The Enduring Power of Student Media During COVID-19 | St. Lawrence University

The Enduring Power of Student Media During COVID-19

Every time a student, graduate, faculty, or staff member picks up the latest copy of The Hill News, investigates an underreported story for the Weave News blog, or tunes into a favorite KSLU radio show, they’re participating in a longstanding tradition of student media at St. Lawrence University. 

Today, most of the students behind these outlets can’t be on campus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that doesn’t mean they’ve stopped sharing. Instead, they’ve moved quickly to adapt to present circumstances, understand the current moment, and keep the wider campus community informed, aware, engaged, and entertained.

“All the news we have now revolves around this one issue,” says James Lehner ‘20, current managing editor of The Hill News and a government major and English minor from Boxborough, Massachusetts. “Typically, we hope to connect people on campus to different stories in our community, but now, we’re connecting different experiences of the same story.”

James says that The Hill’s digital capabilities play an essential role in their ongoing coverage and allow them to keep sharing content despite the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic halted the publication of a physical paper right before their annual April Fool’s issue. 

 “We still have things to publish, and there’s still a conversation going on,” says James. “We’re going to maintain our connection with our community as best as we can.”

St. Lawrence empowers its students to lean into their curiosity and harness their creativity to investigate challenges, keep one another informed, and bond over shared experiences. While the student newspaper has pivoted to a more digital-first approach to reach their audience and gauge the climate of the now-remote campus community, other outlets are working on new projects or experimenting with alternative platforms to make connections.

Over the past few months, the Weave News has been collecting short audio testimonies from individuals around the world regarding the localized effects of the COVID-19 pandemic with their “COVID-19 Diaries” project. The idea emerged in Professor of Global Studies John Collins’ Global Palestine seminar and, so far, the tapestry of voices includes submissions from Myanmar, Nepal, Swaziland, Costa Rica, India, and France (to name a few), as well as locations throughout the U.S. The project advocates for unity and empathy while allowing listeners to understand the diverse experiences of others.

“It creates a virtual global community and fosters conversations oriented around activism and change,” says Iman Maani ‘22. “By weaving together stories, ‘COVID-19 Diaries’ humanizes and brings us together, while exploring the elevated social, political, and economic issues around the world.”

Iman is a global studies and psychology double major born in Hong Kong and raised in the Yunnan province of Dali, China. She’s working on outreach for “COVID-19 Diaries” while also managing the Weave’s social media platforms. She says that when she started reaching out to the St. Lawrence community for contributions, many people responded that they didn’t believe their stories were “newsworthy,” and she was struck by how moving many of the testimonies were, even as contributors downplayed the value of their insights. 

“Each podcast emphasizes the notion that we are all human—we all experience sadness, anger, pain, joy, and love,” she says. “This cannot be underestimated or taken for granted.”

Emma Sollit ‘20, a history and African studies combined major from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and Olivia Hart ‘20, an art and art history combined major from Princeton, Massachusetts, understand the importance of being human right now. Their solution? Humor. That’s why, despite the miles between them and the absence of a formal studio, they’ve been using Instagram’s live feature to continue their weekly KSLU radio show—“Bluesdaytues.” 

“For both of us, Bluesdaytues is where we have fun and we can just laugh,” says Emma, who believes the show’s consistency has helped her cope with the new normal.

While still on campus, the show aired on KSLU every Tuesday night from 9 to 10 p.m. and featured music, banter, and games. Though the format is slightly different today, much of the content is the same. Now, it provides a much-needed reprieve from Zoom meetings and COVID-19 coverage while acting as a tether to the place and experiences that bond the hosts and their audience. 

“I think, for some people, it’s just kind of a way to have a part of SLU,” says Emma. Both Emma and Olivia have been humbled by the response of current students and alumni who reach out to say that they appreciate the ability to channel the spirit of being back on campus in their daily lives. 

“It makes us realize how lucky we are to be Saints,” says Olivia. “We have such a tight group of people that support us.”

Though The Hill News, the Weave’s “COVID-19 Diaries” and independent ventures like Emma’s and Olivia’s each offer something different, they speak to the vital and enduring role of student media at St. Lawrence and demonstrate that, though campus may end at the bottom of Romoda Drive, the experiences that bind Laurentians do not. They resonate beyond physical boundaries and provide a sense of solace and solidarity in challenging times.

“Everyone has a story,” says Imaan as she considers the lessons she’s gleaned through the audio reporting she’s facilitated. “Through reflection, love, and support, we shall all pass through this ordeal and be more unified when we come together again.”