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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.

COVID-19: No One is Immune

by: Becca Wood

Whether you’re NBC Chicago, ABC Chicago, FOX Chicago, The New York Times or the Elmhurst Daily Herald, one thing every news source can agree upon is the fact that no one if safe from this pandemic. However, each of these news outlets have chosen varying ways in showing this concept.

The idea that no one is safe does not necessarily mean that every individual will be infected by the COVID-19 coronavirus. No one is safe from this virus because people have lost their jobs, people are unable to visit with loved ones and people have to stay indoors risking mental health or being trapped in an unsafe environment.

Science Without Answers

Each day, new data and information is brought to the public by health experts studying the virus. Doctors and nurses across the country listen for new developments on the novel virus.

Dr. Lara Ferri, doctor in Philadelphia, said healthcare workers are trying their best to prepare for the coming weeks, but can only do so much with limited resources.

Dr. Lara Ferri on lack of resources

Ferri’s husband, Dr. Raj Shah, works in pediatrics at another hospital in Philadelphia, where he has been told to give up beds of his own patients to house more coronavirus patients as the facility’s immediate care units become full.

Though Shah does not ordinarily work in emergency care units, he has provided his medical expertise to assist the hospital in caring for the surplus of COVID-19 patients.

Dr. Lara Ferri on working on the front lines

Since the pandemic began, news outlets such as NBC Chicago, ABC Chicago and Fox Chicago have daily streams of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker with updates on coronavirus developments and adjustments to the stay-at-home order.

Among the data shared is generally the number of cases, number of fatalities, number hospitalized and, more recently, the number recovered. The briefings also feature symptoms of the virus and what people should be wary of.

Though most symptoms are respiratory based, other symptoms have come into media’s limelight, such as COVID-toes. Other tragic deaths, such as the 16-year-old boy from Wheeling, Illinois, raise questions as to possible additional strains of coronavirus.

As Pritzker grows increasing frustrated with lack of testing kits in Illinois, he has voiced concern over the accuracy of these tests and whether false negative and positive results are possible.

During his daily briefings, Pritzker has said he doesn’t see the Illinois economy fully reopening until there is a vaccine in place and the numbers are going down for 14 consecutive days.

Ferri said she knows healthcare workers and researchers have been doing all they can to form new drugs to combat this virus or use old drugs if they are safe for the time being.

As more recover from the coronavirus, they may not be completely cured. Ferri said many will have chronic lung damage for the rest of their lives.

Dr. Lara Ferri on chronic lung damage

Ferri has lost immediate family to COVID-19 in Italy and, though she admits it is personal for her, she does not want the same to happen across the United States.

Dr. Lara Ferry on abiding by shelter-in-place order

The Everyday Impact

Though the scientific details of the virus are pivotal in the public understanding its severity, many news outlets thought to focus on the everyday impact this is having on people around the world.

The New York Times wrote an interactive article, “The Great Empty,” with images and text showing how this pandemic looks in a variety of countries. The New York Times has daily news updates regarding the virus, but has noticeably chose to write longer form articles to capture the grave impact.

For Chicagoans, COVID-19 became even more real when news outlets like NBC Chicago and ABC Chicago took drone footage of the empty city.

Both news outlets said they chose to feature this drone footage from artists in Chicago struggling to deliver their voice during this time. Though the simple video will not pay the bills, the artists said they are doing anything they can to keep their art alive.

Students studying abroad this semester have had to cut their travels short bringing their books home and, for some, also the virus. Thomas Clancy, sophomore at Clemson University, caught COVID-19 studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain. This is the message he sent his sister:

Meg Frey, a woman living in Elmhurst, Illinois, said she feels fortunate to be living in the Chicagoland area during this time. She explained the leadership of Pritzker and Lightfoot have made all the difference.

Meg Frey on Chicago leadership

Gabrielle Wood, also a woman from the Chicagoland area, has a daughter graduating her senior year at Fenwick High School. She said it’s an upsetting time, but she’s trying to keep priorities in line.

