The “Coronavirus Chronicles” takes viewers through a timeline of stories about upended lives and the innovations Cronkite News journalists employed to tell those stories.
PHOENIX – When COVID-19 began spreading around the globe, schools and universities shifted to remote learning as a safety precaution. For journalists at Cronkite News, the news division of Arizona PBS at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, that meant an immediate halt to all field reporting.
But Arizonans still needed news – how fast the novel coronavirus that causes the deadly disease was spreading in the state, what they could do to stay safe, and who in the community most needed help.
Producers and reporters scattered across the country had to discover ways to put newscasts, audio briefings and text stories together from their homes. They conducted Zoom interviews in their living rooms. They constructed homemade camera tripods and built their own prompters, and they repurposed closets and patios into production studios. They relied on items they could find in their homes – such as disinfectants and board games – to help tell their stories. Moment by moment, teams collaborated to carve out daily coverage of a pandemic under the tick-tock of deadline.
Some of the video stories highlighted in the special episode include:
- Reporter Jordan Elder used Lego Minifigures to show how viruses go viral just as COVID-19 reached North America and Arizona cases still were at a trickle. The story explained how the number of cases would soon become a deluge.
- Reporter Dylan McKim unearthed a Monopoly board game and used it to break down how the federal stimulus package would be distributed among Arizona families, whether $1,200 for an unemployed worker or billions of dollars meant to stabilize the state’s businesses.
- Reporter Marcella Baietto relied on content from the community to put together a story about a Phoenix family who wanted to pay it forward. The Geyser family had a simple reason why they set up a table in their neighborhood with toilet paper and perishables, free for the taking. “We found stuff in our pantry that we really didn’t need and thought others may need it more than us,” 13-year-old Alex said. Inspired by the family’s actions, neighbors started pitching in foods and other items they didn’t need during a time of social distancing, shutdowns and quarantine, said Lisa Geyser, mother of Alex and his little brother Jackson.
Since moving to a remote newsroom in mid-March, Cronkite News has produced more than 400 pieces of content.