Editor’s Note Episode 1: The story of a newsroom

| Multimedia Editor

As college campuses grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, student journalists are facing the story of a lifetime. In this new weekly podcast, Multimedia Editor Jaden Satenstein breaks down Student Life’s biggest stories with the reporters and editors who produced them. Today’s pilot episode features the editors of all five sections giving insight into what they’ll be covering this semester.

“Editor’s Note Episode 1: The story of a newsroom” can also be found on Apple Podcasts and Soundcloud.

The transcript of the episode can be found below. It has been lightly edited for clarity:

JADEN SATENSTEIN (0:13-1:02): As college campuses grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, student journalists are facing the story of a lifetime. So, let’s take a look at how they’re reporting on it.

I’m Multimedia Editor Jaden Satenstein, and you’re listening to Editor’s Note, Student Life’s new weekly podcast. I’ll be talking to reporters and editors every week to break down our biggest stories.

Today, we’ll hear from the editors of all five sections to get a bit more insight into what they’ll be covering this semester.

To start off, we’ll hear from our Senior News Editors, juniors Em McPhie and Ted Moskal, on how they’re reporting on such a historic semester for Washington University. With an ever-changing news cycle, McPhie noted that COVID-19 is only one of the major developing stories on campus.

EM MCPHIE (1:03-1:39): Even without COVID, this is an election year. So we’ve had a couple stories, I guess one last weekend, one this coming week related to the upcoming election. Obviously there’s a lot of Greek Life stuff that happened over the summer that’s still ongoing. There’s a lot of changes to the way that classes are working, the way [Emergency Support Team] is working. We had a story on that recently. How are, how has testing been happening and how will it continue to happen? So there’s really just so much stuff here to cover that I feel like the biggest challenge is limiting ourselves to, you know, ‘Okay, what do we have the capacity to cover?’

JS (1:40-1:47): With all that and more going on at Wash. U., I asked McPhie and Moskal about some of the issues they’re exploring that may be less visible to students.

TED MOSKAL (1:48-2:09): A couple things that I think we want to look into more is sort of how the COVID pandemic is impacting the areas around Wash. U. and the St. Louis community, which typically has not been something that the News section has covered in great depth, and it’s something I think we’re planning to do a little bit more of this semester.

EM (2:10-2:32): I think another thing that I’m curious about is, with Zoom classes and with the financial difficulties that a lot of people have been experiencing as a result of the pandemic, we’re seeing a conversation nationally about higher education. And, you know, is it worth it? Is it sustainable at the price point that it’s currently at? JS (2:33-2:46): Yeah, thank you for bringing all these up. I think these are kind of questions that are on a lot of people’s minds. And I wonder, also, are there any specific major questions that you really want answered?

EM (2:47-3:34): I think my biggest question is, with all of the promises that the University has made over the last few months, specifically in terms of racial justice, are they going to be following through on that and how are they going to be following through on that? Because we’ve seen a lot of rhetoric over the summer when there aren’t students here and now students are back. And now it’s time for action. So we’re seeing some new committees forming and some new task forces and some new plans and like, that’s all well and good, but my biggest question is, what concrete actions are going to be taken? You know, Ted brought up need-blind. That’s something that applies to racial justice. And that’s something that students have been calling for for a long time. So is Wash. U. going to finally go need-blind or, actually, with the pandemic, are we headed in the opposite direction of that?

JS (3:35-3:50): Senior Benjamin Simon is also trying to navigate all the changes happening on campus as the editor of Scene, Student Life’s features section. He plans to use more personal profile stories to highlight the ways various members of the University community have been affected by the pandemic.

BEN SIMON (3:51-4:23): We’re going to try and do kind of a regular feature of a Wash. U. worker. And so obviously you see like the cubbies when you’re walking around campus, and so we’re trying to find like the hidden stories like, you know, not just the cubbies where you can see like out in the open, but the workers at Wash. U., like the [circulator] driver, the [Bear’s Den] line cook, the landscapers. What are their lives like right now? And they’re a huge part of making the Wash. U. community move the way that it does.

JS (4:24-4:41): In Forum, our opinion section, Managing Editor senior Kya Vaughn and forum editor sophomore Jamila Dawkins have seen COVID-19 impact what people have to say and how they say it. Vaughn noted that writers have unsurprisingly shared more pessimistic perspectives than usual this semester.