Gabrielle Wood on having a senior in high school

Her daughter, Kimberly Wood, has spent the past few weeks taking classes on her iPad in her bedroom on e-learning. Each morning she is expected to sign-in, otherwise students are expected to “call in sick” by notifying the school.

Kimberly Wood on e-learning in high school

Kimberly Wood said she’s thankful to be healthy and able to spend time with family during the shelter-in-place order. However, she explained she’s sad her and her classmates will not have the senior year they expected.

Kimberly Wood on senior year of high school

Uncertainty of the Unemployed

Before the shelter-in-place orders were announced, my mom and I took a trip to Colorado after choosing to avoid our originally planned trip to New York City due to the escalating coronavirus situation. The severity of the pandemic reaching the United States became very real very quickly, as stores and restaurants closed their doors and travel bans were being issued.

One woman working as a waitress and hostess at a restaurant open for pick-up said all their employees were forced to cut back on hours and are worried about any future paychecks.

She wanted to remain anonymous, as she was instructed to not speak to media while on the job.

Hostess and waitress on being scared for job safety

Shawn Wood, an attorney in Chicago, said his job is safe for now, but he is on a committee that decides what attorneys and secretaries are furloughed during this time, with some not returning to work after the pandemic lightens.

Shawn Wood on furloughing

Shawn Wood said he has tried to save as many employees as possible, but it’s not ultimately his decision who is furloughed. Instead, he has tried to act as a voice of comfort, listening to those in shock from the difficult news.

Shawn Wood on difficult conversations

The New York Times article, “‘Sudden Black Hole’ for the Economy With Millions More Unemployed,” and the newspaper’s podcast, The Daily, both shed light on the crippling effects this pandemic has on the economy.

According to the article, within three weeks, 16 million people had been put out of work. As Michael BarBaro said in his podcast, this number is simply unheard of in American history.

In both the article and podcast, The New York Times explains that people filing for unemployment will receive more money than they ordinarily would. This will aid those out of work amid the falling economy, but can only hold people over for so long.

Hope in Humanity

Despite the efforts of news media to inform the public of the necessity to stay quarantined and the impact this virus is having, many have also been choosing to focus on the positive acts happening.

NBC Chicago has featured several stories on newborn babies arriving amid the pandemic. A recent couple announced the 6-week-early baby by writing pieces of paper and showing their family through a glass window of the hospital.

While each of the news outlets have been clearly focused on real people in communities doing good, some networks are aiding in displaying ways to keep active at home.

ABC Chicago has been providing a combination of uplifting content, along with ideas to keep a positive mindset while staying busy at home.

Fox Chicago has a tab on their website for their show, Good Day Chicago. It’s no coincidence that’s the tab is called “Good Day,” as they showcase daily uplighting stories.

Helping people be aware of their mental health, Fox has produced stories such as a woman creating a Facebook page for people to vent about coronavirus. Another story features a violinist talking about music education at home in Chicago.

Frey said she’s proud to be from Chicago not only for the leadership driving people through the pandemic, but also because Chicagoans appreciate keeping a light-hearted attitude in times of despair.

Meg Frey on Chicago positivity

The Elmhurst Daily Herald appeared to have a constant flow of positive stories — occasionally lacking in hard-hitting news on the coronavirus. From “Humanitarian Service Project launches campaign to combat hunger amid crisis” to “Trivia Night: At Home Edition to raise funds for West Suburban Humane Society,” the writers seem to focus on the good in the community.

Though these news outlets are working through times of uncertainty, each platform featured stories looking into the future, ensuring Americans are aware of reality without losing hope in humanity.

How-To: Make Pumpkin Bread

Alicia Lee

A Quick and Easy, Delicious Fall Treat 

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The leaves are changing color, the air is getting colder, the clothes are getting thicker, and that could only mean one thing… Fall is finally here! Fall is the favorite season of many people because of Halloween, the fashion, etc., but it is my favorite because of the food. Once fall hits, everything pumpkin flavored comes out including pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice latte, pumpkin cookies, etc. Many of those things may be difficult to make. However, in this video, I will teach you how to make the most simplest fall treat, pumpkin bread. It only takes a few ingredients, which many of us already have at home.

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