Alumni in Action: Journalism alumni shed light on COVID-19 impact on media

Maity Interiano ’07, Jasmine Turner ’15 and Gary Grumbach ’16 spoke with President Connie Ledoux Book as part of a video series that highlights alumni working on the front lines of the pandemic.

President Connie Ledoux Book led a conversation Friday evening with three outstanding School of Communications alumni who are using their journalistic skills to provide accurate information on the COVID-19 pandemic and to prepare us for the 2020 election.

Joining the conversation were Maity Interiano ’07, Emmy Award-winning reporter and producer for Univision’s “Despierta America;” Jasmine Turner ’15, Emmy Award-winning reporter and weekend anchor for NBC News 12 in Richmond, Virginia; and Gary Grumbach ’16, a political embedded reporter with NBC News. They talked about what it’s like to be working journalists during a pandemic, conducting interviews from home while also developing strategies to stay connected with the communities they serve, as well as the possible implications the pandemic will have on the media landscape going forward.

“This is my apartment, which has now become my studio,” said Interiano, who is part of a live four-hour morning show Sunday through Friday. “It’s taught me to become even more resourceful to tell stories and to be more efficient in the way I try to work.” She said her day starts with a 3:40 a.m. call with the news team to decide what to cover during the day’s show. “As you can imagine, now, things are changing by the second so we need to have these calls more often and even earlier so we can all prepare.”

For Grumbach, who up until a month ago was traveling the country covering the campaign of former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, the change of pace has been most notable. “We are working towards the next steps here,” he said from his New Jersey home, referring to the shift to now covering the de facto Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, and his search for a vice president candidate. “Once things calm down and we move on from this whole coronavirus, we are going to start going out on the trail and following some of those possible candidates for that nomination.”

One thing that was clear to all three journalists, is the fact that more and more people are relying on their local TV stations to keep them informed, an affirmation of their vocation. “Local news is important, it matters; it always has and always will,” Turner said. “It’s also shown me just how important it is to remind people that you are their neighbor. And remind people that you are walking, living and experiencing this with them. You are not just talking about it.”

President Book agreed. “So many people rely on good communication as a means of well-being during an uncertain time. Our communications skills and our storytelling really do provide great comfort when faced with uncertainty.”

This conversation is part of a limited video series highlighting alumni who are working on the front lines of the pandemic. A new conversation with alumni will be shared on Fridays on topics including health care, K-12 education and business.