A Story of Pandemic Proportions: How Education is Impacted by COVID-19

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By Maddie Ehret

Students; Coronavirus: College; Education; Precautions; Multimedia journalism
Students at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Photo Courtesy of Time Magazine

The COVID-19 outbreak has impacted people on an international level, and the media has spared no efforts in attempting to cover these events. People from all over the world have been impacted by the spread of the novel coronavirus, including students.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign announced on March 11 that they would be suspending classes for the time being, which initially resulted in classes for the remainder of the semester being conducted online via Zoom. UI-7 News reported on the initial steps that were taken. However, campus all around the world have been impacted by this outbreak, and several news sources have attributed to the spread of media to the public. This article examines how CNN, Fox News, NBC, Forbes and U.S. News have discussed this issue and how the virus has impacted students.


CNN, which was originally founded in 1980 in Atlanta, Georgia, has kept a steady flow of reports regarding the virus. It is currently owned by Time Warner Inc. and was created by mogul Ted Turner. CNN was also the first network to produce 24-hour full news coverage cycles, making it easier for viewers to catch up on current events that may be occurring. The platform also includes an email service that informs subscribers of the most pressing matters daily. The platform has an average of 1 million total viewers. It has been reporting about the pandemic since the issue first arose in Wuhan, China near the end of 2019.

Originally founded in 1996 by Rupert Murdoch, Fox News is recognized for its rather conservative views, some of which may be reflected in their coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic. The views may be connected to Republican political consultant Roger Ailes, who was enlisted to oversee the network in the 1990s. Fox News is currently owned by 21st Century Fox, and was tied for top-rated basic cable network in total viewers alongside MSNBC, with an average of 2.5 million viewers on air. Their website has the ability for users to search for specific topics related to current news, such as coronavirus.

NBC, which was founded in 1926 in New York, is currently the oldest major broadcast network in the country and is owned by Comcast and parented by Universal. NCB Chicago first began reporting on the air in 1948. As of December 2019, NBC receives roughly 8.1 million viewers. Their national website has been posting updates with articles, statistics and other media since the outbreak began. NBC Chicago has been updating their viewers and readers with local news related to the pandemic with a live blog.

Forbes Magazine is recognized as the original major business magazine in the United States. They currently have roughly seven million readers from around the world. The magazine is also published in 35 languages. Founded in 1926 by Bertie Charles Forbes, the media outlet features stories related to business areas, such as finance, investing, marketing and more. However, they also have sections related to law, science and technology. As of March 2020, they have reached roughly 107 million viewers on their website. Currently, they have a portion of their website dedicated to stories about the coronavirus.

Lastly, United States News, known as U.S. News, was founded in 1933 by David Lawrence. They are currently owned by U.S. News and World Report and are headquartered in Washington D.C., the capital of the United States. Though it provides national and international reports to its readers, it is also known for its popular annual authoritative rankings on universities and hospitals. Their website currently has a page for all recent news updates relating to the virus.

Coronavirus: Face-mask production cranked up in Taiwan to ease ...
Students in class wear masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Photo courtesy of StraitsTimes.com


CNN: In an article posted on April 27 by CNN, the central issue surrounding a majority of schools from around the country is when they will be legally allowed to reopen their doors to students. One option mentioned was to have students wear masks, staggering start times so there are no large groups of students, as well as suspending extracurricular activities and assemblies. Even with those restrictions, school administrators still remained concerned about the possibility of furthering the spread of the virus.

Furthermore, some are unsure of this would even be allowed or if it would break the current social distancing protocol. Matthew Hazel, an English teacher at Freedom High School in Orlando, Florida said, 'Anyone who says there’s a way to socially distance in an American high school is kidding themselves or you. It can’t be done.' The article cites that almost every school in the nation has been closed for the remainder of the 2020 academic school year. However, some state governors have potential plans for the future. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo hopes the state may reopen as early as May 15 with schools reopening shortly after. Former New York resident Melissa Ehret discusses her views on the matter.

