MSU StratCom is highlighting our students' expertise through the series: MSU StratCom Special Topics. Doda Lulgjuraj, an MSU StratCom student and executive producer for WDIV-TV in Detroit, talks about important lessons learned from the pandemic, and how they have a lasting impact on storytelling and journalism.
When COVID-19 struck Michigan and the state went into a shutdown, it was difficult to find someone who had not been impacted. Schools shut down, restaurants went to carry-out only and workplaces scrambled to continue operations virtually. It all happened so fast.
Local newscasts were dominated by COVID-19 over the past 16 months. Things changed so rapidly, we extended newscasts just to help people keep up. As our news director said: “We’re first informers.” One of my takeaways from the pandemic was the connection we made with our viewers. We became the trusted source of information, but we also put on display a sense of community. The pandemic brought out a lot of emotions in people and we were there to capture most of it. From drive-by birthdays for children, to the exchange of pleasantries with seniors through the window at their senior living center – the emotion was raw.
The pandemic reinforced our role as journalists. It was our duty to help navigate the changes, the information and the misinformation. It took consistency to do that. We dedicated a lot of time to fact-checking various claims about the virus and vaccines. We held town halls to have experts answer questions live on TV and our digital platforms. We asked people to send us their concerns so we could answer them directly. Setting the record straight was a matter of life and death for some. Through our lens – we were able to show the real impact of COVID-19 to our community. We were consistent with our messaging that COVID-19 impacted all of us and we were going to make sure we covered all angles to represent as many people as we could.
Through it all, we elevated our reporting and our connection with people. I hope this is a time that helps all journalists elevate. I hope the days of covering low-impact crime stories and scandals are gone.
There is a story out there in your community that really matters to the people living there. Go find it. Connect with those people and your viewers by telling the story through their eyes. We connect through emotion. If your story does not have it - it might be time to look for another story. Spend more time on stories that have real impact. Look for solutions. Do not just report on problems. Help us all better understand the people around us and their struggles or triumphs. We will all be better for it.
Register for informational webinars