not coronavirus-related from a local or nation news outlet. News has been very important throughout this entire pandemic. News outlets have been the only way people have been able to stay informed throughout this unpredictable pandemic. Many people know very little about the virus or the best practices about staying safe during a global pandemic so it has been the duty of news organizations to give health experts and local and national leaders a platform to reach every American and help them stay safe. There were also times where I naturally took a step back and noticed all the little parts of daily life that were impacted by the pandemic. It is hard not to think about missing my last semester of college and all its fun events. It is also difficult not to get caught up in the struggle of social distancing. It is very painful to not be able to see my friends or some extended family members. We have not been able to be with my sick grandpa, but we have been going to his house and talking to him through his door.

My family and I have to talk to my sick grandpa through this door during the pandemic.

Social distancing has been something that has been difficult for everyone. Viewing the pandemic with a journalistic eye is not so different from viewing it from the perspective of an everyday citizen. As journalists we give a voice to everyday citizens and bring to light events, issues, or feelings that everyday citizens may not have noticed they share with each other. The human interest stories of how people are coping with social distancing and their new normal are even more important because they remind people they are not going through this alone and we all have to do our part to help get through it. 

When time is of the essence, self-confidence is very important to completing assignments. When there is a lot to do in a short amount of time, there is not time to doubt yourself. If you have kept up with the work but just find yourself a little behind, confidence is key. When people lose confidence, they can confuse themselves and become anxious. Self-confidence is especially key as a journalist. It is your story or your package, and that means you are in charge. You are the one calling all the shots when interviewing, filming, and editing. I have found it is critical to trust myself and know that this is not the first time I have done a package. Getting caught up in every single little detail can be overwhelming. Whenever I have been worried about an assignment at the beginning, I usually end up wondering why I was so worried to begin with. I have begun to trust that I have the skills to get the job done and that has helped me immensely in completing my highest level assignments. Self confidence can be very empowering.

I have learned a lot in this class that I will take with me for the rest of my life. I have definitely learned to be flexible. Anything can change at any given moment, and that means you have to adapt. If you stop adapting, you might get left behind. When there is change, just go with it. It can be difficult to think that something is set in stone and then suddenly everything changes. Things happen. The world is always changing, and I will remember that in my career. I had to move the time of my news update on March 5 to an hour earlier than I was supposed to do it. I was not expecting that, but it was not a big deal. I just went with it and it turned out fine. I have also learned it is never too early to get started on something. It can be crucial to always try to stay ahead of the game especially when projects are on deadline. I could always improve at managing my time, but if I know I have to do something, it would be very helpful to get started sooner rather than later. Getting started can sometimes be the most challenging part for me, so I will try to jump in with both feet more often. One thing I will also take with me is my relationship with my coworkers. I always do my best work when I am working with peers I respect. This class was truly an amazing group of people, and seeing their work and drive to do their best inspired me to do my best. I always tried my best to stay upbeat and keep everyone in a good mood. To me, that really makes a big difference. I was lucky enough to get the chance to anchor our newscast on March 5. I tried to keep the mood loose and positive and I really think that helped all of us to be more relaxed and comfortable during our broadcast. I was even confident enough to throw in an adlib about a VOSTOVO I shot for that newscast. I made a lot of friends in this class, and having such a positive environment increased my drive to do my best work in filming, editing, and working in the studio. I want to remember that I can have a positive impact on those who work with me. When they are positive too, that in turn has a positive impact on me and my work. Creating a great work environment and great team of coworkers could start with just one person. Luckily for us, we had a whole class full of great people this semester. 

