Ohio University

Challenge accepted: Student journalists rise up to cover coronavirus

Published: March 24, 2020 Author: Alaina Bartel

The news doesn’t stop in the midst of a global pandemic, and neither do student journalists at Ohio University.

Due to the coronavirus, OHIO moved the remainder of its spring semester classes online and students were instructed to move out of their residence halls. The Post journalists were there to document it all to inform students, faculty, staff and Athens community members during this unprecedented time in history.

The Post staff did not have access to their desktop computers in their newsroom in Baker University Center, so instead, they worked remotely using Google Hangout, video chatting, phone calls and Slack to release a print edition of their newspaper. The Post Digital Managing Editor Taylor Johnston said it was crucial to provide information to their readers to shine light on unanswered questions.

“It is our job as members of The Post to provide information and cover issues that may affect the community and campus,” Johnston explained. “As a student journalist covering a pandemic, I keep reminding myself of how important my job is, especially during times like this. All throughout my college career as a journalism student, you hear about reporters during times of crisis and how they went about covering it. I never would have thought I would be doing the same thing, especially as a student.”

Johnston’s major contribution to their coronavirus coverage includes a landing page where readers can find all of The Post’s content related to the pandemic. Within it is an interactive map, which is updated on a daily basis, outlining all the Ohio counties and tracking the number of the coronavirus cases in each. This page is also conveyed in their print edition with a QR code for readers to easily access it online.

“As an executive editor, I’m proud of all our section editors for coming together as well as bringing their respective staffs together to help contribute to creating a successful print edition of The Post,” Johnston added. “They stuck around and proved that even a pandemic would not stop them from doing their jobs, especially when it decides to uproot their daily lives.”

Johnston also worked on an editorial with The Post’s Editor-in-Chief, Ellen Wagner, about what it means for The Post staff to be away from campus.

“We want to make sure all Ohio University students, faculty, parents and Athens residents want to come to us for information on what is happening,” Wagner noted. “Although not a lot of people are in Athens, we still want to update everyone on the current state of the city and the university as things continue to develop with the coronavirus pandemic. I think this is a challenging time for any journalist. However, we know it’s our job to keep the public informed. It’s an important part of history for the country, Ohio University and The Post.”

Their latest print edition includes resources for those in need, such as food pantries; information about what businesses are closed due to COVID-19; songs to listen to while social-distancing; ideas on what to do while staying home; and The Post Art Director Rilee Lockhart’s favorite: Photos of the unusually quiet streets of Athens and students moving out of their residence halls.

“Our photo staff really rose to the challenge and captured images that are really striking and capture what a weird time this is for students,” Lockhart said. “The design was also fun because photo pages allow for more experimental and visual layouts. Writing-wise, my favorite piece was the ‘From the Editor's Desk’ column by our Editor-in-Chief Ellen Wagner. As a fellow senior, she spoke for us all when she expressed the heartbreak we all feel at having to leave so soon and how special The Post is to us.”

As a senior, Lockhart and many of the other senior Post staffers have covered a lot of firsts — from the 2016 Presidential Election they reported on their freshman year, to changes in the university presidency, to student protests, and now, a global pandemic that is sending shockwaves throughout the world.

Lockhart explained student-journalists are often thought of as “in-training,” and while that is true in the sense that they are still learning, as journalists they are producing content that is professional and has real impact on the university and larger community. She said they feel a duty to provide accurate and helpful information to the community.

“I am immensely proud of everyone that has worked tirelessly to publish this paper. I can't think of any one of our staffs that didn't rise to the challenge when needed. When the news broke about the university moving to online classes, I honestly wasn't sure how we were going to overcome the logistics of making content and publishing it remotely, but the determination and leadership of all the section editors was really the defining effort,” Lockhart noted. “Everyone was ready to pitch in, contribute as much time as needed, and ensure that The Post would continue to inform and update the community, and for that, I couldn't be prouder of my fellow Posties.”

The Post staff poses for their 2019 holiday card.
The Post staff poses for their 2019 holiday card.