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The Montclarion Marches on Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic

by Jenna Sundel

The Montclarion has been the student voice of Montclair State University since 1928, providing the school’s community with campus, regional and national news. Given the current conditions, the editorial staff has made the decision to shift to a fully digital approach, since all classes have been moved online and there is no longer an audience on campus to pick up weekly print editions of the newspaper.

Faculty advisor of The Montclarion and head of the journalism and television and digital media department, Tara George, described how the staff has continued to provide students with up-to-date information on the new coronavirus crisis.

“Early on, the students expressed a commitment to covering the story – but to doing so safely,” George said. “So they have adapted by using digital tools to do interviews, gather information and get images to avoid face-to-face situations that might put our student journalists at risk.”

Until the university deems it safe to return, The Montclarion office will remain devoid of editors.
Ben Caplan | The Montclarion

Despite the challenges, George is impressed by her team’s commitment to keeping students informed. The Montclarion has created a page on the website with live updates that includes university, state and national news.

“I’m really proud of the team. They’ve taken seriously their mandate to deliver news to the campus community,” George said. “It’s a lot of work and can be time-consuming and stressful. But they’ve proven themselves up to the task.”

Editor-in-Chief Heather Berzak was nervous about the new format, but believes that the staff has adapted to it well.

”At first, digital-only coverage seemed like a pretty intimidating strategy going forward for our publication, but through our group Slack chat, weekly Zoom meetings to check in and correspondence with our faculty advisor and on-campus resources, we have been able to make it work exceptionally well,” Berzak said. “We really proved to ourselves that we are a strong team through this unprecedented time.”

Managing Editor Mackenzie Robertson explained that despite the physical distance between the staff, they still have come together to provide students with the latest news.

“We now have writers and reporters scattered all over and it has been really encouraging to see everyone come together as a team to gather the most detailed and accurate information we possibly can, while staying as safe as we can,” Robertson said. “Our primary goal is to still provide our campus community with accurate news regarding Montclair State and the new virus, and I believe we have [been] doing this well.”

The Montclarion’s office is located in the School of Communication and Media, which is now closed, leaving editors to work from home.
Ben Caplan | The Montclarion

News Editor Adrianna Caraballo also strives to give students the news they need in a stressful time.

“During the course of the coronavirus pandemic, the news team and I have been working extremely hard to get the important stories out to the public in a timely manner,” Caraballo said. “Many people rely on us as a source to tell them what’s happening on campus. During a time of high anxiety, I feel it is our duty to keep them informed to the best of our ability.”

Providing photography for articles while practicing social distancing has been challenging for Photography Editors Olivia Kearns and Ben Caplan.

“Whenever I would get a text about a breaking news story [before the pandemic], I would always grab my camera and hop on a shuttle,” Kearns said. “Now that I don’t have the luxury of living on campus, it’s been a challenge as a photography editor to provide recent and up to date photos. When I moved out of my dorm room last week, I drove around campus, taking a few pictures so we could have options for future stories.”

An empty School of Communication and Media midway through the semester has always been a rare sighting, but it is now the norm as all classes have been moved online or canceled.
Ben Caplan | The Montclarion

Additionally, Caplan emphasized the importance of creativity when working under the current limitations.

“Since we no longer are allowed to live on campus, we have to be extra creative, which includes searching our archives for unused photos, getting an illustrator to draw something or brainstorming other ways to implement our skills to remain sharp,” Caplan said.


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