Humans of the Magpie
Observations on the state of the emergency from the students
behind MacEwan’s community news website
WHEN WE BEGAN this term, we knew we were heading into something of an experiment, in that this is the first MacEwan journalism course that involves publishing a biweekly community news website. What we didn’t expect was that a microscopic agent would migrate from central China to infect most of the world, and render us all more or less housebound.
We never thought we’d become part of an international experiment in replacing the traditional workplace with a virtual one. But here we are, facing a future in which – for the short term at least – face to face has come to mean staring at someone on a computer screen. We talk with text messages, Facebook posts and FaceTime, and hold meetings with applications like Google hangouts. (Who would have predicted Zoom bombing would become a thing?)
One thing we have found out is that the cyber-utopians are dreaming in 4K ultra-high-def if they think this stuff is a substitute for human interaction. Working remotely is cold, disjointed and inefficient, and when it comes to teamwork, theres’s no substitute for the human voice.
Below, our team members reflect on what a long strange trip it’s been – to steal a line from a rock band that flourished in other, better times.
JASMINE GRAF, Editor and reporter
Isolation is inconvenient, but it has brought out my creative side. When I found I’d have so much time on my hands, I broke out the markers and got to it. Drawing became a huge stress reliever – and I’m sure it will continue to be for however long this lasts.
As psychiatrist and rabbi Abraham Twerski once said: “If a person neglects fulfilling any capacity and trait that he has, there’s that inherent feeling of unhappiness … if we took the effort to realize what we really are – the strength of the capacity that we have – and developed that to the fullest, then we will be happy.”
These are hard times, but they are going to be harder if we don’t find outlets. So, if you’ve ever felt the urge play an instrument or draw a squirrel, now is the perfect time.
MARIANN ROBERTS, Editor and reporter
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a strange time, to say the least. Plans of graduation parties and summer vacations are starting to look a lot more like FaceTime calls and drinking margaritas from my bathtub.
This has been a scary and tough time for me, as it has for everyone, but COVID confinement has taught me a few things. (What else is there to do in isolation other than think?) I’ve had time to reflect on which parts of my life are actually worth rushing back to, and which parts aren’t as crucial as I thought. Thanks for the lesson, COVID.
Google Hangouts wasn’t my ideal spot to finish my final few months of university, but I am thankful that I got to be a part of this journey at all. When this is over and I finally step out into the working world of journalism, at least I will have no shortage of stories to tell. (Living through a historical event will do that to you.)
I’ll leave with this; the COVID-19 pandemic has been an emotional roller coaster that I -and the rest of the world- am begging to get off. But when this trolley of terror finally rolls to a halt, I’ll be running straight towards my family and friends for a long, and well deserved hug.
Meanwhile, I’ve finally come to understand the importance of time: Time with your family and friends; time to go on adventures and travel; even time in a university classroom. In the blink of an eye, it can all be taken away and you’re left missing the days when you overpaid for a cup of coffee.
SARAH SPISAK, Editor and reporter
This is not how I expected my last month of university to go, but it’s going. The pandemic has changed my plans – but maybe for the better. Who knows. I feel like I’m in limbo right now. So, hopefully in another couple of months when summer arrives around, so, too, will some direction and certainty.
For now, though, I’m embracing the limbo and enjoying the time I have to spend on the things that matter to me most: my friends, my family, cooking, eating. Lots of eating. I’m finding joy in the simple things: soft snowfall, new plants and my mail-order shampoo arriving before I run out.
I’m thankful that I have the skills and technology to get me through this weird time and the good news is, this will eventually end. But until then, I and everyone else, will just have to remember to be innovative, thoughtful and compassionate.
JACKSON SPRING, Editor and reporter
I don’t mind working and doing school work from home. Actually, so far I’ve found it a bit easier and more relaxing.
The harder part is figuring out what to do with all my new free time.
Sometimes trying to stave off boredom means digging out some of the puzzles you kept from your childhood out of the back of your closet.
This one is a picture of cartoon farm animals, and it only took me about 20 minutes to finish. Now it’s on to the next one – a construction site.
RAHMA DALMAR, Copy chief and reporter
As a journalist, I can work from home and stay busy but, with all the extra time on my hands I have started playing the piano again, and reading The Authenticity Project, a book about being vulnerable to others and honest with yourself.
I have been trying to ration the pandemic news – which is difficult, being a journalist. Rather, I am taking this time to focus on my mental health and rejoice in the positivity among the communities around me. I don’t know what the next few months will hold, but I’m taking it one day at a time.
AUSTIN CONNELLY, Copy chief and reporter
Having broken my fibula at the start of the semester, thanks to Edmonton’s icy terrain, I was housebound for about four weeks before COVID-19 hit Canada.
