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Journalists continue storytelling despite Covid-19 restrictions

Coppell High School senior Sally Parampottil ’21, interviews Coppell head football coach Michael DeWitt at Buddy Echols Field on Dec. 4.

Scholastic media adjusts to online challenges

With national lockdowns still in place through much of the nation, scholastic media teams continue to adapt to a new process in order to write and share stories despite being stuck at home or in altered school environments.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, The Feather and high school classes across the nation switched to online alternatives to finish out the 2019-2020 school year and beyond.

Yet the pandemic brought along new settings and situations for students to share, such as the closure of stores and restaurants, new learning environments as well as unprecedented political turmoil. Online classes also received their share in the spotlight, as students across the county voiced the pros and cons of the new system.

[/media-credit] Feather photojournalist Aubrey Graham, ’23, edits a photo outline the lab.

Wondering how other journalism programs continue in the midst of the pandemic, The Feather Online reached out to other student journalists. Out of nearly 30 high schools contacted, only two responded, including The Sidekick online newspaper, based out of Coppell High School in Texas.

Both The Sidekick’s editor in chief, Sally Parampottil, and sports editor, Anjali Krishna, participated in a Nov. 21, 2020, Zoom meeting with Feather journalist, Brayden Iest, to discuss how Covid-19 affects their work.

Parampottil, managing the 50-plus members of The Sidekick, presses on with her work despite the limits  on journalists due to COVID-19. Currently, The Sidekick publishes daily, relying on Zoom sessions to meet and plan future events for the paper. Parampottil reflects on how her team adapted to the changes which took place.

“While the transition to operating in a hybrid model … was not something we wanted to do, it’s something we’ve done with success,” Parampottil said. “It may mean some staffers take on more assignments. It may mean finding new methods to produce the same quantity and quality of content as any other year; but in the end, it’s what had to be done. I couldn’t be more proud of what The Sidekick has pulled off.”

This author spoke with Sally Parampottil and Anjali Krishna on sports journalism in the following, Nov. 21, podcast. They discuss the effects of COVID-19 on their high school sports along with the differences and similarities between California and Texas.

The virus resulted in many different problems leading journalism teams to slow production and publishing articles proves to be difficult. Both the stress of online classes, and the constant possibility of contracting the coronavirus and the political environment saturated and distracted the media over most other stories, leading audiences to disengage with the mundane.

Current editor-in-chief of The Feather Online, Bryce Foshee takes charge of running this year’s team. During his first year in this role, he explains the challenges Feather staffers face.

“Over the summer, I didn’t even think a journalism team was possible this year,” Foshee said. “With our smallest team in over a decade, an adviser facing personal tragedy, and the inability to see each other in person, I thought we were going to have to take a hiatus.

Personally, I’ve struggled with a lack of motivation,” Foshee continued. “With so many things cancelled, I’ve had to realize that I can’t just cancel journalism. Stories continue, even if we as a team have to be flexible and dig a little deeper.”

[/media-credit] Evelyn Lauer’s Twitter page contains more information about the Beyond the Bell podcast.

The Feather Online, who recently earned two national journalism awards from NSPA and CSPA, has met a staggering halt in their normal production this year. With only a third of the team remaining from last school year and most school events canceled and adviser Greg Stobbe out on personal leave, publishing a normal daily quota is essentially not possible this year.

Foshee shares how Covid-19 affected the training of the 2020-21 team.

“One of the hard things this year is the slow start to the year,” Foshee said. “Usually, we hold a journalism boot camp over the summer, which gives us a chance to get the new members up to speed. But this year, the team couldn’t meet together in person until October. We’ve had to learn to work together as a team in a weird time.”

Just over 800 miles northeast of Coppell, another story rises from Chicago. Former adviser of Niles West News, English teacher, and student journalism mentor, Evelyn Lauer hosts Beyond the Bell podcast. Within her podcast, she educates teachers on instructing during the pandemic.

“I don’t believe there is a lack of stories to tell,” Lauer said. “I see how high school students would feel that way because there are no events or sports, but the lack of these things are a story. Covid has been the No. 1 story, but that doesn’t mean other stories are not out there.”

The year of 2020 presented new challenges to everyone, including journalists. While nobody knows what 2021 holds, Covid-19 and politics still dominate the mainstream media. No matter how much longer students go without normality, journalism teams continue to tell stories and The Feather salutes their efforts.

For more articles, read Local Fresno HS earns national media recognition and Amanda Phan leads international organization, creates community among Vietnamese students.

Brayden Iest can be reached via Twitter and email.

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  • T

    Triana OchoaFeb 12, 2021 at 10:32 am

    This is such a great article!

  • C

    Cohl ObwaldFeb 5, 2021 at 2:30 pm

    I liked the article. Very well written.

  • M

    MateoFeb 5, 2021 at 11:52 am

    Amazing Article! Great Job.

  • K

    KadenFeb 5, 2021 at 8:41 am

    This article is awesome.

  • K

    KadenFeb 5, 2021 at 8:40 am

    Nice article.

  • S

    Silva EmerianJan 29, 2021 at 9:30 am

    Thanks Brayden! I never stopped to think how other high school newspapers were handling the pandemic. This was really eye-opening and I personally think the Feather team is doing a fantastic job with the limitations this year has placed on them. Don’t be discouraged! Get creative and keep up the great work!