KYA VAUGHN (4:42-5:10): The tone has shifted to something a little more grave. I feel like it’s more serious and slightly less hopeful, and I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I think a lot of people are there right now. And I think it makes sense with everything that’s going on. But, yeah, I feel like I personally have noticed that shift, but I could be looking through my own lens as well, so…

JS (5:11-5:18): Right, I know, Jamila, you just joined the editing team recently, but have you had any things you’ve noticed, whether about Forum in general or even your own writing?

JAMILA DAWKINS (5:19-5:57): I think that a lot of the issues that are on a lot of people’s minds right now are kind of melding together in very interesting ways. For example, the way that I find a lot of pieces that I’ve been seeing that center on the pandemic will pull in relevant information about social activism and vice versa. I feel like with these things so foremost on everyone’s minds, a lot of people are becoming a little bit more intersectional with the opinions that they hold and the way that everything kind of connects.

JS (5:58-6:20): To juniors Isabella Neubauer and Sabrina Spence, who serve as Senior Editors of Cadenza, our arts and entertainment section, quarantine has shown Wash. U. students how connected campus culture is to the arts. While students can no longer gather in Edison Theatre or Graham Chapel for a show, Spence is excited to see how both artists and audiences adapt to the circumstances.

SABRINA SPENCE (6:21-7:13): I would say what I’m most interested in, or most excited foris to see how the University shows up for virtual arts, entertainment events. Because I know, because I see the audiences at a cappella concerts and at Performing Arts Department productions when they’re in person, but I’m excited to see how Wash. U. students involve themselves with actually logging on to Zoom or going to the website and watching these events from their dorms or their apartments or their homes if they’re staying at home this semester. And I’m interested to see if we get a higher turnout because you don’t have to go anywhere or if it kind of stays the same.

ISABELLA NEUBAUER (7:14-7:49): Yeah, that’s mostly what I’m interested in, too. Just how the virtual experience is different from the in-person experience. Like, I’ve gone to so many a capella concerts during my time at Wash. U. I actually can’t count how many I’ve been to, but I’ve never been to one on Zoom. So I’m really interested to see how it’s done to see how, you know, the technology is able to incorporate all the elements of the show and to see how the energy of the show is going to be translated.

JS (7:50-8:09): While Neubauer reflects on countless hours spent at a cappella concerts, senior Dorian DeBose is also missing out on a major part of his Wash. U. experience: athletics. Now on his third year as Senior Sports Editor, DeBose struggled to wrap his head around a sports-less semester when fall athletics were cancelled back in July.

DORIAN DEBOSE (8:10-9:07): A lot of times, covering sports can be overwhelming, but it’s also so much of my life that, when I thought about what the semester looks like without them, it felt empty. And I also felt very sad because I know these athletes and I knew how bummed out they would be. And, like, we still have StudLife. They lost the thing that they do for most of their time, they lost their number one thing that they make their friends with, that they know people from, that they have dedicated so much of their time to, and so I… Especially having to write an article about that immediately after it happened, having to reach out to them to talk to them about what their experience was like, I think I had both my own dread and the second-hand dread from talking to them. It was a bummer. I didn’t really start to think like what the sports coverage would actually look like until a couple weeks later.

JS (9:08-9:22): So what does sports coverage look like with no campus sports to cover? To fellow Senior Sports Editor junior Josh Shapiro, the lack of athletics provides opportunities to explore forms of sports writing that go beyond reporting on games.

JOSH SHAPIRO (9:23-9:52): I think there’s a lot of interesting profiles to be done. One of the things we need to work on, I think, is balance. So, profiles and more long form stories as well. So again, looking at how maybe sports will change with this pandemic. I think that’s going to be a really interesting development. I’m not sure if sports in general are ever going to go back to sort of like the same way they were, right, with tons of fans at these giant stadiums.

JS (9:53-10:09): While he may not get to see them on the playing field, DeBose said that it’s the Wash. U. athletes who keep him motivated to cover sports. After writing a piece on all the great games that would have taken place at the end of September, DeBose received an unexpected message.

DD (10:10-10:40): I actually wound up getting an email from Ellie DeConinck from the Women’s Soccer Team. And it was just a very kind email about how they thought the article was and thanking me for just covering them for the last few years. So I think that that’s been one thing that keeps me going, just knowing that like, when we do cover Wash. U. sports, the athletes really do appreciate it.

JS (10:46-10:54): Tune in next Friday as we dive into one of the week’s biggest stories. For Student Life Media, I’m Jaden Satenstein.

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