So, adapting to working from home and staying inside haven’t been a struggle for me, since I’ve had plenty of practice doing that in my apartment.
My professors and bosses made it easy for me to do my work from home, so I’ve been grateful for that.
Still, I haven’t been hit by the looming reality of not really being able to leave my house when my leg is healed.
ASHLEY ORICH, Copy chief and reporter
I’ve lost the battle with my roots, and I would kill for a cold brew with salted-cream cold foam from Starbucks. I’ve left my house maybe twice since March 11 and I don’t remember what a sleep schedule is any more.
That said, I understand how lucky I am. I’m healthy and I still have my job. This term is almost finished and over the past couple of months I feel like I’ve grown in regards to how I approach journalism. I had ambitious story ideas and for the most part they have worked out and I’ve been proud of them.
One of the hardest parts about this term was dealing with some of the worst writer’s block I’ve ever had. Once confinement is lifted, I’ll probably get my coffee, dye my hair, and do some online shopping.
I’ll probably still stay inside but there’s a difference when you do it because you want to versus being told you must.
In an odd turn of events, the coronavirus self-isolation has been one of the best things for my mental health. Feb. 1, a day after our anniversary, my boyfriend of six years broke things off. On top of that, I was working part time and doing an internship – and going to school.
It was so rough that my therapist asked how I wasn’t burning myself out.
And then coronavirus shut down everything – and all I could do was rest. These have been the best weeks of 2020 for me. I finally found time to rest. I didn’t have to force myself to be out of the house, I could just stay home. Maybe best of all, my ex moved out and I finally got to make this space Mine.
RUDY HOWELL, Copy chief and reporter
This isn’t how I pictured the end of my four years at MacEwan. Anticlimactic. I envisioned proudly marching off campus after my final exam with a sense of accomplishment and relief. Now, even facing two take-home exams, I can’t shake the feeling that I’m getting off easy.
On the bright side, I’m keeping busy completing my last course work. And unlike most of my friends, I can still make a bit of money through my job as a freelance writer for both T8N and T7X magazines in St. Albert and Spruce Grove.
Staying home is also letting me spend more time with thing I love most: my guitar. Then down side of this, though, is that my band had to cancel some gigs – and our first recording session.
This is a frightening and unpredictable time to be entering the “real world,” but I have confidence that my fellow graduates and I will land on our feet.
MAYA ABDALLAH, Copy editor and reporter
The coronavirus pandemic definitely caught me by surprise; never would I have expected the whole world to shut down.
I have been spending my days mostly doing homework and trying new things – and this painting was one of them.
Because I have so much more time on my hands, I decided to follow a YouTube beginner painting tutorial and: Voila!
I’ll probably be doing this more often to keep myself busy.
SHANGHETAA ALFRED, Copy editor and reporter
This Instagram filter says a lot about how I feel. It’s a beautifully decorated crying filter. I’m stressed … but loving all the free time I have on my hands.
Also, a fun fact is, my forehead is brighter than my future, which is staying at home till COVID decides to disappear.
I want to cancel 2020. I never subscribed to this.
On the bright side, I will get to graduate in my favourite outfit, an Italy Jersey and shorts, and my favourite Vans sneakers.
LAYLA DART, Copy editor and reporter
This has been an interesting. Going outside has become something done only when necessary – and involves walking deserted streets.
It’s not all doom and gloom at home, though. I have taken to some artistic ventures in my free time, and have definitely caught up on my sleep.
What has been unique is living on-campus. As panic set in, the residence has been emptying fast – with most students having moved out by March 27. The building has gone quiet, which has obvious benefits. It has been easier to sleep, write, and research.
Moving classes and The Magpie online took some getting used to, but thanks to the wonders of technology it has been a fairly seamless transition. The world changes, and we adapt.
JESSICA NELSON, Copy editor and reporter
It’s 2 p.m. and my son is still sleeping. He’s 13, stubborn and impossible to wake up. I’ve learned to choose my battles.
I’m seriously outnumbered anyway. I’m in confinement with two cats and three children, many of whom are taller than I. I think the only thing that gives me an edge is the fact that I stock the fridge and control the WIFI.
But I digress, confinement suits my son’s lanky limbs and languid movements. In his own way, he’s thriving in the schedule he’s made for himself (I should note that his education may not be thriving.) We fight, him, me, his sisters and the cats.
But we always find a way back to each other – usually over the cats.
CECILIA LIETZ, Copy editor and reporter
During this isolation, preparing food helps occupy my time – and fill my stomach.
Time is taken researching recipes, buying ingredients, and making fresh homemade goods.
I followed Krissy’s Four Cheese Ravioli instructions and Lyuba’s Ravioli with Meat Sauce.
This was only my second time making pasta dough, and fortunately for me and my family, it turned out well.