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Photo courtesy of Lenah Allen, Editor-in-Chief

Column series: What it’s like being a student journalist during a pandemic

As a student journalist, I’m charged with the responsibilities of collecting and delivering concise, accurate information to readers who desire it.

It may seem like an easy job to others, but, in reality, it consists of various obstacles and steps to achieve the ultimate goal of delivering correct information.

This semester has been a series of revelations for me.

I’ve realized that my story is also among the many that I report on daily. It was easy for me to neglect my own account when I was focused on every other one.

But this semester was unlike any other.

When COVID-19 struck, a new surge of challenges arrived with it. No one, including myself, was prepared or knew how to cope with the new changes.

My personal agenda included more than just my responsibilities as a journalist. I also had to juggle my academics, extracurricular activities, and my second job as a sales associate.

With the life-threatening pandemic hanging in the balance of my already hectic life, I also had to ensure my health didn’t affect my ability to achieve all I set out to do.

Every time I stepped out of my apartment, I risked jeopardizing my well-being. The unknown behind the pandemic was grave, but my determination to be present in all my responsibilities was graver.

As the pandemic worsened, so did my motivation as a student. My work ethic in my academics wavered and my determination to put maximum effort into my work diminished.

It seemed like the only thing keeping me afloat was my passion for journalism.

I found comfort in talking to sources via email about what was going on in the world and on campus. Every story I published made me feel like there was still hope for normalcy during the life-threatening pandemic.

It’s easy to look at the negative outcomes of COVID-19, but this life-changing virus has also taught me to also look at the positive outcomes.

This pandemic has forced everyone to rely on a virtual universe. I can honestly say that while the transition to virtual domains hasn’t been the easiest, it has been accomplished.

I’ve been able to easily get in contact with needed sources via email and Zoom meetings. I’ve also overcome my fear of relying solely on virtual platforms.

I was afraid that my sources would not respond over virtual platforms, but I was happily surprised to see all my sources replied in a timely manner.

Being exposed to virtual platforms also made me more comfortable using my online resources in my stories. Now, as a journalist I look forward to doing more data stories and adding those to my portfolio.

In order to be successful in a virtual world, student journalists have to be open to exploring all avenues of it. There are so many resources on the internet that I knew nothing about before the pandemic hit.

It’s uncertain of when the pandemic may be over, but unfortunately all student journalists have to adapt to the new changes and continue to find new ways to accomplish their responsibilities.

COVID-19 didn’t stop me from achieving my goals this semester, and I’m honored to be one out of a million other student journalists who have successfully worked through COVID-19.

Written by Lenah Allen, Editor-in-Chief.

 

As a student journalist, COVID-19, the election and protests have offered endless opportunities to write, research and educate myself and others.

My schooling was affected by the pandemic starting in March this year. The switch to online schooling, a stay-at-home order and transitioning back to the face-to-face classroom setting has been overwhelming.

It was difficult to jump back into the need for motivation and productivity. Physically, things were well, but emotionally and mentally, there was a sense of being drained.

People across campus call this “pandemic fatigue.”

After plenty of rest, the thought of being motivated was exhausting. Being a student journalist helped with my fatigue because of the important role I was to play.

As a student journalist, my role is to be the voice of the student body. The student’s voices matter, and a student journalist should carry out that voice.

 Being a first-time student journalist during a pandemic has its own set of challenges. Nobody is going to be as they normally would be in “normal” circumstances.

Coming into this semester, I knew I would be facing an uphill battle as a first-time journalist, especially wanting to be a sports journalist.  The battle got even harder when all fall sports were postponed just days into the semester.

After that, it became increasingly clear that I would have a rough start into my experience as a journalist, and just having anything to write about would be great for me.  There were still many stories to cover, but most of them revolved around the coronavirus.

It was also a challenge to just get in contact with players and coaches at times. Normally, you would just go to where the team practiced or where the coach’s office was and ask them the questions. With coronavirus protocols in place, however, that was a last resort option, and many interviews were conducted over phone or email.

To further add on to the difficulty of reaching sources is the fact that I have my own setbacks to overcome.  Being someone who has been diagnosed with autism since the age of four and with depression and social anxiety since my freshman year of college, I can speak from experience that while it might be hard to get out of your comfort zone, it is absolutely worth doing because it helps you build confidence.

This semester brought on an entirely different challenge altogether compared to my first five semesters in college, which included an entirely virtual experience over the summer.  Having a blend of online and face-to-face classes might not seem like a bad thing, but when the “blend” heavily favors the online model, it can really cause you to lose track of all of your classes.

