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Quarantine Diary Day 39

Quarantine Diary Day 39

I was doing my standup (sit down) shot.

As the semester approaches its end, I start to think about what I accomplished in this semester, and where the road will lead to in the future. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I suddenly got tons of time to reflect upon myself, to scrutinize my work, and to write this self-reflection blog.

I walked away with solid technical skills and professional broadcast experience from class Journalism 445. I become more independent, and know to act accordingly to different situations more swiftly. 

I was able to complete three packages, one VO, and one news update for this semester. The first package I did was coronavirus’ impact on campus. At that time, the administrator of Champaign-Urbana Public Health District Julie A Pryde told me the coronavirus situation in Champaign-Urbana is fairly optimistic. Nobody had been tested positive for COVID-19 and it is safe for people to go to public areas without a mask on. Ironically now, we can see how quickly the pandemic struck our area with 120 cases and 6 deaths as of April 30th. Looking back at the package, I wish C-UPDH’s misinformation didn’t get aired. If people had known early on that they need to be cautious and wear masks in public spaces, maybe less people would get infected. 

I was interviewing Wei Hu, a Chinese student from Wuhan.

On the bright side, I was able to interview a Chinese student from Wuhan. Being cyber-bullied by her identity, it is a difficult time for her to deal with COVID-19 while convincing her friends to wear masks. She clarified the rumor that not all Chinese people eat bats. The majority of Chinese regard eating bats as gross and unbelievable. I felt lucky to have reported this international topic from a local angle. Narrowing it down, we see how COVID-19 is affecting local health centers, Chinese students, and the rest of our life.

Footage of the Cat Show

I also had the chance to shoot the Cat Show as my third package. Approximately 150 cats on the show——haven’t seen so many cats in my life. I have no knowledge about how to breed cats or judge them. Worse, I cannot even name a breed. The only way to familiarize myself is to talk to people. Knowing I only needed three interviews, I still talked to six participants, two judges and one organizar of the event. Knowing I only needed a minute and half of footage, I still stayed at the event for three hours, until my hands were all sweaty. I push myself to always go beyond expectations, carry more footages and interviews than I possibly needed. In this way, I can pick the best shots instead of filling my track with mediocre ones.

In the middle of the semester, classes were switched online, posing huge obstacles for the rest of journalism classes. Thanks to the plans A, B, C Professor Collins gave us, we were able to continue learning in another form——reading news article and gather interviews.

I was adding Chinese subtitles for my vlog. This is a shot of our trunk full of groceries.

Facing a pandemic unlike any other semesters, our news shows had to pause. However, grounded at home doesn’t mean we can’t do journalism. I decided to start a vlog series recording my quarantine life. It’s a bit hard to carry cameras around, so I take Professor Collins’s advice to use a phone to record my daily routine. My video shows what I cooked, how I exercised and what I did at home. The longest time I stayed at home was ten days, without even leaving my door to throw the trash out. I normally only go out for grocery shopping when supplies run out. I would wear a mask and gloves to the County Market and swipe the food for next month all in. I would buy a total of approximately 400 dollars of groceries, which takes forever to get them from the car to my room. It is an unusually hard time for all of us, so I hope people who watch my vlog feel less anxious when they see someone is also experiencing the difficulties as they do. 

Professor Collins’ TV2 instilled passion for broadcast journalism in me. I started to make videos not only in a classroom setting, but also a real-world environment where I build my career on. UIUC has been an amazing journey and getting to know you all definitely is the best experience I have. As I continue my education in Northwestern Medill next semester, I hope to learn to fuse data-driven insights into serious reporting. My career goal is to develop a more well-rounded news app. One in which people are no longer only recipients of, but also contributors to the news flow. Most importantly, it also analyzes the trend in already distributed news, to reveal commonalities among related events, which further helps the government unearth underlying issues, and implement measures to combat tragedies like COVID-19 pandemic. 

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. 

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 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

VOSOTVO:AUTHOR EXCHANGE

PKG: CANCEL OF SPRING FESTIVAL GALA, TAX ASSISTANCE

SOUNDBITES:STUDENTS EXPERIENCE IN CORONAVIRUS _01, _02, _03, _04

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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Completing the last semester of undergraduate online

My college life during the COVID-19 pandemic

Yuhan Ma

As an international student who is graduating in May, The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely brought changes to my school life. I have gained lots of experiences, either good or bad, that were totally new for me thanks to the pandemic. Therefore, in this self-reflection blog, I will discuss what I have achieved in my last semester studying at UIUC, specifically in my Jour 445 class, and how the coronavirus has changed my life at the university. 

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