Running a college newsroom during a pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic was a huge speed bump for students at College of the Desert, but the staff at The Chaparral rolled with the punches and produced a digital newspaper during a pandemic.
One thing about the news is that it never stops. The staff at The Chaparral had to deal with the never-ending flow of news while life stood still.
The Chaparral staff comprises return staff members who have produced the paper before and staff writers who have never produced a newspaper and were in complete disbelieve of the situation.
Experience or not, none of us knew how to operate a newspaper solely online.
One rule in journalism is to aim for in-person interviews. When COVID-19 forced us to stay home, we had to develop stories and conduct all interviews from our bedrooms.
Editor-in-Chief Melissa Espinoza said, “To be honest, I was a little disappointed. This is my last semester at COD, and as editor-in-chief of the paper, I love to put out the actual paper instead of just the online version.” The Chaparral class usually publishes five printed newspapers each semester. This semester, students were only able to produce two printed versions. The newspaper moved completely online once the campus was closed.
Estefania Moreira is the local editor of the paper. She said, “It wasn’t much of a difference for me seeing my articles online,” but she added, “I miss seeing my work on the official newspaper and building the newspaper with everyone in the same room.”
The Friday before distribution is known as production day, and it is when we create the paper printed paper using Adobe software called In Design. We do the layout, place photos and complete all the finishing touches. It would take most of the day. Final revisions were made, and everyone would be running around; it was crazy but fun.
With experience under their belts, Espinoza and Moreira were able to work under these circumstances, but so did the new staff.
The writing was the easy part, but with nothing else really going on, Chloe Strickland, the opinion editor, said, “Moving the paper online has mostly been easy, but with the current situation, finding stuff to write about has been really difficult because there is literally nothing going on. So it’s been a challenge.”
However, moving online definitely has had its benefits. “In our newspaper, we have to think about space so we cannot necessarily write 1,000 words or more. Online though, we have the freedom to do so, and I love that very much. I also like the idea that we can now focus more on media,” said Moriera.
The Chaparral has a new website with a company called SNOSites.com. Students have been able to learn the new digital set-up and bring stories to life, “We can start building the online website more and even include videos. On my two articles this semester, I had the chance to post videos: the Marilyn Monroe play and my fitness article during the quarantine. Despite not being able to experience the newspaper in these times, online, I can share it with many people who do not even attend COD, and now our college newspaper can become more than just a college newspaper,” said Moriera.
This transition was unexpected but was successful, and little did we know it came with a few benefits. “Even though we all wish for this crisis to be over, I think it is a good way to prepare ourselves as journalists and know that anything can happen at any moment,” said Espinoza.
The Chaparral staff was baffled when the news came that we would not come back to campus, but everyone did their best to put great stories out.
“I’m extremely grateful and proud of the staff writers this semester. They all worked hard and kept on writing stories,” said Espinoza.
In the madness that is COVID-19, the paper has thrived, and even though this pandemic kept us home, the news cannot be stopped at the end of the day.