THE economist Paul Romer once said, “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” He didn’t have the news media in mind, but he coined a term that could be the universal motto of journalism education.
We are in the business of serving the public, and that often makes us look as if we rub our hands together and lick our lips whenever there’s a tragedy. Although this isn’t exactly the case – we are human, after all – we do tend to see various forms of social disruption as opportunities to test our skills.
And there’s no question the current emergency is an opportunity for our students to try out their training on the proverbial Big Story.
Over the course of the past week, Albertans have watched as our province has gone from a backwater in the growing sea of COVID-19 to a whirlpool of constantly and frighteningly increasing intensity.
By Tuesday, March 24, there were 2,648 confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 in Canada, and 28 deaths. In Alberta, there were 301 cases, with 18 in hospital including seven in intensive care, and two deaths.
By the time you read this, even if it’s in just a few hours, all of that will have changed dramatically.
What had begun in January as a distant tale of tragedy evolved into a local nuisance, and then mutated into a terrifying new reality … which could last as long as a year and a half, and likely change much about the way we live.
Under these conditions, we at the City Centre Magpie would have been fools to carry on with business as usual.
So, the Friday before last, a few hours before MacEwan announced it was closing all classes, we held a meeting and tore up everything we were going to do for this week’s issue. Then, we threw together a schedule of stories that are more reflective of our current reality.
Through last week, we wrote and edited the stories and photos and put everything up online without any of us ever being in the same room together – keeping our social distance and talking to each other via Skype, FaceTime, text messages and emails.
Welcome to “Life in the time of contagion.”