I learned a few things about leadership this semester as well. We had great communication within the class, and I was able to check in with everybody. For the most part we all knew what each other was doing every week which was very helpful. One major thing I learned about leadership is it is important to rely on other people. People like to feel like they are contributing. Also when a leader tries to do too much, it can seem like the leader is acting like they are above everyone else and make others feel like their work is not good enough. I produced our first newscast of the semester and I could not have done it at all without Becca Wood and Taylor Howard, my assistant producer and assignment editor. I let both of them do their jobs and they were both instrumental to our newscast doing well. I relied on them for a lot and they were amazing. Our packages were strong that week too. I was happy to help people when they needed it but I knew they have all edited packages before. One thing that I do not like is when leaders try to micromanage everyone. It can make people feel devalued when a leader tries to teach people something they already know. For me, the best leaders are ones who are always there when people need help, but also trust them to do their jobs. Inclusion is also a very important part of leadership. As a leader, it is important to check in with everyone and let them know you are there for them. It makes people feel valued and increases their self worth when they see the leader care about them enough to have a conversation with them about how they are doing. One other thing I found to be important about leadership is positive reinforcement. A compliment or some encouragement can go such a long way toward increasing people’s confidence. It also brightens moods and helps create a positive environment. Hearing a simple “nice work” or a “thank you” can really mean a lot to someone. I think leaders do not give enough positive reinforcement, and telling someone they are doing a good job can have lasting positive effects. Overall, this was a successful semester, despite the pandemic and all the changes it brought. I was most proud of the leadership skills I learned in this class. I enjoyed producing our first newscast, and I was happy I could help some people get their news updates filmed in the studio by serving as director on the night we all got the news classes would be moved online. I knew how to use the switcher as well as how to record and save new supdates, and I was more than happy to direct news updates for Yuhan, Becca, Maddie, Liam, Alex, and Danielle W on that crazy night. Being there with everybody also helped me to feel calmer about all the changes that were taking place. Both situations were very hectic, and I am proud that I stayed calm and positive and was able to help everyone else feel more confident. This semester I was most proud of the opportunities I took advantage of. Both in the classroom and outside of it, I was proud I put myself out there. I do not always jump at leadership opportunities, but I am really proud I did this semester. Being a leader in this class helped me to be a better leader in my job with the Illinois Athletics video department too. I will definitely most remember the people of this class. I made some friendships in this class that will last far beyond our college years. I was so proud of how we all were able to work together. This was a very special group of students, and I was honored to work with each and every one of them this semester.

This rainbow offers a glimmer of hope that things will soon return to (somewhat) normal.

COVID Covered Differently Across Channels

By Dan Gerardi

I took a look at five different news websites to see how their coverage of COVID-19 differed.

For the last two months, the coronavirus pandemic has completely dominated the American news cycle. With coronavirus being pretty much the only news story being covered, different news outlets have found different ways to cover the pandemic. Some lean left, some lean right, but most news outlets tailor their coverage to fit their viewers and readers. I took a look at five different news outlets at roughly the same time on the same day, Thursday, April 23, to see how the coverage differs between news outlets. I also spoke with my Mom Mary, my Dad Michael, and my sister Kathryn, to get their thoughts on how the pandemic is being covered.

    The first news outlet I looked at was CNN. CNN is known for leaning left in most of their coverage, and the coronavirus pandemic was no exception to this. CNN.com’s top story on April 23 was about racist tweets that were deleted by the Health and Human Services Spokesman. I did not think this was a surprising top story to find on CNN since it is criticizing the credibility of a spokesman within the Republican Trump administration. The front page of CNN’s website also featured articles about how the pandemic affected prominent Democrats Elizabeth Warren and Maxine Waters. Warren’s brother unfortunately passed away from COVID-19. I was also not surprised to see these articles featured since they discussed the pandemic’s effects on two very prominent women within the Democratic party. This is something CNN’s viewers and readers would be interested in hearing about. Another featured article on their website discussed how House Democrats were calling for an investigation into the firing of a Trump administration official who oversaw the purchasing of vaccines. This story was similar to their top story since it also criticized the Trump administration and the people it put in place to handle the pandemic. The final story I saw featured prominently on their website was the only one that did not have to do with coronavirus. It was a list of potential candidates Democratic presidential front runner Joe Biden could choose as his running mate. This article was a good one to include because it takes a break from the coronavirus to talk about the election, something CNN’s primarily Democratic readers are certainly invested in. My Mom said she believes the pandemic has taken some of the focus away from the election. Overall CNN’s top stories were very indicative of their leftward lean, and they mostly blamed the Trump administration for problems the country is having handling the pandemic. They talked about its effect on Democrats and even included the article about Biden’s potential vice presidential picks to remind their readers about the importance of this fall’s election and ensure it does not get lost amid nonstop coronavirus coverage.

