The Story Of Their Lives: Boise State Journalists Get Personal On COVID
Reporting on COVID-19, particularly chronicling the personal stories of those directly affected by the virus, is difficult. Reporting on a college campus with strict safety protocols is doubly challenging.
Taylor Rico-Pekerol, editor in chief of The Arbiter at Boise State, and Ashley Clark, online editor at The Arbiter visit with Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about their COVID coverage, including a first-person account from a fellow reporter who tested positive for COVID.
“I think everyone on campus has had an experience with COVID-19, and that is especially true for all of our paid staff and our staff writers.”
Read the full transcript below:
GEORGE PRENTICE: It's Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning, I'm George Prentice. Reporting on the pandemic can be a challenge. Covering it on a university campus where there are very strict rules of where you can go and how you interact is, no doubt, an extra challenge. And we're going to talk a bit about that this morning with Ashley Clark and Taylor Rico-Pekerol. They're both students at Boise State University. Taylor is the editor in chief at The Arbiter, the Boise State newspaper. Ashley is the online editor for The Arbiter. Good morning to you both.
ASHLEY CLARK: Good morning.
TAYLOR RICO-PEKEROL: Good morning.
PRENTICE: Taylor, give us a sense of putting out a newspaper on campus during a pandemic. What are some of your challenges?
RICO-PEKEROL: I would say that putting out a newspaper right now feels very odd because we understand that not every student has come back to campus or will be on campus this semester. So at times, it feels like putting out a newspaper is almost a little redundant, in the sense that we're an online-first news organization. And our pickup rates have definitely been a little bit lower than they have been in the past years.
PRENTICE: So, you are publishing a hard copy of the paper?
RICO-PEKEROL: Yes, we are; monthly instead of weekly.
PRENTICE: Ok, well, speaking of online, Ashley: just a quick look at The Arbiter online. It's a flood of stories about COVID. Is it your sense that the COVID stories just keep coming?
CLARK: Yeah, definitely. I think everyone on campus has had an experience with COVID-19, and that is especially true for all of our paid staff and our staff writers. So it seems that everyone is able to share their experience and the experience of their peers and other classmates, because it's affecting everyone, whether that be in their home life or on campus, their classes, their work. There are just so many ways that it's affecting us as students.
PRENTICE: I was quite intrigued by one of your stories…actually it’s a first person- account of one of your colleagues who tested positive for COVID.
CLARK: Yeah, we had a staff writer who did test positive for COVID, and she was very eager to share that story and let other people outside of campus and other peers know what that experience was like for her. She talks a lot about losing her sense of taste and sense of smell and just how her and her roommates had to adapt to isolation for two weeks and being cut off from the rest of campus.
PRENTICE: Can you both give me some insight on what the vibe is on campus and what the current state of the school is among your colleagues? I'm assuming that more than a few students are nervous or exhausted or confused.
CLARK: It has definitely been much quieter on campus. There is a lot of back and forth with student feelings. Some people wish that we were completely online. Others wish that we were fully on campus. And so, it definitely presents a lot of frustration. But as far as I've seen, I think people are doing their best to really stay in communication with each other, despite being virtual or having to socially distant. But it has definitely been a challenge.
RICO-PEKEROL: Yeah, I think that a large majority of the students just feel very disconnected from each other because the campus culture is so different right now. And I know that people living off campus or are still back home doing online, fully remote- schooling, feel very disconnected from those peers that are on campus. And then the ones on campus feel isolated from each other, even though they may be closer because they're having to quarantine or self-isolate. So, I know that that has been difficult for everyone.
PRENTICE: Taylor. Ashley, do you want to try journalism as a profession?
RICO-PEKEROL: Yeah, I have always had an interest in journalism ever since I was a junior in high school and I'm a junior in college now. I think that working at The Arbiter has fed that passion that I have for writing for a local paper. I don't know if I'm really interested in working for a national organization, if that was a possibility, because I really feel that the work that the local journalists I know and follow on Twitter seem to be doing a lot of hard work for getting that information out to the community. And that's always been something I've been interested in. So, I definitely want to pursue a career in journalism.
CLARK: Truly before I started at Boise State, I didn't have a real interest in journalism. I'm actually a Media Arts major with an emphasis in Production, hence why I am the online editor and doing the back end of the media. But working at The Arbiter has definitely given me a new sense of different types of journalism that I could pursue in the future, whether that be digital, photo, video, broadcasting or even writing, which I've definitely found a new passion for.
PRENTICE: She is Ashley Clark, online editor for The Arbiter, and Taylor Rico-Pekerol is the editor in chief at The Arbiter. Best of luck to you. I must tell you that your journalism is as good as anyone's in this town. So, kudos to you, and best of luck.
RICO-PEKEROL: Thank you.
CLARK: Thank you so much.
Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren
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