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“How the Pandemic Changed Journalism:” A Newmark J-School Special Report

  • By Newmark J-School Staff
Hiram Alejandro Duran '19

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted — and transformed — journalism, according to a new white paper with original research from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY.

The report, “Zoom, Drones and ‘Live from My Closet’: How the Pandemic Changed Journalism,” offers a detailed portrait of the challenges and triumphs of newsgathering today.

The work reported that many of journalism’s traditions have fallen away, like witnessing events in person, canvassing crowds, knocking on doors, and staking out sources. Video b-roll has become a luxury, while too many face-to-face interviews are now deemed no longer worth the time or risk.

Declining advertising revenues have brought more pain to a struggling industry, with newsrooms shuttering as well as furloughing and laying off staff. But inspired reporters and editors also have found innovative ways to get and tell stories, the J-School study found, based on dozens of interviews with reporters, editors, photographers, and producers from coast-to-coast. Broadcasters have converted home closets into sound booths and rigged living rooms and kitchens for set-like video.

At KHOU in Houston, sports anchor Jason Bristol created his own graphics in PowerPoint to play back on his home TV during his broadcast. “The fact that you can do sports from someone’s living room, we can do breaking news and press conferences remotely, has just been, ‘Wow, we are doing this,’” said Sally Ramirez, who was KHOU news director until this summer when she become executive producer for The News With Shepard Smith on CNBC. “We’ve always said, ‘Thank you for inviting us into your home through the screen.’ For the first time, we’re allowing people into our homes.”

Photojournalists have taught subjects to shoot themselves, while news interviewers regularly grill sources on Zoom. Producers have tapped viewers’ smartphone video to document breaking news and subjects’ lives. And despite the physical distance that the virus has put between journalists, sources, and audiences, the news and news organizations are connecting with and being challenged by the public as never before.