Students Report: The Economic Impact of COVID-19, One Year Later
Students in Kent State’s School of Media and Journalism have been reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic in real time since its start, through student media and various class projects.
During the Spring 2021 semester, one year into the worldwide public health crisis, students in two Kent State classes — Advanced Magazine Writing, taught by Professor Jacqueline Marino, and Storytelling with Sound, taught by instructor and WKSU Morning Edition Host Amanda Rabinowitz — teamed up to produce feature stories and podcasts on the economic fallout due to the pandemic.
The final product, “The Black Squirrel Radio Hour,” aired on the student-run radio station Black Squirrel Radio, April 26-28, 2021. Students modeled their work after NPR’s “This American Life.” They covered stories about people for whom the pandemic caused hardship, talking to students who lost jobs and internships, and businesses that lost customers. They also found people who used the forced pause to recreate themselves, to venture into new jobs and to help others.
For each story, an Advanced Magazine Writing student teamed up with a Storytelling with Sound student to produce both a longform story and a podcast.
A few of the stories are highlighted below.
How Independent Students Made a Living During the Pandemic
When universities all over the country shifted to remote learning in March 2020, not all students were able to go home to live with their parents. Independent students faced many additional struggles on top of learning to take classes from a distance. Senior Kelsey Paulus and junior Audra McClain, both journalism majors, put a face to this struggle by telling the story of Kent State student Iuma Godfrey.
“(We) wanted to highlight independent student voices during an economic crisis, because it's not just adults that are suffering,” Paulus said.
McClain added: “I hadn't heard much about students who were independents or couldn't go back home and live with their family or had to stay in the dorms over the pandemic. Iuma's story wasn't as simple as a lot of other students during this time and it was one that needed to be told.”
Godfrey, the story’s subject, details her journey: delays in unemployment payments, losing her grandmother to COVID-19 and more.
A Pandemic’s Effect on a Small Business
A viral TikTok video inspired junior journalism majors Kathryn Rajnicek and Anna Louden to focus on Tree City Coffee and Pastry for their story about the economic impact of COVID-19. Rebekah Gillespie took ownership of the Kent small business in May 2020. As reported in the story, after months of hardships:
“Gillespie’s daughter had an idea. At the end of November, she created a TikTok video to promote Tree City Coffee & Pastry in hopes of encouraging people to purchase items from the shop. The video showcased what the outside of the building looked like as well as a step-by-step creation of making one of the shop’s drinks. The TikTok went viral and resulted in Gillespie’s best weekend revenue wise as the owner of the shop.”
Rajnicek and Louden enjoyed the collaboration and telling the story behind a business that is beloved of many Kent State students.
“I enjoyed getting to speak with the owner of the coffee shop and learning more about how hard it is to run a small business during challenging times,” Rajnicek said.
Photo credit above: Julia Webb / Tree City Coffee & Pastry in Kent, Ohio is one of many small businesses that has been harshly impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic. The protocols the customers and employees have to follow include wearing face coverings and following social distancing guidelines.