The Resiliency Of Student Journalists
May 26, 2020
SHSU Media Contact: Jackie Swan
Written By: Jackie Swan
One of the stops on a Sam Houston State University tour for prospective students is in front of the Dan Rather Communications Building, where the guide mentions a huge benefit to being a Mass Communications major: the student-led media outlets within the department. A college campus can offer numerous opportunities in news reporting, editing and publishing, but what happens when the buzz of campus life and activities comes to a halt during a global pandemic?
According to the Houstonian Editor-in-Chief Sharon Raissi, students have had plenty to cover.
“Everyone who talks about how much free time they have now in quarantine must not work in the news business, because it's non-stop for us, except now we can just do it in our pajamas,” Raissi said.
Thankfully, this generation was founded on technological development, and most editing processes were already set up online. Under normal circumstances, The Houstonian publishes physical newspapers every two weeks to be distributed around campus. On the Mondays in-between, content would be published digitally via email, website blog, and social media. With the current health crisis, the team has turned exclusively to digital platforms.
“One thing that I like about working from home is, without print editions, the Houstonian has been able to focus in on our digital content,” Assistant Editor-in-Chief, Mason Storrs said. “We have a good online following, so the lessons learned and adjustments made during this period will stick with us and continue to help us even when things go back to normal.”
Most of the staff had questions regarding how they were going to proceed when moving to remote delivery.
“I wondered if the Houstonian was going to continue publishing, and if so, how?” said Arts & Entertainment Editor, Ariole Jones. “I also wasn’t surprised being that most of the schools within a 50-mile radius had already transitioned to remote delivery, so I was mentally prepared.”
Raissi says her team has been holding weekly group and one-on-one meetings.
“I was worried that contacting sources for interviews would be a problem, but I've been incredibly impressed with how writers have been able to gather information and keep their work up to par despite the challenges,” Raissi said.
Creating content has not been the issue for these students; rather the separation from each other has been the challenge.
“My biggest complaint is not being able to be in the newsroom with my fellow editors and other staff members,” Sports Editor Tyler Josefsen said. “A huge part of what we do besides report the news is helping other students that contribute to our publication develop. Working from home deprives us of opportunities to sit down with those writers, photographers and designers to reflect on their recent work and help them grow as journalists.”
There is a culture created and missed in any workplace. For those who specialize in extroverted fields and thrive on the presence of their colleagues, isolation is that much tougher to endure. However, Raissi recognizes this experience is history in the making.
“Years later, people will look at local news to see how the area managed during this pandemic, so it's important that we report and document it accurately. The whole staff is part of a much bigger picture right now, and they're handling it with a lot of grace,” Raissi said. “What this experience has shown me is the resiliency of student journalists. It's encouraging to know that people like my staff are the future of this business. I say it a lot, but I'm very proud of everyone on staff for how they've all rose to the occasion despite the circumstances.”
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