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Media value increases as face-to-face interaction declines

Update: March 31, 2020

The media world continues to cover feature stories beyond events that require groups of people. Editor-in-chief Addison Schultz, ’21, had the opportunity to discuss the shelter in place mandate’s effect on student life with 940 ESPN Fresno afternoon drive host Christopher Gabriel on the Christopher Gabriel Program, March 30.

In the following tweet, Addison Schultz discusses the shelter-in-place’s effect on student life with Christopher Gabriel, host of the Christopher Gabriel Program.

Courtesy Stephen Hicks

ABC30 Sports Director Stephen Hicks utilizes studio equipment in his home as he continues to broadcast through the city-wide quarantine.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) runs rampant across the globe, cancelling, postponing or altering most aspects of civilian life. Amid toilet paper missing from grocery store shelves and the transition to online school, verbal, auditory and visual providers of entertainment attempt to engage with the public through media platforms.

Due to the social distancing and shelter-in-place mandates, film making, sports events and concerts have been delayed or called off to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Digital and radio news increase in value as updates spread through screens rather than word of mouth, especially during Governor Gavin Newsom’s ‘shelter-in-place’ mandate.

Paul Loeffler, voice of Fresno State sports at One Putt Broadcasting, host of radio show Hometown Heroes and father of two FC students, provided a two-hour program addressing the local COVID-19 concerns on the first day of “shelter-in-place”, March 19. Despite the cancellation of sports events and decreased air-time, he appreciates the extended amount of time spent with family.

“This is an opportunity for the media to demonstrate its value to society,” Loeffler said. “It’s crucial that detailed, accurate information be passed on to the public. I’m relying on different media sources to keep me informed and I’m trying to stay connected with my regular listeners through social media.”

Loeffler’s syndicated weekend show Hometown Heroes continues to air on all its radio affiliates and the national Honor Flight network has cancelled all flights through May 31, postponing them until September and October.

Courtesy of Christopher Gabriel

Afternoon drive host at 940 ESPN Christopher Gabriel (middle) sits with his family playing cards during the city-wide quarantine.

“I have a few episodes pre-recorded,” Loeffler continued, “but because of COVID-19 safety concerns, I can’t meet with any WWII veterans at this time to record future episodes. I will have to adjust as the situation unfolds.”

People turn to their screens for respite and information during the social distancing directives, but recorded sports events offer little reprieve as the NBA, NCAA, NHL, MLB and NSL cancelled or postponed all spring sports games.

Sports Director for ABC30 Action News Stephen Hicks continues to tell sports stories, despite the lack of athletic events. Focusing on the players rather than the game, Hicks leads his team by staying out of the studio and featuring coaches, refs, players and workers in news articles.

“I still rely on Twitter for a large chunk of how I gather information,” Hicks said. “If anything it’s made me pick up the phone and talk to people in the community to try and generate story ideas. When sports were going there was one press conference/game after another and each day/week rolled into the next. Now we’re forced to step back and really hyper focus on what stories are going on in the community.”

In the following video, reporter Stephen Hicks demonstrates how he tracks audio when away from the ABC30 studio. Without a tracking booth to use, Hicks throws a blanket over his head and records the audio on his camera and imports that file onto a laptop to edit.

Bobby Jones, former MLB right-hand starting pitcher for the New York Mets and San Diego Padres, has done radio interviews to discuss past games and spends his free time teaching youth the mechanics of pitching while promoting his bbq sauce, 142 BBQ. He listens in as sports stations play past classic games to keep fans involved. Jones encourages his daughter Avery Jones, FC senior and photojournalist, to meet friends outdoors and engage in social distancing.

“This whole situation is really scary,” Bobby said. “Our family has been staying home as much as possible. You just never know who might be infected. Keep encouraging others to do there part and before long will be enjoying watching the sporting world again.”

Braden Bell | The Feather Online

FC students connect with each other and sports personnel through video chats, live interviews, social media and other digital platforms.

The coronavirus has caused the shutdown of schools, churches and sporting events across the Central Valley, halting the dreams of many student athletes pursuing athletic scholarships. As high school students are prevented from visiting college campuses, many financial grant opportunities have been put on hold.

Fresno Christian joins the hundreds of schools across California that question a return to campus after Gov. Gavin Newsom’s prediction that many would not resume in-person activity until after summer during his March 17 address.

Radio producers search for sports items in an sports-less nation and afternoon drive host at 940 ESPN Fresno Christopher Gabriel takes on the responsibility of conveying stories to listeners of the 50,000-watt station.

“Besides sports, I’ve welcomed a psychologist from Fresno Pacific to discuss coping strategies,” Gabriel said. “Also the CEO of Valley Children’s and the Chief of the Fresno Police Department are coming on. The other thing we do is we make sure to make people laugh! The more funny, quirky things we can talk about, we do! All of us need to keep a sense of humor right now.”

As the 940 ESPN station reaches as far north as Sacramento and south to the Grapevine near Los Angeles, Gabriel strives to be a voice for the community and provide a familiar sound to the ears of locals.

“We need to be steady, safe and comforting islands of sanity for you to turn to,” Gabriel continued. “We can maybe offer that perspective when something seems really confusing. If you’re on social media, reach out and say hello! That’s the best thing you can do for me because as I said, I am here for you!”

In the following tweet, sportscaster Ernie Johnson stays in touch with student journalists in a live chat where he answered participants’ media questions.

Andrew Marden contributes to sportscasting in different ways as the Sports Director at CBS47 and KSEE24, connecting with athletes and coaches to provide a glimpse into the lives of players are sheltering in place.

“The best thing everyone can do during this pandemic is to listen to what the experts are telling us to do,” Marden said. “In the last few weeks, we have heard phrases such as ‘social distancing’ and ‘flattening the curve.’ Those apply to all of us: athletes, full-time employees and students.”

Local newscasters, radio hosts, leaders and athletes strive to stay connected with their audiences during these historic times and engage listeners, watchers and followers in continued entertainment. As students and adults adjust to a life based on screen-to-screen interaction, the community finds ways to inform each other and stay connected.

In light of many Valley residents who are sheltering in place, The Feather Online staff encourages connection through its social media presence and publishing articles on how the FC community stays involved. Make sure to engage with The Feather on Instagram and Twitter and comment on articles!

For more articles, read COLUMN: Student Body President encourages community to find joy, preserve and Join the Discussion: Alternative learning at home.

Addison Schultz can be reached via email and via Twitter @SchultzAddison.

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