Northwestern student news continues to produce stories while social distancing

When college campuses started closing and moving online for the rest of the semester, journalism students across the nation struggled to comprehend how they were going to find and create their stories and newscasts. Unable to use their school’s resources, check out equipment, and go outside to find stories, students like Tori Hoehne thought it would be impossible to continue creating content for the news. Despite these challenges, Hoehne’s news organization found a way to still put their stories out– just a little differently. 

Changes on Campus

Eagle 7 News video chat on Zoom

Hoehne is a senior at the University of Northwestern- St. Paul studying public relations. She is an executive producer at the campus’s news broadcast organization Eagle 7 News. Eagle 7 News covers Northwestern- St. Paul news stories such as sports, music, and other happenings on campus. Hoehne’s job is to put together news teams, choose the stories for the newscast, write scripts, and direct the weekly broadcast. 

When Hoehne heard that campus would be closed for two weeks after their spring break, she initially thought everything would be back to normal after their extended time off. Then campus officials announced that they would not be returning at all and instead classes would be held online. With this being her last semester at Northwestern- St. Paul, Hoehne could not believe what was happening. “I never never would have expected to be experiencing something like this in my lifetime, let alone months before I graduated,” said Hoehne. With the news team not being able to use Northwestern- St. Paul’s studio, video equipment, and other resources, Hoehne assumed Eagle 7 News would be cancelled for the rest of the semester.

Student News is Vital

Most student journalists depend on their colleges to provide the necessary tools they need to create stories for classes or campus news organizations like Eagle 7 News. Hoehne along with the rest of Eagle 7 News staff came together to brainstorm how and if they could continue producing news while school was physically out of session.

Their adjunct professor Dave Berggren who leads the organization ultimately decided that they should continue producing content. He argued that more than ever, people are seeking out information and stories of inspiration and hope, and it’s the media’s job to bring this to the public.

Learning New Tools

Instead of recording an entire in-studio newcast, student reporters are now creating their own individual news packages which are then uploaded directly to their Facebook page

Eagle 7 News staff collaborting

This new format has encouraged reporters to get creative with their production process. For example, one student reporter recently covered a story about Netflix party–a browser extension that syncs up two different Netflix accounts so that friends and family who are apart can still watch movies or TV shows together. To film this story, the student reporter created a makeshift tripod with a stack of books and propped her phone on top to film. “That was totally thinking outside the box and an example of using what you had to still get the shot you needed for your story. It’s been cool to see students produce pretty quality content with the few resources that they have,” said Hoehne.

Beyond equipment challenges, there have been other changes to Eagle 7’s production process. Before, Hoehne would put together teams to take on each story, usually creating these groups based on each individual’s strengths. Teams would typically include someone who would focus on the reporting and someone who would focus on the editing. Students can no longer hone in on one skill, because they are unable to come together and collaborate. Now, students need to take on every role in the production process and become a one-person team. “I think this is really pushing us to be more creative,” said Hoehne.

Although they have run into many challenges, Eagle 7 News is doing the best they can to navigate through these unusual times. “It’s a learning curve for everyone. Everyone is figuring this out for the first time. Nobody has the perfect answers to all this,” said Hoehne. 

Eagle 7 News plans on continuing to post as many stories as they can in the upcoming months. Even though they’re not physically on campus, they still want to have a presence there. “We’re still a community and we still care about what students and faculty are doing, and we want to highlight that through our news channel,” said Hoehne.