Pennsylvania sports news director adapts to COVID-19

From the WRBL Internship Assignment Desk

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

Moscaritolo and reporter Dave Lesko report live from the 2018 Super Bowl in Minneapolis, MINN. (WFMZ-TV)

LEHIGH VALLEY, Pa. (WRBL) – During the COVID-19 pandemic, the news and journalism industry has had to adjust to a new set of rules. Dan Moscaritolo, the sports director at WFMZ-TV, is learning how to adapt to the changes COVID-19 created.

“Before the pandemic, we were business as usual,” said Moscaritolo. “We had just covered Phillies spring training and were in the middle of winter sports playoffs. Full shows every night and busy schedules.”

In the last few months, however, COVID forced businesses, newsrooms, and broadcasting stations across the country to find different angles and rethink how to make and deliver the news. Moscaritolo’s department found ways to keep ahead of the changes.

The Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf deemed spectator sports, sports promotion, and sports management non-essential in March. In response, Moscaritolo and the sports department at WFMZ-TV had to modify how and what to report.

“We had to get really creative with our content,” Moscaritolo said. “We did mostly virtual content features on seniors who lost their seasons. We even helped out the news division when we could.

“We followed the major sports leagues and their comeback efforts,” he continued. “So, it was a total overhaul, but our staff did a really great job adjusting.”

Finding a different way to report under social distancing guidelines proved to be another problem for Moscaritolo and the station during the pandemic. He said they relied on virtual technology to uphold social distancing.

Moscaritolo prepares to do a story on veteran Eagles OT Jason Peters being released. This is the commercial break before the segment (WFMZ-TV)

Applications like Zoom and Dropbox have made business possible for careers that went remote during the initial outbreak in the United States.

“We went that route exclusively until recently when things started opening up,” he said, talking about the ways WFMZ-TV adapted to virtual technology during COVID-19. “We also completely socially distanced our newsroom, using the same tech so that most of our employees worked from home.”

There are several things that he Moscaritolo believes may change within the reporting industry because of the pandemic.

Moscaritolo expects that in the future, much of the virtual technology that surfaced and developed during social distancing procedures will still be a large part of sports reporting.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate rose 10.3 percentage points from March to April. The Bureau reported that this was the most significant monthly increase since they began collecting data.

“Unfortunately, some of my colleagues have lost their jobs during this. So, I think the amount of coverage will be lower than normal for an indefinite amount of time,” said Moscaritolo.

Most industries were somehow negatively affected by COVID-19, including news and reporting. As a result, reporting, and sports reporting in particular, may see a temporary decline.

While Moscaritolo said that he’s not sure just how his industry will change because of COVID-19, he is confident that everything will eventually return to normal for sports reporting.

“A lot of it comes down to how and when sports in principle return,” he said. “It won’t be like it was through 2020, that much I’m pretty certain of. But if we get a handle of the virus by next year, I think you’ll see a gradual return to normal.”

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