The other challenge is taking my first semester of major level courses.  I personally feel like making such a jump in the level of coursework during the pandemic, in addition to the aforementioned challenges with taking online coursework, certainly was not a recipe for success.

This semester has not been my most ideal semester by any means. However, I know that the pains I am going through this semester will make me a better reporter and a much better student in the spring.

I think the most important piece of advice I would give anyone is to make sure you have good time management. Even though my time management is far from perfect, it has gotten better over the course of the semester.

Written by Austin Bruce, Staff writer

 

More times than not, students do not educate themselves. Instead, students fall back on their parent’s and peer’s opinions. These opinions are normally biased.

It’s important for us students across campuses to be educated because we are the future of America. Many students don’t know where to start their research, and the school paper is a reliable place to start.

A lot of opportunities came up this semester as a student journalist. The number of big events and news in America this year was seemingly endless, and it offered me a lot of topics to begin educating myself, specifically in Georgia.

Because of the big news, it was difficult to be a reliable source at times. One of the biggest goals as a student journalist is being unbiased. I really learned how to offer facts instead of opinions this semester.

In order to become unbiased, I had to dig into my research and sources. I learned who or what was a good source.

The controversial topics this year taught me the importance of getting opinions from each side. If I happened to get an opinion from one side, I could come off as an unreliable student journalist.

This semester was busy because of the events involving the pandemic and the election. There was always a topic that needed to be researched, discussed and written about.

Because it was so busy, I learned how to manage my time more wisely. Being a student journalist requires good time management, especially during a world pandemic.

My biggest advice to other student journalists is to learn time management.

It’s crucial to contact your sources and set up interviews within a day or two of getting a story assigned. The pandemic has increased everyone’s workloads this year. You want to make sure that your source can squeeze you into their schedule.

When gathering sources for a story, not only interview others, but conduct your own research and take notes. It is important to educate yourself, so you can ask your source the best questions for your story.

Keeping up with news and with schoolwork can be overwhelming, but it is possible. I advise student journalists to download their favorite news app on their phone and turn on the notifications for it.

This way, you will be up to date with headlines across the country and the world. Big news sources will often post important stories within minutes or hours of the event happening.

Another option is to refresh your news feed on social media as often as possible, but there is a lot of fake news, so you should always fact check what you read.

One of the biggest things I have come to realize as a student journalist, during a year like this, is that everyone is trying to adapt and transition. It’s crucial to be mindful of others in times like this.

Written by Jonnie Brewer, Assistant Copy Editor.

 

The first day of my journalism seminar class, I sat down and was handed my first article, which was What’s Happening with the Happening. I remember being so excited to do this article, but I also remember being nervous about doing it.

The Happening is an event that is important for freshmen.  I felt that I needed to tell the students how this event would work. Without knowing it, this was a start of me becoming the campus life assistant editor for the Spectator.

For the following weeks, I took on campus life stories and started to realize that I wanted to become an editor, so I talked with the Campus Life editor and put in an application to shadow her. I think the experience I got with being an assistant editor made me realize how important it is to be a student journalist along with being a staff writer.

During these trying times, it’s been hard for everyone. This doesn’t just include COVID-19, but also the Black Lives Matter protests and the election. Personally, I won’t lie, it has been hard for me to keep up with the news and keep up with schoolwork, but I pushed through and was able to do it.

I found that my role is especially important during these times. While I was learning how to become a journalist, I was also understanding the role of one. What it boils down to is that people like to know new information, and I was able to give them this information.

It’s always been important to be a student journalist; however, I think it’s more so important now than it has been in the past. I already established that people want to know new information, but now it’s more crucial for students to know what’s happening due to restrictions that they may have to face.

This was my first semester being a journalist, and I will say that it was a wild ride. I know at the beginning of the semester it was hard for me to be a student and be a staff reporter for The Spectator. I did get through, especially when I became an assistant editor.

What I did to combat being both a student and a staff reporter was most definitely time management. I know students hear about time management, and I know it’s a dreadful process, but it really does help a student out when they have a lot on their plate.

When I became an assistant staff reporter, it helped put everything in line. I now had something to do on Wednesdays after 5:30 p.m. I set a specific time off to just be a journalist for the newspaper on those days. The rest just fell into place.

This semester was a hard for not only me to face, but for students across campus. Students had to learn in a different way in order to succeed. I learned that, with having hyflex classes, I needed to work on my time management skills.

