During the first week in March, The Montclarion will be publishing content related to the two-year commemoration of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the effect it has had on Montclair State University’s campus community #Since2020.
I still remember our last production day of the 2019-2020 school year like it was yesterday.
For reference, our production day for The Montclarion is when section editors and their assistants come together to create our print paper for that week.
March 5, 2020 seemed like any other ordinary day in the newsroom, with music blasting from the speakers, editors laughing, cracking jokes with one another and the iconic game show “Jeopardy!” playing in the background on the TV.
Unfortunately, it was the last time I’d see a production day in over 500 days.
On March 17, 2020, Montclair State University announced that nearly all campus operations would be moved to a virtual format due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and The Montclarion followed suit.
This meant no more production days, “Jeopardy!” nights, Christmas parties or end-of-the-year banquets. The in-person and joyous experience of being a part of The Montclarion that all of our members got to enjoy was taken away from us.
The next school year came and while we were allowed to be in the office, a thrilling production day remained a thing of the past. Our weekly editions were replaced by “Best Of The Month” digital copies. While they were successful, there’s something about missing the feeling of holding a physical newspaper that never allowed me to fully accept the fact that we were a fully digital paper.
Being able to read a print newspaper you helped create is a magical feeling because it can be kept as memorabilia to cherish forever. I still have print editions from 2018 that I’ll never relinquish.
While the world was sent into chaos due to COVID-19, The Montclarion needed to stand tall as the liaison between the university and the student body. Not only did we step up to the plate — we knocked it out of the ballpark.
Our news team worked day in and day out to provide live updates and breaking news on pandemic-related issues on campus. Our feature and opinion sections highlighted the university’s implementation of COVID-19 related policies, from the good, bad and ugly.
That was just the tip of the iceberg. All of our sections produced inspiring and essential content for our readers who relied on us to do so.
However, our experience was far from smooth sailing.
With live sporting events, concerts and theatrical performances being severely limited last year, our sports and entertainment sections had the arduous task of cultivating story ideas. Shooting photos and video took an arm and a leg due to Montclair State’s social distancing and masking policies.
As this newspaper has always done, we persevered through it all. In recognition of our terrific coverage of Montclair State, our newspaper took home nine awards in the 2021 New Jersey Press Foundation (NJPF) college newspaper contest, a figure that nearly matched our total in 2020.
I’ll never forget the Zoom call we had with all the editors together, celebrating our newspaper’s enormous success. Seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces at that moment was something that I rarely saw, especially during a period in our lives that was filled with disappointment and disdain. We saw a glimpse of hope during a time of great uncertainty.
A special shoutout has to go towards our executive boards of the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school year, particularly our editors-in-chief during those years: Heather Berzak (2019-20), Jen Losos and Thomas Neira (2020-21). They helped us navigate fully virtual operations despite the countless list of obstacles thrown their way.
Without those three individuals and the other members who served on our executive board at the time, The Montclarion may not have survived the pandemic like so many other college newspapers struggled to do.
As someone who was an assistant editor for two and a half years before becoming the sports editor in January 2021, I’ve seen the way the organization has grown before and during the pandemic.
With The Montclarion back to in-person operations, new traditions have been created in the office during production days.
From creating Instagram reels, ordering pizza from Anthony Franco’s, Taylor Swift karaoke and countless others that I have probably forgotten already, I finally have my Montclarion experience back. It was something I missed for over 500 days and I’ll never take it for granted again.