Fox 5 Atlanta investigative reporter explains changes in career caused by COVID-19

From the WRBL Internship Assignment Desk

This story was produced as part of the WRBL 2020 Summer Intern program

(Photo by Randy Travis)

ATLANTA, Ga.–Randy Travis is a 30-year investigative reporter for Fox 5 Atlanta. Usually, Travis’ work day includes going to the Fox 5 station to develop his investigative stories to gather interviews, do surveillance, or work from his desk. He also participates in the story development process with other coworkers as well as receiving help on his own stories.

Like many reporters, Travis made what he describes as “dramatic” changes to his work schedule and the way he covers news stories due to the pandemic. Travis says it is a “generational moment that we’ll always talk about.”

Now, Travis works from home in a more casual setting and does less live reporting. He utilizes virtual interviews and public resources to investigate most stories.

“A whole story is finished, and I never left the house which is really weird,” said Travis. “But the audio sounds good and the video looks good. It was complicated the first couple of weeks trying to get the work-flow established.”

During interviews in the field, Travis says he has taken new steps to stay safe such as riding separately from his photographer, wearing a mask at all times unless he is alone, practicing social distancing of six to eight feet with interview subjects, not utilizing lapel mics, and more.

“Usually when doing investigative stories and we know someone is doing something wrong, we walk up to them and surprise them,” said Travis. “We are not doing that as much now because it requires us to be too close to them.”

Travis says he misses going to work in the studio but understands the current circumstances. He feels the main focus is to keep the news on the air by taking safety precautions.

In his new adjustments to reporting during quarantine, Travis does more than investigative stories. He has also covered major news moments such as the protests in Atlanta.

“We have a policy where we take off all of our identifiable badges, so we are just reporters,” said Travis. “We are covering whatever we see. It is harder for cops to know we are reporters, so they are using that as an excuse sometimes to go after us.”

After the George Floyd protests began, many people saw reporters being arrested or questioned by the police when trying to do their job. Travis says these types of encounters with police were more common than he expected.

“It reinforces people’s opinions about law enforcement, and that is disappointing to me,” said Travis. “We have a constitutional duty to keep an eye out on the government. It is our patriotic duty.”

After adjusting his job to the new challenges, Travis sees a potential change in reporting and the size and necessity of newsrooms in the future. He doesn’t foresee a change in the remote reporting style for a long time.

The pandemic has also reminded Travis of how essential his job is to tell the public the truth.

“We [Journalists] have always been valuable,” said Travis. “I think the public needs us to tell them what the truth is about this pandemic. They are receiving so many mixed messages from politicians whether it’s wearing a mask or how serious this problem is. It’s so important for us to continue to report facts.”

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