This spring semester of 2020 was my first one teaching at Pratt. HMS chair Arlene Keizer asked me last fall to re-envision a curriculum for Introduction to Journalism. Clearly, no one could have envisioned the novel coronavirus crisis. And this website gives testament to the six students’ initiative, resiliency, creativity and journalistic integrity during what was, for all of them, their final semester senior year.
We met for the first time in person on January 27th and the last time in person on March 5th. I can remember on the first day where Jon Day and Krystal Elizabeth Li were sitting as Jon said that he had just read that Wuhan, China, had gone into lockdown. (Article from Guardian here.)
We spent a lot of time between January 27th and our actual last class (by Zoom) on May 7th discussing what might be the shape of a community newsroom for our Pratt class. What constituted community identification? Which parameters? Which metrics of belonging? How could we envision both local and inclusive given the factors that described our six class members?
These conversations led to Pratt graphic designer T’shani Jones coming up with a site name, The Metro Third, and logos that are proudly displayed here. The Metro Third communicates that students began reporting from the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut when physical school shut down and online school began.
What timing. Krystal Li lives with her Hong Kong mother and Chinese father near Coney Island, Brooklyn. When we discussed “beats” on day one, Krystal said she wanted to report about pro-democracy yellow ribbon protests in Hong Kong from the immigrant perspective. She also wanted to cover Asian xenophobia in the U.S. Her stories categoried coronavirus today cover what wet markets, actually, are, as well as what happened in the early days as the virus reached New York with such intensity.
Dylan Cabral was quite sure he wanted to cover sports from day one. And indeed he has, developing a sports podcast and hosting a conversation with an NCAA athlete. Emily Oldenquist, who was open from the beginning about her struggles with chronic illness, initially wanted to write about health and undiagnosed or misdiagnosed disease. The coronavirus pandemic turned her in the direction of inquiring about the mental health impacts of this unprecedented time. T’shani Jones, a graphic designer, is from a Barbadian family also living in Brooklyn. Her thesis plans like those of her classmates had to be re-envisioned–from printed matter to digital presentation. T’shani inquired of design firms in Brooklyn how they envision coronavirus altering their practice.
Jon Day, an entrepreneur and sculptor-farmer in Connecticut, spent a good amount of time this term engaging in deep inquiry about his own path and where it intersects with journalism. The notable outcome: He has begun a podcast of “impact portraits” of people confronting their work life during the pandemic, from points of view both personal and plangent. Harrison Shea, whose thesis work dealt in the claims and realities of the “wellness” industry, addresses how virtual wellness might work now. What is the impact of coronavirus on queer nightlife in New York City?
Coronavirus was a hard and sudden foe for society, these students and me. The week before lockdown there had been a fire drill on campus. But no one could have conceived what kind of “drill” might have prepared us to cope with the novel coronavirus, either the illness, the shutdown or the impacts that will reverberate for years to come.
I cannot offer high enough praise for these students.
As I revise this post, it is May 15th and more than two months since I locked down in my East Village neighborhood. My own rote continues to include finding my keys before my mask on exiting my apartment to walk my dog. I met often weekly with the students individually, and collectively we met once a week. There remain many journalism questions to answer and many beats to be followed in service of local journalism at Pratt and in Brooklyn. I am honored to have taught the class and be envisioning yet another new class, Reporting the City, for fall 2020.
I invite you to explore deeply into this site as Pratt senior students invaluable contribution to these our interesting times. Special thanks to Basem Aly, Pratt Associate Director of Research and Strategic Projects, for technical support and design help with this website.