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Media students telling their pandemic stories

Barry McNamara
05/01/2020
MONMOUTH, Ill. – When Monmouth College communication studies faculty member Chris Goble drew up his syllabus for his “Radio Workshop” course for the spring semester, he didn’t have a series titled “Pandemic Podcast” scheduled.

But like his faculty colleagues, Goble – who is in charge of the College’s radio station, WPFS, and its television station, MC-TV – has had to adapt on the fly, as has the College’s weekly student-run newspaper, The Courier.

“We’re on our 10th podcast now,” said Goble during the middle of the last week of April. “The podcasts have been a really nice mix of students talking about different things and doing it in different ways.”

Normally, his radio students would be working on their own WPFS shows, but the podcasts are having to suffice during this one-of-a-kind semester.

“One of my students, Jared Hankinson (’20 of St. Louis), did a podcast talking about the British invasion in music in the 1960s, but he also had a segment where he talked to his dad, who’s a holistic doctor,” said Goble. “His dad talked about things to do to stay safe during this time.”

Also relying on his family for stories was Mason Smith ’20 of Wildwood, Mo., who talked with his parents and sister about “TV shows to watch where you find yourself rooting for someone you shouldn’t,” said Goble.

In addition to Hankinson, several other students discussed music. Broadcast partners (and Fighting Scots lacrosse teammates) Mitch Perez ’21 of Glen Ellyn, Ill., and Shayne Sendera ’21 of Orland Park, Ill., discussed the late rapper Mac Miller, while Sydney Barry ’20 of Monmouth focused on a contemporary singer.

“I did my podcast on neo-soul artist Leon Bridges, one of my favorite artists,” said Barry. “The podcast was a fun assignment and I felt like I was back in the WPFS radio room again.”

There’s no doubt that Barry would prefer being back on campus.

“The semester was a difficult adjustment for me, as I am a student who relies heavily on structure and routine to keep me motivated,” she said. “My professors have been more than accommodating in making sure that I am getting all the help I need to understand the course material.”

The “Pandemic Podcast” series is available at monmouthcollege.edu/wpfs.

Changing channels

On the television side, Goble’s students are busy putting together a final newscast that will be somewhere in the neighborhood of the program’s regular 10 minutes.

“We’re doing it a little differently than the normal type of journalism,” said Goble. “The story assignments for my students have been more about ‘What’s happening to YOU while you’re at home?’”

For example, said Goble, “Erin Henkel (’21 of Kewanee, Ill.) did her story on how this is extra challenging for people with chronic illness like her. She shared anonymous quotes from people in her support group.”

Fighting Scots baseball player Arturo Monroy ’20 of Chicago reported on how to keep in shape during the pandemic.

Goble and his students hope to have the broadcast ready to air by the end of the first week of May. Will Best ’20 will handle the anchor duties from his home in Monmouth.

Goble also teaches a “Video Production” class, and those students are working on short films, which Goble said are turning out well.

“All in all, we’ve made the best of it, I think,” he said of adjusting to the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic.

News marches on

In other news, throughout the school year, the campus community eagerly awaits the Friday distribution of The Courier. Editor-in-chief Emma Hildebrand ’20 of Mendon, Ill., and her staff have made sure that a form of that tradition has continued during the pandemic.

“I talked to The Courier staff, and we decided that one thing Monmouth students needed above all else was a sense of normalcy,” said Hildebrand. “We all miss campus terribly. Having our routines so completely out of order makes the adjustment to home life, online learning and limited social interaction very difficult. Everyone knows that Friday is Courier day on campus, and we wanted to give our community something to continue looking forward to.”

Articles have been posted on Fridays throughout the past month.

“Our mission as an organization is to both capture the zeitgeist of campus and to portray and contribute to the student morale,” she said. “Some of the articles have included information on Monmouth's handling of COVID-19, student opinions, analyses of the future of sports, and advice on how to handle online learning.”

The popular feature “Tweets of the Week” has also been continued.

Hildebrand said the final news stories of the year will be posted on May 1, including her farewell as editor-in-chief.

To read Courier the latest stories, go to monmouthcollegecourier.org.