Alumnae journalists discuss importance of media on virtual panel


Created by the Alumni Association

The virtual panel was the first of its kind organized by the Laboratory Schools’ Alumni Association.

Caroline Hohner, Reporter

Separated from sources and immersed in a constant flow of news, a journalist’s task to inform the nation has grown increasingly difficult while simultaneously growing increasingly vital, according to three Laboratory Schools alumnae journalists who spoke during the “Covering the News in the Age of COVID-19” online panel on April 28. 

The panel, moderated by Monica Davey, Chicago bureau chief for the New York Times; consisted of Maria Hinojosa, anchor of “Latino USA”; Kate Grossman, senior education editor for WBEZ, Chicago Public Media; and student representative Berk Oto, a sophomore who is an assistant editor for the U-High Midway. 

The three journalists discussed how journalism practices have been dramatically altered by the COVID-19 pandemic, as reporters weigh possible risks and the importance of their stories. 

At WBEZ, Ms. Grossman said reporters have been generally prohibited from venturing out to collect audio. While the majority of reporters are collecting audio remotely through phone interviews, some have turned to distanced interviews using boom microphones or even microphones fastened to broom handles as a precaution. 

Ms. Hinojosa has similarly had to adapt her practices to a changing world. 

“We’ve realized that we can, in fact, practice our profession under the most extraordinary circumstances,” Ms. Hinojosa said. 

Ms. Davey later cited an outstanding example of journalism from the New York Times reported from a distance, which covered a small-town outbreak. 

“It’s quite remarkable reporting,” Ms. Davey said, “and what I took away from it is that you can do very intimate, deep reporting, and not be there, it’s just a lot harder.” 

The panel also addressed the concern that news of the COVID-19 pandemic has overshadowed other significant stories. Ms. Davey referenced issues such as the 2020 election and climate change that have lost the attention of the nation. 

“There’s a lot of stories out there that aren’t being told that we really need to get to, but it just doesn’t feel right,” Ms. Grossman said. 

There’s a lot of stories out there that aren’t being told that we really need to get to, but it just doesn’t feel right”

— Kate Grossman

As the panel came to a close, attendees chimed in with questions of their own. The panel ended on a somber note, as one viewer asked how journalists maintain hope while covering a constant, overwhelming flow of bad news.

“Each one of us is gonna have to do a lot of work at finding hope in ourselves and to try to pass that on to our colleagues through our work and to each other,” Ms. Hinojosa said. “We’re all in this together, that’s for sure.”

Sponsored by the Alumni Relations and Development office, the panel is to be the first in a series of alumni Zoom webinars meant to connect and inform U-High alumni, faculty and staff, parents and students alike. A panel planned for May will feature alumni involved in the arts. 

For those who missed the webinar or would like to watch it again, a complete recording of the Zoom webinar is available.