    Next, I looked at Fox News. Fox News is known for usually leaning to the right. I found that they too primarily stuck along these lines with their coronavirus coverage. The top story on Foxnews.com talked about how New York antibody tests may show that more people had COVID-19 than they previously thought. I was also not surprised to find this top story on Fox News since they have supported President Trump’s handling of the pandemic, and have blamed most problems on the states. Foxnews.com also featured a video criticizing New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s response to protestors amid the pandemic. Their coverage was very New York focused partly because it has become the global epicenter of the pandemic, but also because Fox News can place the blame for any of New York’s problems on its Democratic Governor Cuomo, and Democratic New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. This is smart by Fox News because it is what their readers most want to hear – that President Trump has done a good job and other Democratic lawmakers are mostly responsible for problems in dealing with the pandemic. My Dad, however, said he wishes coverage was not so New York focused. One article on their website’s front page that I found intriguing was about Democratic Representative Karen Whitsett from Michigan who recovered from COVID-19 and says she supports the President’s efforts. Whitsett went on to say Americans should put politics aside, stop attacking President Trump and work together during the pandemic. Her message is one that would be receptive to both Democrats and Republicans. In the way that it was framed, I got the sense that Fox News felt they were giving her a national voice to say Democrats should stop attacking President Trump and focus on the country’s needs during the pandemic. One last noteworthy article I saw featured on Foxnews.com was about Vice President Mike Pence saying coronavirus could largely be behind us by the end of May.  Whether the reader agrees with this statement or not is not the point of including this article near the top of their website. This article is meant to show Fox News’s primarily right leaning readers that things are going well for the Trump administration in their handling of the pandemic. It is also meant to portray Vice President Pence in a positive light as the leader of President Trump’s Coronavirus Task Force. Both CNN and Fox News showed their bias in their COVID-19 coverage.  My sister, Kathryn, said these biases have become more noticeable over the last few years. Foxnews.com’s top stories all showed their lean to the right. They supported President Trump’s leadership during the coronavirus and blamed Democratic lawmakers for some of New York’s problems – two things their readers like to hear. 

    The next news source I looked at was NBC. Nbcnews.com did not lean far to the left or right like CNN or Fox News, but their coverage was more unbiased. Their top story took a look inside President Trump’s temporary immagration ban. The article talked about how it did not become very seriously considered until the President tweeted about it. The article was a little critical of the process happening that way. It also made it seem impressive that the Trump administration got it all done in less than two days. Their website also prominently featured an investigation into how distributors of child sexual abuse images are getting bolder while more people are at home (and online) during the pandemic. This was a very unpolitical story with a message that was not in any way politically controversial. Neither Fox News nor CNN talked about anything related to this. It was a very good journalistic article that I have not seen anywhere else. The next article I came to discussed a new coronavirus aid bill that was passed by the House. The article discussed how both Democrats and Republicans have some issues with the bill, but ultimately it was passed because the country needed it. It was another pretty unbiased article. My eye was next drawn to an article talking about the impacts of COVID-19 on scientific research at the North and South Poles. This was a very unique article and another one I have not seen any mention of anywhere else. It was also pretty politically unbiased. The article was interesting because it showed how COVID-19 truly affects everyone, even scientists in the most remote locations. Another prominently featured article contrasted the views of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Trump on the future of the coronavirus pandemic. Nbcnews.com also had a similar article to CNN about Senator Warren’s brother dying of COVID-19. Additionally, they included a link to a live stream of President Trump’s daily press briefing. These have been very popular throughout the last couple months and have delivered great ratings to TV Networks. My family has watched many of them. My Dad said they are very informative, but can also be entertaining. NBC had very unique research throughout. From the look inside President Trump’s immigration ban, to the child sex abuse story, to the story about research at the Poles, they covered the pandemic from angles I did not see wnywhere else, and it was very interesting. Their articles also had a very global, big picture focus overall, as opposed to the left and right focuses of CNN and Fox News respectively.

