How WUWM Is Bringing Southeastern Wisconsin The News From Home

May 12, 2020

WUWM reporters and producers have been working hard covering how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting southeastern Wisconsin. We received a Bubbler Talk question about how WUWM staff are still bringing you the news while working from home. So, we thought we'd share how we're making it all happen.

>>Latest WUWM & NPR Coronavirus Coverage

Emily Files - Education Reporter
Emily, like many of our other reporters, has had to get creative with at-home studios. What was once a broom closet now doubles as a studio.
Credit Emily Files

Zoom has become a mainstay for Emily, who does most of her work from the kitchen table. But when it comes time to record narration, she has set up a broom closet studio to get the best sound.

"It's not the most comfortable set-up, but I only have to spend five minutes or so in there at a time," Emily says.

She has had to get creative in finding the voices of those in the education system right now. Connecting via social media and having people send her voice memos have become key tools in her work.

"What's happening right now is the biggest disruption to K-12 and higher education in a long time. There are so many stories to do about how students, teachers, families and education institutions are being affected," she says.

Listen to Emily's story: Students With Special Needs And Their Families Struggle To Cope With School Closures

Julian Hayda - Lake Effect Producer
Julian in his pillow fort studio, which was specially crafted to make sure his interviews weren't interrupting his roommate's work.
Credit Julian Hayda

Sharing spaces has become a big issue for many roommates, especially when it comes to having multiple working people in the same space. Julian had to rely on some childhood skills to create his home studio and be considerate of his roommate.

"When I’m conducting on-air interviews, but I also have to share a studio apartment with another hard-working self-isolated person, pillow fort studios in the closet are the only way to get quality sound for Lake Effect," says Julian. 

Listen to Julian's story: Underwear Masks, Mandatory Work, And Solitary Confinement: Wisconsin Inmates Under Coronavirus

Maayan Silver - News Reporter

Maayan covered the protests at the capitol using her new boom pole recorder to keep a safe social distance during interviews.
Credit Maayan Silver

"The hardest thing is honestly the fear of doing the thing that we all love and that makes this job great— chasing down scenes and voices and exploring all the corners of this city to bring vibrant stories to the air," Maayan says.

Maayan has improvised ways to make chasing down those voices safer. One is using a boom pole to interview people. She used this tactic in order to talk to protestors at the capitol and is continuing to use it for her stories.

"The photo that you have of me is my first time using the new boom pole that we got from the station. It’s really massive and stretches out about 8-9 feet, and then you stand 1-2 feet from people," she says. 

The next use for the boom pole was a story on a family of owls in Shorewood

Listen to Maayan's story: Protesters Of Safer-At-Home Gather At Wisconsin Capitol

Becky Mortensen - Lake Effect Executive Producer
Becky and her cat Green spend most of the day together in her kitchen table office.
Credit Becky Mortensen

Becky says the hardest thing about not being at the office is missing out on the collaboration that comes with being surrounded by coworkers. 

"My cat, Green has been keeping me company. I've moved his cubby into the dining room with me, but he'd much rather stretch out on the table where I'm working," says Becky. 

One positive she has found in her experience is that she has been more in touch with the people in her life, just not in-person.

"I've heard from family and friends I might only hear from once in a while on a much more regular basis. Despite the social distancing, I've been feeling even closer to my loved ones," she says. 

Angelina Mosher Salazar - News Reporter
Angelina is also mastering the art of the boom pole to keep social distance during her few in-person interviews.
Credit Angelina Mosher Salazar

Angelina has also begun to master the art of the boom pole interview. Despite being able to do some socially distanced interviews, Angelina misses meeting new people while reporting on a story. 

"I love meeting people, new and old. For a story or not. I think people sharing their stories and experiences with is often times the best part of my job," says Angelina. 

Not getting to meet those people also means less sources for stories, and to make up for that Angelina has been going deep into data analytics. 

"Since I’ve been disconnected from my human sources, I’ve had to rely more heavily on data. It’s been an impetus to seek out data and expand my data analytic skills," she says. 

Listen to Angelina's story: West Allis Nursing Home Refuses To Disclose Number Of COVID-19 Cases Amid Outbreak

Joy Powers - Lake Effect Producer
Joy has had to cram into her guest room closet in order to record interviews. Her cat Misses often finds a way in as well.
Credit Joy Powers

Joy has been chatting more with her interviewees at the beginning of interviews to just check in and make sure people aren't feeling alone. 

"It’s important, not just because we want to create an engaging interview, but because a lot of people are having a rough time psychologically. It’s important to remind people they’re not alone, even though they may feel that way," Joy says.

Joy is definitely not alone as much of her day is spent wrangling one of her four animals. 

"I’m really regretting owning four animals, if for no other reason than none of them are particularly skilled audio producers," she says. 

Listen to Joy's story: Wisconsin's Dairy Crisis Escalates Due To Coronavirus Pandemic

Teran Powell - Race & Ethnicity Reporter
Teran has turned her kitchen table into her work desk, with information about stories she is working on and leads to call back.
Credit Teran Powell

Teran has made herself comfortable at her kitchen table. Like her work desk, she says the table is filled with information about stories she is working on and leads she is following. 

"I have stacks of various sized Post-it notes ready for my daily reminders, business cards in case I have to call people for interviews, notebooks, and my planner," says Teran.

Covering the news from home hasn't been easy for her. Being surrounded by news about the virus and not having those face-to-face conversations can become overwhelming and lonely. 

"Reading and working on virus news can be so depressing, like the disparities among disenfranchised communities that have been exposed because of it. I think if we were able to be in the station and I could talk this out with my fellow reporters, like I usually do with different topics, it’d be easier for me," says Teran.

She summarized her feelings by saying, "I definitely miss everyone."

Listen to Teran's story: Black Residents Are The Most Impacted By COVID-19 In Milwaukee

Ann-Elise Henzl - News Director
Ann-Elise Henzl had to be crafty with what was in her home, she ended up creating a cardboard studio.
Credit Ann-Elise Henzl

"It dawned on me that I probably could produce the same studio-like sound by putting a large box on my desk, placing my microphone inside it, and leaning into the box to record my tracks. In order to further dampen the sound, I drape a blanket over the top of the box and have it tumble over my head and onto my shoulders and back," says Ann-Elise.

Like many of our reporters, Ann-Elise has missed doing interviews in-person but wanted to thank our engineers for finding workarounds. 

"I'm grateful for our engineers, who've been able to come up with solutions to numerous big and small technical challenges," she says. 

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