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A composite photo featuring two Knox alumni journalists: Casey Mendoza, wearing eyeglasses, with colleagues before the pandemic; and Matt McKinney works from home during the pandemic.

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Knox's Alumni Journalists Chronicle COVID-19 Crisis

A composite photo featuring two Knox alumni journalists: Casey Mendoza, wearing eyeglasses, with colleagues before the pandemic; and Matt McKinney works from home during the pandemic.

Knox College alumni in the journalism field are hard at work chronicling the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on almost every aspect of daily life.

The crisis has changed what they report on and write about, as well as the logistics of how they do their jobs for print, online, and broadcast news organizations. Like other people, they’re coping as well as they can. They've set up makeshift work spaces at home, and when they have to go out on assignment, they try to be safe by wearing masks and keeping their distance.

Here’s a sampling of what some of Knox’s alumni journalists had to say about the current situation:

Matt McKinney '13, investigative reporter with Spotlight PA in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

“Over the last few weeks, our coverage has focused exclusively on the statewide effects of coronavirus on Pennsylvania. Although most of us were all focused on unrelated projects before the pandemic took hold in the United States, we shifted gears once the extent of the crisis became clear. Still, the nature of the work remains the same: We look to find, verify, and publish information that serves the public. In our newsroom, that means examining how institutions and officials are—or are not—working in the interest of residents, and holding them to account. We all take that responsibility seriously, and in moments like this, it's a reminder of what an absolute privilege it is to do this work.”

“Something I've thought about throughout this crisis is how Knox prepared me for a moment like this, and how grateful I am for that. By nature, a liberal arts education trains you for the unexpected, to think critically, and how to adapt when things don't go as planned. Those skills matter right now, and they are how we'll find our way forward.”  

Alex Keefe ’06, editor on the Government & Politics Desk at WBEZ, Chicago’s National Public Radio station

"This crisis makes radio difficult, as the way we get the best tape is to be out in the world, experiencing things and capturing them. For many of the places we’d need to go to cover the front lines of this pandemic, that would be downright dangerous.” 

“The coronavirus crisis is my work now. In WBEZ’s newsroom, we’re covering almost nothing else. I’m an editor on the Government & Politics desk, so we don’t have much non-COVID-19 stuff to cover: Legislative bodies have disbanded indefinitely, campaigning has more or less ground to a halt and most government officials are spending all of their time managing the pandemic. So from an editorial standpoint, it’s changed everything. All coronavirus, all day, all night.”

Erika Riley ‘19, reporter at the Frederick News-Post in Frederick, Maryland

“There are things that we pretty much have to cover—the COVID-19 numbers every day, the governor’s press conferences, deaths, etc. But we also try to look for stories of hope and people who are doing their part to make all of this a little easier. We’re getting a lot of news tips every day and honestly we can’t keep up with them all. We have to look at what stories would benefit the general public the most, as well as trying to find stories on our beats that aren’t COVID-related to try to balance it out a little. That’s becoming very difficult.” 

Casey Mendoza '16, pop culture reporter for Newsy, an online news site, in Chicago, Illinois

“One thing I want to make clear is that the pandemic has affected every part of everyone’s lives—and our job is to make sure we highlight how life has changed, how society (and politics) is reacting and what the experts (doctors, epidemiologists, etc.) are saying. We don’t want to be sensationalist or fear-mongers; we want to be solutions-focused.” 

“I’m a pop culture and entertainment reporter. That may seem very far from the pandemic, but the truth is that the coronavirus has had major impacts on entertainment workers and freelancers. I’ve written two stories so far on the people impacted by production halts, and just like the stories of unemployment across all industries, it’s been heartbreaking. Many in the industry are still optimistic about the state of entertainment post-pandemic, but that doesn’t mean people aren’t hurting right now. I wanted to make sure I highlight that story and make sure audiences understand that real people—not Hollywood celebrities—are affected.” 

Don Corrigan ’73, Webster University journalism professor and newspaper editor/publisher in St. Louis, Missouri 

“My newspaper business is on a temporary hold. We are doing all we can for our employees, stringers and carriers. We have three newspapers with 90,000 circulation in St. Louis.” 

Matthew Wheaton '10 sports reporter at The Register-Mail in Galesburg, Illinois

“As a sports reporter, the summer months are slower for local events and the coronavirus has forced me into my summer mindset—lots of reaching out to old contacts to try to acquire updates on past local area student-athletes. I’ve always loved writing features over gamers, and the lack of any sports going on at any level has certainly been a big challenge and made all go with an all-features approach for sports. However, due to earlier deadlines for print and corporate tweaks, we’ve gone to a features mindset mostly anyway. Among my responsibilities is putting the print edition of the sports section together each day, and it’s certainly been a challenge to get a local sports story each day since the pandemic began.”

Composite photo at top of page: Casey Mendoza, wearing eyeglasses, with colleagues before the pandemic; Matt McKinney working from home during the pandemic.

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Printed on Wednesday, May 27, 2020