If you walked into The Arbiter office on any given Monday you’d find a team of 16 writers, editors, designers, and photographers working quietly, yet quickly, to meet their 5 p.m. deadline. Each section of the paper must be written, edited, and sized to fit the appropriate section before the entire paper can be signed off on and officially turned in for printing the next day.
Needless to say, there is a bit of stress involved in this process. Follow that up with an early paper delivery the next morning, and you have the biggest pieces of an Arbiter employee’s week out of the way, that is, aside from being a full-time student.
These student journalists live and breathe the news, working nights, weekends, and sometimes even through spring and Thanksgiving break. Through the long days and occasionally stressful workload, the team has built a deep sense of partnership and has learned they can lean on each other to get the work done and print a paper they are truly proud of. In fact, last year, The Arbiter took home prizes in 12 categories, including first place for General Excellence of a student newspaper, at the Idaho Press Club Awards ceremony.
That is why about three weeks ago, when The Arbiter staff was told many campus organizations would be shutting down and classes would be going online, they knew they would have to band together to continue to report the news to the community. That was easier said than done.
Student groups were shut down, and students and staff were asked to no longer visit campus. The Arbiter team knew they needed to help battle the spread of COVID-19 by closing their doors as well. This also meant with no students on campus, there would be no one to deliver papers to. They decided to check out their other options for reporting. Logan Potter, Editor-in-Chief said, “News reporting has always been crucial to keeping the Boise State community informed, but accurate and timely information is needed now more than ever.”
In the midst of switching to an online-only reporting format, several members of the team had to make the difficult choice to either stay in Boise or pick up their lives and return home to be with their families. Now, The Arbiter has employees logging into work each day from places like Coeur d’Alene, Boulder, Colorado and Pasadena, California.
The Arbiter employees are being affected by COVID-19 in various ways. Some have moved states. Others are seniors battling with the fact they won’t be able to attend their regularly planned spring graduation. The entire group is learning how to deal with the Idaho Press Club Awards ceremony being moved to a digital format this year. Still, they are passionate about giving the Boise State community quality news. “One of the most important aspects of The Arbiter, or any student newspaper, is that the student body can count on their information coming from peers who know and understand what they want and need to read to be informed,” Logan said.
Each section of the paper is now reporting how the pandemic has affected their area of focus: sports, culture, news, opinion, and breaking news. For example, recent stories like the Rec center continuing to pay employees, university departments taking charge of providing community resources, the campus food pantry switching to gift cards, and, of course, a COVID-19 breaking news article which is updated daily with the most current information regarding cases in Idaho.
Taylor Rico-Pekerol, News Reporter, believes these unusual circumstances may have actually brought students and peers closer together in some ways. “By allowing The Arbiter to continue online publication while the rest of the university is shut down, has allowed me to reach out to the community even though the community is all virtual now. It has given me an outlet to connect with people that are not my immediate family and have meaningful conversations about the situation impacting us all.”
The Monday hustle has been replaced by awkward camera angles, some distracting background noises, and the occasional pet appearance, but the group is happy to do their part by self-isolating. Each Friday, The Arbiter staff meets to put together as many articles as the print issue would have had. Then, starting Monday morning, those articles are posted. The team has set their goals high, to finish the rest of the year strong despite the setbacks that have happened because of COVID-19.