Time management, as a student journalist, is important because we want to be able to do well in our classes and be able to post stories in a timely manner.

Written by Kilie Huckleby, Assistant Campus Life Editor.

 

Like everyone during this pandemic, I have struggled to find a balance between juggling schoolwork with responsibilities as a journalist, all on top of my everyday life.

Every aspect of my life was affected by the pandemic that started back in March, but school was the most difficult to change that I had to adjust to. It’s hard to be motivated during such times of uncertainty, but even harder to focus on schoolwork with everything else that’s going on in the world.

Spring semester 2020 was my first semester as an English major in the journalism track, so I was brand new to the whole idea of being a journalist and still have a lot to learn. COVID-19 has hindered my learning because of the switch to online schooling and stay-at-home orders.

I am easily distracted, so online learning has been somewhat troublesome for me. But it has taught me how to manage my time better, which is necessary in order to be a journalist and complete online tasks.

This “new way of life” means that I have had to make many adjustments in order to fill the shoes of being a journalist. I’m not alone, because all journalists have had to figure out a way to continue to do their job during these trying times.

Although life is overwhelming at the moment, COVID-19, along with the current protests and the election, has given me and other journalists important content to research and report on.

Working as a staff member for The Spectator this semester helped me realize just how important it is to be a student journalist.

I’ve had multiple opportunities to write about major topics to educate students, and I have also learned a lot along the way.

However, interviews make up the bulk of journalism. Interviewing during a pandemic is not an easy task to do, especially for me since I am still in the process of learning how to effectively interview sources. COVID-19 makes it much harder due to social distancing guidelines and the decrease in face-to-face interaction.

I know that learning how to be a journalist during a pandemic will pay off in the future because it has required me to work harder to better my skills.

Journalism is a demanding field and it’s not always easy.

My advice to other student journalists would be to prioritize tasks and set goals to get things done on time. It’s also important to keep up with what’s going on, even if that means staying updated on news through social media.

Even though the pandemic seems like such a horrible thing to live through, it has opened my eyes to so much and has allowed me to reflect on a lot in my life. I have come to understand that despite all of the struggles, being a student journalist during this time can be rewarding.

Written by Camille Ham, Staff Writer.

 

Millions of people around the world continue to be directly and indirectly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Continuing life as we know it has been much harder than many were prepared for, and as far as we may know, life may never be normal again.

As a student journalist during these times, I have felt a rollercoaster of feelings: relief, stress, doubt, loneliness, anxiety and fear among others.

Online classes have been a problem for many students, including me.

Attending classes over Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Blackboard Collaborate has not been good for my education. I often find myself getting easily distracted and feeling isolated because I miss the feeling of everyone being in class together.

I continued to do my best to stay active on campus. Besides being an editor for The Spectator, I work very hard as a volunteer for Campus Activities Board. I tried to volunteer and attend as many events as possible, and I am hoping to move up to a higher position soon.

My social life has been a good and bad experience. I have had plenty of fun with my friends this semester, but one dinner at a local seafood restaurant with some friends ended with me and others having to quarantine for two weeks.

Being a journalist is especially difficult during these times.

Journalism thrives on interviewing, but during this pandemic, interviewing was harder due to the risk of doing face-to-face interviews. For me, face-to-face interviewing was hard due to my anxiety, but before the pandemic, I was working on it and getting better at it.

As an alternative, I conducted most of my interviews through email and occasionally over the phone.

Also, as the entertainment editor, it was hard for me to come up with topics because everything was getting canceled due to the virus.

However, even with all the setbacks and restrictions that COVID-19 brought, The Spectator was able to produce some of its best content to date.

It made me even more proud to be a student journalist than I already was.

Being a student journalist is such a fulfilling and essential role for those who are passionate enough to fill these positions. It is our duty to get important news and information out in order to keep students educated.

We are the voice of the students by the students, which makes us more relatable to our audience.

If you are a student journalist, keeping up with news and classes can be tough. However, the most important thing is time management and prioritizing. If you manage your time correctly and remember that school comes first, you can be at the top of your game as both a student and journalist.

This pandemic has made me reflect on many things in life and allowed me to learn so much more about myself. I have explored different hobbies and interests, such as reading, listening to podcasts about politics, and vinyl collecting.

As a student journalist, I am overwhelmed with everything going on, but I am grateful for the wonderful position of importance I am in, and I hope that everything I learned during these strange times works out to help me in the end.

Written by Torrence Weaver, Entertainment Editor. 

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