Mobile reporter speaks out about changes during COVID-19

From the WRBL Internship Assignment Desk

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

Rachael Wilkerson being peppered sprayed during a Black Lives Matter protest. (Photo by Rachael Wilkerson)

TROY, Ala. (WRBL)- Due to the coronavirus outbreak, people who deliver and report news to you on a daily have become unemployed or laid off, but luckily for Rachael Wilkerson, a NBC 15 reporter, her job was kept but the way she delivers the news has changed dramatically.

Wilkerson is an award-winning journalist for NBC 15 News in Mobile, Ala. After obtaining a degree in broadcast journalism from Troy University, she worked part time in a news room in Huntsville, Ala., and worked her way up to NBC 15 in Mobile.

When COVID-19 began reporters were not allowed inside the building for their morning meetings. Instead, they had to come to the station and have conference calls from their cars.

“We’ve been busier than ever since the pandemic began,” said Wilkerson. She continues to go inside the building now, she’s just stays cautious by washing her hands, wiping down her phone and work space, and practicing social distancing in the field.

Before COVID-19, FaceTime or phone interviews were hardly done. Now FaceTime interviews are encouraged and if you are going to be out in the field doing interviews, you are required to use a boom mic.

“I believe this is our new normal,” said Wilkerson. The NBC 15 sales and promotions team are set to continue working from home for the rest of the year. Along with other companies allowing their employees to work from home, colleges and public schools are transitioning to online learning.

“Journalist has had to deal with a lot this year,” said Wilkerson. “It has been nonstop. A lot of us are exhausted, but we continue to push every day. I don’t think the public realizes how tired we are and some of us are having a hard time with everything going on.”

Wilkerson is currently in the running for the Best TV Investigative Reporter, for the Nappies Awards, but due to COVID-19, the awards have been delayed. Normally, a winner would have been announced by now, but the ceremony has been pushed back with the dates still up in the air.

 “It can be very boring reporting numbers every day,” said Wilkerson. Instead of just presenting a story with just updating numbers and statistics, Wilkerson tells impact stories. She recently interviewed Alabama State Health Officer, Dr. Scott Harris, because Alabama is seeing more flare up in cases and she wanted to know if he thought the governor reopened too soon.

Along with covering impact stories on COVID-19, Wilkerson has also been covering stories involved with the Black Lives Matter movement. She has been choked a couple times due to pepper balls being deployed during protests, but Wilkerson says she isn’t scared at all.

“We can’t be afraid of the people,” said Wilkerson. “The best we can do is be cautious, you have to be able to handle the pressure.”

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