Changes UH student news publications are making because of COVID-19

University of Hawaiʻi student news publications work hard to cover issues on their campus for students, but are facing unforeseen challenges in this pandemic. They are making modifications to their operations due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation. Most have pivoted to an online delivery method, and some have tailored their focus to COVID-19 content.

Ka Leo O Hawaiʻi (UH Mānoa)

Ka Leo O Hawaiʻi, UH Mānoa’s student news organization, has canceled all of its remaining biweekly print issues since March 10, providing daily online content through its website and social media platforms Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. One of four UH Mānoa student media programs, Ka Leo is the main content contributor to Mānoa Now, the program’s award-winning mobile application. The app has a new look for its more than 20,000 subscribers as staff members have transitioned to provide COVID-19 coverage.

Ka Leo has always served as a student voice for the university, and that has not changed,” Editor in Chief Chavonnie Ramos said. “The COVID-19 situation has helped enhance our responsibility as a news organization to be that voice. More than ever, our peers need a resource to go to view their news and any important information that impacts them as a student.”

Ke Kalahea (UH Hilo)

three people shaka to camera
Ke Kalahea staff members and advisor at its News and Brews event.

Several staff members of UH Hilo’s student news publication have returned home as classes transitioned online. Ke Kalahea, like many other organizations, rely on online methods of internal communication and information dissemination. Besides maintaining its website, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, Ke Kalahea works with University Radio Hilo to stream content on air, and still prints its monthly issues with changes. Circulation has been reduced by 50 percent due to less foot traffic on campus. Staff members distribute grab-and-go tote bags and merchandise with copies of the issue, student housing helps to distribute bags with issues to on-campus residents, and Ke Kalahea is offering shipping of issues to students away from campus.

“Our mission at UH Hilo is to uphold the freedom of press, exchange ideas and express the voice of the student body, while providing a forum for journalistic communication and training to students in all areas of the news publication operation,” Editor in Chief Rosannah Gosser said. “With the COVID-19 crisis, our mission has not changed, and we have been doing our best to report on the current crisis’ impacts to our community and illuminate individual student voices affected by the circumstances.”

The Hoot (UH West Oʻahu)

Michelle Zheng, editor in chief for The Hoot student newspaper, said her staff has adjusted to the COVID-19 situation by conducting interviews through video calling platforms like Zoom. “The good part about doing things digitally was having the details of the interviews recorded for easy access. However, the missing one-on-one in-person contact made it feel disconnected.”

The mission of The Hoot hasn’t changed. Zheng said her staff still strives to provide an entertaining and informative paper for UH West Oʻahu students. She said when they were first informed of the COVID-19 situation, engagement was the top concern. Staff members still engage their readership through their Facebook and Instagram pages. And, according to Zheng, since students enjoy reading the physical copy of each issue, the staff ordered copies of the spring issue and will be distributing them once in-person classes resume.

Ka Lā (Honolulu Community College)

four people pose for camera
Ka Lā staff members

Ka Lā, Honolulu CC’s student newspaper, had to cancel a festival to celebrate the release of its Art & Soul creative arts magazine. Staff members said they worked hard to plan activities for students like raku pottery making, an art gallery, a musical concert, and a poetry reading. They look forward to hopefully hosting the festival in fall 2020. Currently, they are focused on creating new content and videos for their website and YouTube page, according to staff members Allan Salvador, Kristofel Abella, Alyssa Baligad and Sadie Fetui.

Fetui said the team is able to help out the Honolulu CC community “by keeping students entertained, informed of what’s going on with their campuses and in the world, and maybe even give a little positive hope while they struggle to deal with difficult times and keeping up with their lives.”

Kapiʻo News (Kapiʻolani CC)

three people smile for camera
Kapiʻo News staff members

Estefania Magdalena, a Kapiʻo News staff writer, said the organization’s mission to keep its student community informed has grown stronger during the COVID-19 pandemic. “The student newspaper connects us and is a space of opinion and creativity. Students are interacting more on our social networks, and there are more people who know us.”

The staff maintains its Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages despite having to modify operations. Interviews are conducted by phone or email, instead of face-to-face, and staff members are no longer working from the office, a place Magdalena said is a comfortable place to work quietly.

Ka Manaʻo (Leeward CC)

five people smile at camera
Ka Manaʻo staff members

Ka Manaʻo, Leeward CC’s student magazine, has transitioned online during the COVID-19 pandemic. Editor in Chief Gerald Soria said it will release previously designed print pages, digitally, through Leeward CC student life’s weekly emails to students. Ka Manaʻo’s staff will publish more content on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and has dedicated a new page to creative writing. Soria has also worked with his team to fulfill a newly created mission to “promote the rights of free speech in journalism and fostering the growth of students in creative fields.” Many of these changes were implemented after Ka Manaʻo advisor Stanley Lee, Soria and other student editors attended the Associated Collegiate Press College Journalism Convention in San Francisco in late February. There was, however, one challenge that Soria has had to overcome.

“Safety is paramount during this pandemic. While many roles in a publication can be done online, photographers are at most risk in times of a pandemic. While some would risk going out to take photos for a news article, it is imperative that extreme precaution is taken as well as consent from the photographer,” Soria said.

Hoʻoulu (UH Maui College)

Despite COVID-19, Hoʻoulu is sticking to its mission: “to be a source of community and campus information for our students.” To fulfill it, UH Maui College’s student newspaper has made a few changes, according to Editor Sarah Gudmunson. Because campus events have been canceled, writers need to pitch other story ideas and interview subjects via email instead of in-person. Staff members also had to postpone taking over a campus bulletin board to broadcast updates.

Hoʻoulu still maintains its online newspaper, Facebook and Instagram pages.

Ka ʻOhana (Windward CC)

Ka ʻOhana, Windward CC’s student newspaper, will publish its final spring issue on April 28 through its website, as classes have moved online and foot traffic has decreased across campus. Ka ʻOhana is a monthly publication by journalism students, that covers both campus and community news. Kimberlee Bassford, journalism instructor and Ka ʻOhana advisor, said it hopes to return to hard copy issues this fall.

Staff members also engage their readership through Ka ʻOhana’s Facebook page.

Story originally written by Marc Arakaki from UH News: How are UH student news publications making changes amid COVID-19?

Reposted by Allan Salvador

Ka Lā staff writer

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