With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping across the United States, attitudes were a medley of emotions — worry, doubt, horror and fear. In the early days of closings and lockdowns, stay-at-home orders and shelter-in-place announcements, a tsunami of panic washed over our society with historic proportions.
Within the month of March, as the whole world came grinding to a halt, one thing kept going — journalism, and the desire to know more and stay up to date. The news never stopped at a local, national or international level. In fact, it exploded by epic proportions. There were so many stories to tell.
The news never stopped at Lehigh, either.
In the early days of the pandemic during spring break, breaking news became a round-the-clock affair. It was a routine, as new information was pouring in multiple times a day. Adapting to the shifting news, we wanted to make sure we covered everything in a timely manner. People were dependent on that information, and they still are.
And in the early moments of Lehigh’s shift to remote learning, the big question was how we would be able to manage our operation entirely remotely. What ended up happening was an explosion of coverage and ideas, more creative and wider-reaching than before.
At The Brown and White, we kept doing our jobs as student journalists. Across our news, lifestyle, sports and opinion sections, we continued to produce content despite the fact that campus was essentially a ghost town. Through Zoom meetings, phone calls and emails, our reporters and editors put together a paper.
We printed twice a week, like we have done for over 125 years. And we published online nearly every day.
In times of crisis, every area of interest comes together in journalism, and it’s our job to tell stories of business and administration, policy and politics, crime and justice, people and livelihoods.
And in a time that carries so much uncertainty and instability, our journalism became more creative than ever before, using new forms of storytelling to document such a historic point in our lives. The diversity and versatility is a testament to our ability to find these new stories, and ways to tell them.
With staff spread out around the country and the planet, we used this as an opportunity to cover our world like we never have before.
Photographers documented life in quarantine as far away as China. Videographers filmed cooking instructions. Data editors contextualized the economic devastation. Reporters typed up accounts of tragedy and triumph.
In the age of social media, the flow of information and disinformation can be quite overwhelming. With so much at stake, the responsibility of doing good journalism becomes a critical task — one that we did not take lightly this semester.
We told stories of Lehigh’s administration and the Path to Prominence plan. We told stories of virtual events and how athletic teams were coping. We told stories of students, faculty, staff, administrators, coaches and more.
We wrote about the struggles of business in Bethlehem, the surging cases of COVID-19 in the area and anger in Harrisburg over stay-at-home orders. We photographed suburban streets, city centers, hotels, airports, train stations and grocery stores.
This print edition of The Brown and White wraps up a historic and chaotic semester. Continuing our online publication, we will continue to report and do our job throughout the summer, which is shaping up to be one of stressful uncertainty and decision-making.
Everyone keeps talking about the “new normal” when the pandemic eventually becomes more manageable. What this means for education, entertainment, social distancing and other walks of life, nobody knows for sure.
But perhaps we, at The Brown and White, have already constructed our “new normal,” which is to be more creative, versatile and cover the news extensively, beyond the boundaries of campus.
In crises, the role of journalists and telling the truth is critical. This is the mindset our staff has carried and will continue to carry. Documenting the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been nothing short of extraordinary, and whatever happens in the future, we will surely be ready and eager to report on it.