One of the great ironies of the novel coronavirus outbreak is that while the public is hungrier than ever for news, the pandemic is wreaking havoc on journalists and media organizations.
“The COVID-19 crisis only accelerated trends that were already hobbling the [newspaper] industry,” explains Walt Baranger, lecturer in communications and faculty adviser for the Daily Titan, Cal State Fullerton’s student-run newspaper.
The Daily Titan is feeling this tension as well. The new coronavirus forced the publication to move completely online March 18 as classes and campus activity went virtual. Ad revenue, as well as the need for reporters covering such areas as sports and events, has declined.
On the upside, the newspaper has long had a robust presence on the web and in social media, says Baranger. His previous work at The New York Times, where he prepared the paper for the possibility of working without a newsroom, also has helped.
While technology allows a newspaper to operate virtually, he concedes that reporting and editing from home can be problematic for students without high-quality internet or a quiet place for phone interviews and concentration. Family issues — sickness, child care or financial stress from job loss — can impact staff as well.
Covering news has become more difficult because in-person interviews are banned, and many offices and agencies have minimal staffing.
Editor-in-Chief Jordan Mendoza says that the staff has not given up on the Daily Titan. “Sports and events on campus have been canceled, which simply means our news team is the focus of the paper right now. The stories we have found are based on changes to daily lives and figuring out what our lives will be after college — all that has been impacted by the virus.”
Michelle Kurland, lecturer in communications and advertising adviser for the Daily Titan, has used the unprecedented situation to show students that it’s possible to change a process, and that they can get through change by working as a team.
She also emphasizes that it’s most important to take care of one another first.
“Many students at the Daily Titan had to suddenly move home or found they were without their part-time jobs. Seniors are feeling an extra sense of loss with no more ‘lasts.’ Giving students grace as they navigate these new waters is my utmost concern.”
Mendoza acknowledges it has been “a weird time” for him. “Going from getting up early every day and arriving home well past midnight to doing all my work at home hasn’t been as fun, but I’ve managed and want to make sure I still do a great job as editor-in-chief.”
Will the move online be a permanent one for the newspaper? Baranger doesn’t think so. “As long as employers appreciate the invaluable deadline-driven experience of a daily print publication, and as long as CSUF students pick up the paper at campus news racks, we’ll print.”
Most importantly, he adds, the loss of a traditional newsroom does not mean the loss of quality journalism. “The Daily Titan staff is producing a steady stream of stories, and people are seeing them. In March, dailytitan.com had record traffic.”
Contact: Karen Lindell, firstname.lastname@example.org