    The next news outlet I took a look at was ABC News. The stories on their website had a very national focus overall. The top story on abcnews.com talked about the coronavirus aid bill that was passed by the House. The article was pretty unbiased and similar to the NBC article. The next news article I came across discussed Vice President Mike Pence’s positive outlook on the pandemic. Like the Fox News article, it mentioned how Pence said that the pandemic could largely be behind us by the end of May. Pence has been pretty public throughout the pandemic as the leader of President Trump’s Coronavirus Task Force. This position has given Pence a truly national voice he did not have before the pandemic. The next article that caught my eye was about how the infant daughter of a New York firefighter died from COVID-19. This is obviously a very sad story, but there have been countless depressing stories about coronavirus from all different parts of the country and the globe. I thought it was very interesting they picked this one to cover, and it at least in small part further highlights the New York bias of media coverage of this pandemic. New York has become the global epicenter of the pandemic and certainly warrants lots of coverage, but readers hear about New York a lot during this pandemic and it would have been more interesting to hear about how coronavirus affected another area of the country. Another article featured prominently on abcnews.com highlighted five people who died in tornadoes in Texas and Oklahoma. This was the only non COVID-19 article I found among their top stories but I think it stuck with their national focus. The severe weather that week was a large event that affected much of the country. It was appropriate for them to cover it and include it among their top stories. Of all the news outlets I looked at, this was one of the only non-coronavirus articles included in any outlet’s top stories. The final article I noticed was about how a Georgia mayor received racist text messages from an anonymous number amid Georgia’s plan to partially reopen the state.  The article discussed how the mayor was against reopening the state and how she was worried to receive such texts. This was a story I did not see covered by any of the other news outlets I checked, and it was a very important story. Many people have differing opinions on reopening the country, and it will be interesting to see those opinions come to the forefront going forward. Currently, many businesses are operating with their employees working from home, and they are wondering when the country might reopen. My Dad, an advertising executive, said working from home has gone smoothly so far, but it has not been easy. In total, ABC’s stories had a more national focus while NBC’s stories were more global.  It also seemed like many of ABC’s articles focused on more personal stories, and did a good job of relating their messages to their readers. 

My Dad works from home during quarantine.

    The final news source I looked at was WGN-TV’s website. I chose WGN because they are Chicago focused, and my family and me are quarantining in the Chicago suburbs, so we have been viewing the pandemic through a Chicago lens. Their top story was about the stay at home order being extended and amended by Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker. Illinois was one of the first states to issue a stay at home order. Like President Trump, Governor Pritzker has been holding daily press conferences keeping the state updated on his team’s efforts to combat coronavirus. Pritzker has been pretty well received at these press conferences even as Illinois has consistently had some of the highest numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the United States. My sister Kathryn said she feels Pritzker has been very credible throughout the pandemic. The next article I came across discussed Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s new team to help Chicagoland recover. Like Vice President Pence, Lightfoot is someone who has gained a much wider audience during the pandemic. Lightfoot has been vocal about slowing the spread of the pandemic in Chicago. She has gained popularity in Chicagoland over the last couple months. The next top story I saw was about the third Chicago Police officer to die of COVID-19. This is an article that is very important to Chicagoians, but would probably not appear in any media outside of Chicago. Many people throughout Chicagoland know someone who works for the large Chicago Police Department and would like to know how the virus is affecting them. Next, I came across an informational article about the new requirement by Governor Pritzker that all Illinoians wear masks in public starting May 1. This is also a very important article for WGN to include because it affects all people in Illinois. As recently as a few weeks ago, my family did not wear masks anywhere when we left the house, but even before this new requirement my Dad has insisted we all wear masks when going anywhere in public.

My family has primarily been using bandanas like this one as face coverings when going out in public.

    The final article that caught my eye was about the state parks that are reopening on May 1. This was a very nice article to include among their top stories. Many people are feeling cooped up at home because of the stay at home order, and this article gives people some options of where to safely take a scenic walk or run during quarantine. It also reminds people to get their exercise amid the pandemic. Because of WGN’s Chicago/Illinois focus, many of their stories affect my family and me directly. Their coverage of national news regarding the pandemic is pretty unbiased, but sometimes mentions how the news might affect Chicago. Their Chicago bias is certainly warranted, since most of WGN’s viewers and readers live in the Chicagoland area. Much of the news that appears on WGN affects my family and me more directly than news from national sources. 

Overall, the five news outlets I looked at were very diverse. All had a different top story, which was very interesting to me since I checked them all at roughly the same time on the same day. It was easy to see the left lean of CNN, the right lean of Fox News, the global focus of NBC News, the national focus of ABC News and the Chicagoland cocus of WGN in their stories. Each source kept their readers updated and informed but in very different ways, and in some cases with different information. A viewer could have different views on the pandemic depending on which news outlet they got their information from. My mom said this differing information can confuse viewers. While they all differed in their coverage, they all also braved the duty of reporting to the public during a truly historic pandemic, and that is absolutely something to be commended. 

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. 

Continue reading