News stations across the nation implement new health and safety guidelines as pandemic continues

From the WRBL Internship Assignment Desk

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

(From left to right: North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum and Haley Boland)
Boland started as a political reporter before also becoming a nightly news anchor. Photocred: Hayley Boland

As COVID-19 sweeps the nation, many professionals in the media industry have changed how they present news in order to protect themselves and promote social distance. Hayley Boland, a recent graduate from UNC-Chapel Hill, is one of many anchors and reporters who have changed during the pandemic.

Boland is the nightly news anchor for KUMV-TV in Williston, N.D., and a reporter for KFYR-TV in Bismarck. Working for two stations, Boland has adjusted the way she works in the station and in the field.

In the station, there were numerous guidelines put in place to protect the news personnel such as requiring all personnel to wear masks. The station’s talk shows were not allowed to have in-house guests as visitors were not allowed into the station. The employees’ temperatures were taken before they entered the building. The sales department for the station began working from home to make more space and distance. The news department desks were spread six feet apart in accordance with CDC recommendations.

“It’s been kind of hard on everyone because we’re all so spread apart through the building, we’re all used to just being in the newsroom,” Boland said. “We try to limit face to face as much as we can. If someone’s on the other side of the building, you’re supposed to call or email them, instead of just walking up to them.” 

In the control room, a high-contact area, the operators wore gloves to promote health and safety. Shows with two anchors were altered to include more distance between people. Boland single-anchored her show, so her work in the studio itself didn’t change.

Boland says the station’s habits haven’t changed too much, just day to day routines.

“When we come into the station, we have to wear a mask, we get our temperature checked at the door, and then we go to our socially-distant desk,” Boland said.

Due to the station’s location and the spread-out population in North Dakota, coronavirus concerns did not become a main topic in news coverage until mid-March. In mid-March, businesses began to shut down and the governor began daily press conferences. The newscast programs were altered to include daily news briefings and showed the entire governor press conference.

“[The press conferences] kind of changed how our station operated because it was basically a whole different program that was put on once coronavirus started. [Coronavirus] wasn’t that much of a concern, but then once it hit our state, it got much more serious. And then once things got shut down, that all kind of dictated our coverage,” Boland said.

For reporting in the field, all interviews are conducted with microphone poles to protect reporters. Lavalier microphones, or small microphones that clipped to the shirt, are no longer used because they require close contact. Reporters wear masks in the field and all equipment is wiped down and sanitized after use. To reduce the number of people in the studio at one time, the producers use more live shots for the shows and newscasts.

“[We’re] more adamant about sanitizing things and having the social distancing measures in place. We haven’t had as many changes here as other stations have,” Boland said. “I would imagine that a station here in Bismarck, N.D., is going to operate very differently than say a station in New York City when all this is done. I think it very much depends on where you are and the kind of resources that your station has available to you.”

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