Eye on KELOLAND: Student journalists continue working through the pandemic

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VERMILLION, S.D. (KELO) – Many college activities across KELOLAND have come to a halt with classes now online due to COVID-19. But members of one student organization at USD are still working to do their part for the university and it’s host city.

Tuesday nights at the Al Neuharth Media Center are usually busy for student journalists who work for The Volante, the student newspaper at the University of South Dakota. Right now, the newsroom is quiet because of COVID-19. Though that doesn’t mean the students aren’t still working hard to bring the news to both the USD and Vermillion community.

“I don’t think there was ever really an option not to do news, for us. When we first got the announcement, so The Volante actually broke the news on Twitter that Spring Break was being extended for a week and then we also broke the news about classes being online for the rest of the year,” The Volante Editor in Chief Lexi Kerzman said.

Normally, The Volante staff puts together a 10-page newspaper Tuesday nights to distribute the next day to the campus and town. After Spring Break, they printed one more paper to have something relevant on the stands before switching completely to an E-Edition of the paper. Now, the staff is working remotely to provide the news from wherever they are.

“Our news pages are being designed from Iowa City and our Sports pages are being designed from Watertown,” Kerzman said.

Lexi Kerzman, the Editor in Chief of the paper and Sara Cappiello, the managing editor, say it was important to them to continue their work as journalists.

“This kind of just turned everything upside down for us and we’re a student newspaper, but we’re a main source of news for Vermillion. So it would’ve been really inconvenient and really bad for us to just completely stop production all together,” The Volante managing editor Sara Cappiello said.

Of course, they are also students who now have to find a balance between remote school and remote work. The Volante advisor, Kyle Miller, says this is a life-changing experience for the students.

“Our students are not only balancing their student media work, but classes and if they’re away from friends and family and just seeing how much dedication they put into this and how they’re taking the initiative and they’re taking the drive to do daily updates and to do daily stories. For me, as an advisor, I don’t think words can really express how proud I am for everything that they’re doing during this time,” The Volante advisor Kyle Miller said.

Most students are back at home now to continue work, but Kerzman, Cappiello and a couple other student media members made the decision to stay in Vermillion.

“I had a lot of conversations with my mom and my dad, and I kind of had to fight them on this one. They really did want me to stay home, but they knew that this was a really important responsibility of mine,” Cappiello said.

Both Kerzman and Cappiello are also hopeful that continuing their work in student publications right now will help them later on down the road.

“We’re all going to school to become journalists and what great experience is it to be able to say that as a college journalist, we were able to produce content during a global pandemic. There’s no better way to learn how to be a journalist than getting experience and every journalist is re-learning how to work remotely, so we’re just trying to stick with them,” Kerzman said.

The Volante isn’t the only media outlet still putting out content for the USD community. Coyote News, their student television broadcast organization, and Coyote Radio, their student radio organization, have been keeping their social media accounts active with news updates.

“I think just the memories of banding together no matter if you’re hundreds of miles apart, still working as a team, still working as a group and still being able to produce content. Looking back on this, when the pandemic is over, and saying ‘we were able to cover things on a daily and weekly basis and we told the stories and we got the jobs done,’ I think is going to be something that our students are going to remember for a very, very long time,” Miller said.

Student journalists at Augustana University and South Dakota State University are also working during COVID-19 to keep their campus communities informed.

The Volante put out their last E-edition paper of the semester this week and will work to produce a physical summer issue of their paper.

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