One year later: COVID-19 leaves residual effects on journalism staff


Photo credit Julie Barker

The 2020-2021 newspaper staff took off their masks for a brief photo before heading back into the newspaper lab. Requiring masks is just one of the ways the global pandemic has impacted the team.

Almost one year ago, COVID-19 took the world by storm. Toilet paper shortages, lockdowns, mask mandates and dry, over sanitized hands would follow. New regulations for concerts, sporting events and in-person learning filled all news outlets; including The Oriole. However, COVID-19 required a new form of journalism if the reporters were to keep the people of Augusta informed. “Quarantine was difficult during last year’s spring break. I lost all of my motivation, constantly felt like I was messing up and making bad decisions, it was the worst. I felt like I had failed everyone as a leader,” Editor-in-Chief Paige Harrington said. 

Harrington was not alone during those unprecedented times, journalism adviser Julie Barker helped guide her through. 

“I was quarantined again in the fall semester, but it wasn’t as bad. Barker and I would work together to decide what needed to be done, and I would get to work.”

2019-2020 was Harrington’s first year as Editor-in-Chief. Inheriting the position included new responsibilities such as editing stories, reworking the staff, updating the website, and being a leader in face of a global pandemic. One big change to the layout of the journalism staff was the addition of managing editors. The class was divided in half and placed with junior Savannah Athy-Sedbrook and senior Emily LaPlant, the 2020-2021 managing editors. After splitting into teams, LaPlant named her group team Edward and Athy-Sedbrook followed the ‘Twilight’ theme naming her group team Jacob.

“At one point in time, half my team, including myself was in quarantine,” Athy-Sedbrook said. “During that time it was really difficult to communicate with everyone and make sure they knew what they were expected to do. I made a Google doc with all their assignments and due dates, and that usually helps. I also send out a Padlet every weekend for them to come up with story ideas so they have time to really think about what they want to write about and what they think needs covered in what way. That’s the great thing about newspaper, there’s always something to cover, something exciting is always happening.”

In order to combat team Jacob being in and out of quarantine, Athy-Sedbrook digitized all lines of communication. Almost all aspects of reporting, including interviews, take place online.

“I keep getting quarantined, so with that, it’s very hard to do stories that are relevant and school-related when you are away from school,” reporter Savannah McMichael said. “Being able to get the sources needed and interviewing them is very rough over the phone or messages because not always do you get good content. It’s very troubling, but there is only so much you can do.”

McMichael, among many of the team members, has had to juggle quarantine, weekly responsibilities, and deal with the added stress of the pandemic. Despite these many challenges, the editors and reporters still manage to find time for each other. 

“I always try my best to find the time to speak with the other members of the staff and catch up with what they are doing. Whether that is at home, in school, or anywhere else, I feel that it is important to them that they speak with me at least once a day, Harrington said. “I didn’t do it much last year, and I think that was because I was so fixated on making our team a newspaper staff rather than actually connecting with people who are just like me, a student. As much as it is important to be timely, report accurately, and make sure I’m connecting with the audience, I still have to take into account the well-being of the people who are able to make our newspaper happen.”