Off campus, but on air: ‘Elon Local News’ hosts remote show

Elon News Network debuted its first remote show on April 2, with students collaborating across multiple states to serve the Elon community.

While many students are adjusting to online classes, members of Elon News Network are adapting to reporting exclusively online, continuing to serve the Elon community despite being off campus.

Sophomore Maeve Ashbrook set up a makeshift studio in her Wichita, Kansas, residence to anchor an April 2 “Elon Local News” newscast. Photo courtesy of Ashbrook

A team of 10 students from across seven states put together a remote show for “Elon Local News” on April 2. The 16-minute show is now available on YouTube. Grace Morris ’20, ENN’s news director, explained that the idea for the remote show came from watching newsrooms across the country adapt to restrictions due to COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus.

“As a senior, when I heard we weren’t coming back, I was sad that that meant I did my last ‘ELN’ show without even realizing it,” Morris said. “But putting out this show and working with my team made me really appreciate the time I had in ENN and realize that even if I’ve already had my last in-person show, it’s not my last show by any means.”

The remote show was anchored by sophomores Maeve Ashbrook and Baylor Rodman, and included segments on topics related to the coronavirus. Since Elon University extended online learning to the end of the semester, “ELN” reporters have been busy talking to students about the many changes and challenges they have faced.

Anchoring and reporting from Wichita, Kansas, Ashbrook interviewed Jack Johnson, Student Government Association president, about the abrupt end of his tenure.

“It was a pretty unique (interview) because the end of his term was obviously extremely different from any other executive president’s and, he’s a senior, so he was also generally just sad that his time at Elon was over,” Ashbrook said.

Ashbrook, like many of the reporters, conducted her interview with Johnson over Zoom, a video conferencing platform.

Associate Professor Rich Landesberg, faculty mentor of “Elon Local News,” said he encouraged the ENN members to host a remote show, but noted that the students “did it all.” Pictured are Ashbrook and Baylor Rodman anchoring the April 2 newscast.

The show’s segments included North Carolina school closures, pet adoption rates increasing in Burlington, and students adjusting to online classes, as well as local businesses reacting to COVID-19 and an Elon student who sold “I miss Elon” spiritwear to benefit Allied Churches of Alamance County.

Sophomore Emery Eisner, who lives outside of Charlotte, said that working on the remote team made her feel like she “was at home at Elon again.” Eisner reported on North Carolina school closures and possible inequity with at-home learning.

“It’s really hard spending so much time away from campus, but coming together as a team and doing what I love again definitely made things easier,” said Eisner, who is also the editor-in-chief of Phi Psi Cli, Elon’s yearbook.

Serving as technical operation manager, Jack Norcross ’21 made sure everyone could communicate during the show and worked on post-production. Norcross said the large amount of content the team highlighted during the newscast was his favorite aspect of the remote show.

“Even though some students may be thousands of miles away from campus, we want to try and make sure they still feel connected to their second home,” Norcross said.

First-year Lauren Singles reported on Elon student Isabella Branham ’20 who created “I Miss Elon” spiritwear and donated 10 percent of the line’s profits to Allied Churches. Singles said that despite missing the camaraderie she enjoys in the newsroom, she was proud of what the team put together.

“For me, getting to continue being a journalist is truly amazing,” Singles said. “Every journalist in the world right now is going through the same things that we are.”

In addition to its remote show, Elon News Network continues to produce content for its website, Senior Anton Delgado, managing editor of The Pendulum, ENN’s student newspaper, oversees the online remote coverage.

“It’s been inspiring to see student journalists from all over the country continue to serve the Elon community despite the outbreaks in their hometowns and states,” Delgado said.

Student reporters have covered a variety of topics, including the impact of the coronavirus has had on the census and religious groups on campus, as well as new Elon Poll data about what Americans do and do not know about the pandemic.

While reporting from afar has its challenges, sophomore Mackenzie Wilkes said her experience reporting remotely has been team effort and educational. In addition to reporters, copy editors and photographers are also working to inform the Elon’s surrounding communities.

“Elon News Network informs faculty, staff and students at the university, but we also inform those in the town of Elon and Alamance County,” said Wilkes, who has worked as both an editor and reporter. “Newsrooms across the country are working remotely and just because we’re a student-run news organization doesn’t mean we’re going to stop informing our audience, even if we’re not physically on campus.”

As an ENN copy editor, first-year Thomas Denome works three days a week from his home in California. Denome said this new experience will only make the newsroom and staff stronger.

“As we develop skills that are necessary to overcome this hurdle, like being able to work remotely and being able to collaborate even though we’re so far apart, I think that will go a long way toward making us a more fluid newsroom when we can work together in person again,” Denome said.