The night of the Michigan primary, there were a dozen of us in the newsroom. We sat around a table littered with pizza boxes, refreshing election results on our laptops and watching Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announce the first two positive cases of COVID-19 in Michigan on the newsroom TV.
From the editor's desk: 'We hope we've made you proud'
The next day, everything changed.
On the morning of March 11, Michigan State announced it would suspend all face-to-face instruction and make the jump to online learning. It was a Wednesday, the day we produce the paper for Thursday print. We scrapped what we had planned for the next day’s issue and started over, and amid the chaos of breaking news, we mobilized the newsroom to document a day that would turn into months of coronavirus coverage.
That day will always be my proudest as editor-in-chief. Everyone sprung into action, whether it was making calls, gathering student reactions, copy editing breaking news or helping us think of headlines for print. Every single person on staff was ready to work and give it their all.
Making the transition to a fully remote newsroom was challenging. The issues our staffers faced are probably similar to the ones you’ve experienced — learning how to work remotely, worrying about finances, taking care of family members and losing sleep over what the future holds.
And, of course, we miss each other. That’s been one of the hardest parts about all of this. Instead of our annual end-of-the-year banquet, we had an end-of-the-year Zoom meeting. While we’d normally have one last party, we’ve settled for more video calls. Wall kissing has been postponed, and seniors have been left with little closure as they say goodbye to The State News.
But despite these things, The State News has continued to do great work. In addition to our regular coverage, we’ve produced more than 150 articles, 20 podcasts, 18 videos and 13 galleries on the coronavirus. We’ve produced six digital-only "print" issues completely remotely. And we’ve built a community, supporting each other through nine-hour student government meetings, the uncertainty of finding a job or internship and family members contracting COVID-19.
We are proud of what we've done this year. We hope we’ve made you proud, too.
Headed into the summer, there are many questions we don’t have answers to. We don’t yet know how this pandemic will affect The State News’ livelihood. Like other newspapers, we’ve seen advertising revenue bottom out and other revenue streams become affected as well. And with the uncertainty of whether or not in-person classes will return in the fall, our student tax has come into question. If you’re in the position to do so, please consider donating to The State News. Your donation would help us find sound financial footing during this time and would help us continue to employ as many staffers as we can.
As I wrote in an editor’s note back in March, our job has always been to chronicle life on and off campus to help our readers better navigate and understand their world. We’ll continue to do that, and we appreciate your support as we carry on the legacy.
Madison O’Connor is The State News’ 2019-20 editor-in-chief. She’s a senior pursuing degrees in journalism and user experience design. Before becoming editor-in-chief, Madison was the lead reporter on the Larry Nassar cases and the administrative and community response to the crisis. She was the campus news editor in spring 2018 and guided the desk in covering university turmoil. She has interned at The Grand Rapids Press, the Lansing State Journal and most recently, the Naples (Florida) Daily News. This summer, Madison will be a Pulliam Fellow at The Indianapolis Star.
She can be reached at email@example.com.