As students prepared to go on spring break at The University of Texas at Austin, Texas Student Media organizations such as The Daily Texan, TSTV and KVRX were faced with making unprecedented decisions.
Along with hastily packing up dorm rooms and apartments, and moving back into childhood bedrooms, these students creatively developed solutions to move printing and publishing operations online.
Students were determined to continue working despite the shifting circumstances related to COVID-19, and as the global pandemic unfolded, the realization of how it would affect all facets of life started to become apparent.
“The staff is incredibly resilient regardless of what many of them have had to go through. Many are still willing to work and put out news because we’ve come to realize that it is more important than ever that the campus is kept informed,” said Lisa Nhan, managing editor of The Daily Texan.
The Daily Texan has suspended printing the paper until further notice. It is only the second time since the paper was founded in 1913 that print operations have been halted. The paper ceased publication for six days when the City of Austin closed public spaces in response to the Influenza Pandemic of 1918.
The Daily Texan editor's meeting. (Photo courtesy of Megan Menchaca)
A century later, students are utilizing technological advancements to continue delivering news to the campus community.
“Now more than ever, it’s much more important to make sure that we are getting the news on social media and making sure that it accurately reflects what is going on and is informative,” said Megan Menchaca, Digital Director of The Daily Texan. “It’s the only way that readers are consuming our content.”
Menchaca manages the entire digital department at The Daily Texan and has been quickly adapting to alternative avenues of creating content, such as community-sourced projects. For example, the photo department is asking students to send in photos, and the audio team is asking students to send in recordings of what life is like for them.
KVRX has automated their system to continue playing music and is finding alternative ways to stay active and release content.
“We’ve had DJs continue their shows from their home via Facebook Live,” said Ariel Young, station manager for KVRX.
TSTV production teams are also streaming shows online.
Laura Laughead has been with TSTV since her freshman year, and she is now the executive producer of the longest running entertainment news show at TSTV called Sneak Peek. SXSW is the show’s most significant event to cover because of its local heft and global impact, and when SXSW was cancelled, few understood the severity of COVID-19.
“This semester is my final semester,” said Laughed, a journalism senior, “what was gut-wrenching to me was, I didn’t know that my last show was going to be my last show.
"It’s beautiful chaos. We’re going virtual. We’re still spreading the news.”