(Photo: Vanessa Botelho)

The pandemic has both disrupted and transformed journalism. Time-honored traditions of witnessing events in person, canvassing crowds, knocking on doors and staking out sources have largely been abandoned. B-roll is now a luxury, and in-person interviews are mostly not worth the time and risk. At the same time, falling ad revenues have brought even more pain to an already struggling industry in the form of newspaper closures, furloughs and layoffs. 

But coming through in a crisis and finding new, innovative ways to tell stories are also newsroom traditions. And so, radio reporters have turned their closets into soundproof studios. TV reporters have jerry-rigged video setups in their living rooms and backyards. Photographers are teaching interviewees to take their own portraits, interviews are now routinely done via Zoom, and producers are using viewers’ cell phone video to document all the ways in which the pandemic has changed their lives. 

And despite the physical distance that the pandemic has put between reporters, their sources, and their readers and viewers, journalists have come up with new and sometimes better ways of connecting with the public. They’re getting story ideas, string, sources and tips from Twitter, local Facebook pages, newsletters and community forums held on Zoom. Readers and viewers are sharing their challenges with journalists as never before, and journalists in turn are helping the public navigate this extraordinary time by answering questions on everything from how to stay healthy to how to recognize disinformation.

In some ways, the pandemic has made journalism more transparent. The curtain has been lifted on news gathering as reporters do interviews from their living rooms and ask the public for more input than ever before. In other ways, though, journalists have simply found new ways to do what they’ve always done: hold the government accountable, counter misinformation with facts, and make sure that the stories and concerns of real people are heard. Maria Clark speaks for many of those working in the news business right now when she puts it this way: “I’ve never felt the value of the importance of my job more so than at this point in my life.”

This original research is a project of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY.

Reporters: Matthew MacVey ’16, academic program specialist; Geraldine Baum, assistant dean of External Affairs

Editors: Beth Harpaz, editor for research content and website manager for CUNY website SUM; Amy Dunkin, director of Academic Operations

Website: Rosaleen Ortiz, designer