Fox News: On April 28, Fox News published an article discussing how President Donald Trump is reacting to the pandemic in relation to the end of the academic school year. He stated in a press conference on Monday, April 27 that it would be a 'good idea' to have schools open up again for in-person classes before the school year ends. This is because those who are younger tend to have better immunity to the virus. Vice President Mike Pence also mentioned that 'every state' would have the ability to enter phase one of the White House reopening guidelines. Several states, such as Georgia, Oklahoma and Alaska, have started to loosen the rules on social distancing. However, over 30 states have decided to remain closed and continue with online learning for the remainder of the academic year.

NBC Chicago: Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker announced that all Illinois schools would suspend in-person learning this past March. NBC Chicago reported on April 17 that schools would continue to stay closed for the rest of the school year. Pritzker was quoted as saying, 'The importance of our schools and our in-person school days is not just a question of tradition and sentimentality, as essential as those things are ' the shutting of in-person classroom time also risks a drop in instructional time, an extended window in which students can potentially experience summer learning loss, and an educational landscape in which some districts have more experience with remote learning than others.' The article includes other information, including the current number of cases in Illinois, the belief that the state has yet to hit the peak of the virus and that more tests are becoming available throughout the state.

Forbes: Boston University was the first college in the country to announce it may be suspending in-person learning until January of 2021, as Forbes reported on April 13. This is primarily because so much is unknown about when the virus will end, as some predict a second wave may occur in the fall. The campus is home to nearly 33,000 students from all over the world. University president Robert Brown announced administration was working on a recovery plan since the campus announced its closing in late March. If the current state of the virus were to remain until the fall, the campus would continue with online learning protocol and return to in-person learning in the start of the new year. Currently, the article has about 514,723 views.

U.S. News: Before COVID-19 impacted the United States, it was prominent within Asia and Europe. U.S. News gave a report on March 27 of what would happen to students who were studying abroad at the time. Several colleges cancelled their abroad programs or requested that their students return home early in order to avoid coming into contact with the virus. Students such as Brennan Sisco, who had been studying in London, England for two months, were able to experience a portion of their time abroad. Others, however, were not as lucky. In the article, students recall hearing of the, at the time, epidemic, but not paying as much attention to it. Events began to take a turn as more and more programs became cancelled every day as the virus began to change in threat levels.

Comparing and Contrasting

CNN: Other states were listed to compare what matters they were taking into consideration, as well. This may have enticed their readers to see what precautions their state was taking into the matter, as well as what may happen in the future. Furthermore, educators may have looked into this to see how they can learn from other educational systems in order to see what steps they can take during this time.

Fox News: Based on their conservative viewpoints, this article may have gotten attraction from those who share similar values. Additionally, this may have gotten attention from students who are hoping to return to college sooner rather than later. Included in this article are several other links that lead to other stories related to how Trump has handled the virus up until this point. Additionally, a video that gives a summary of the coronavirus is listed at the beginning of the story.

NBC Chicago: While this article relates to the current state of the schools, it also provides additional insight into other factors of the coronavirus. This can increase the number of people who view the article, as it relates to multiple demographics. Throughout the article, there are multiple links to other stories, as well as a video of Governor Pritzker's updates on the virus.

Forbes: Because this is the first university in America to announce taking such action in response to COVID-19, the story may have a variety of difference audiences. In terms of other media in the story, one picture of the Boston University campus sits at the introduction of the article. Students and faculty members of the university may have been drawn to this article, as it pertains to their education and employment. Similarly, students and faculty from other universities may have read the article, as they may be concerned that their university will soon be taking the same measures.

U.S. News: This article provides links to other articles related to coronavirus. A picture of the Vatican in Rome is seen at the beginning of the article. Additionally, more study abroad programs scheduled to take place in the summer or fall at several universities have been cancelled due to safety precautions since this article was published.

Among all of these articles, each had a relation to the educational aspect of the coronavirus. Because the articles listed previously are all relatively new, they are mostly up-to-date. However, each of the websites have individual pages where viewers can see new and updated stories related to COVID-19. Each of the outlets covered their stories with as much information as they had. Some included more media links than others. For example, Forbes included only one picture in their article in comparison to Fox News, who included both videos and several other hyperlinks in the story. This may be because Fox News's work in the broadcasting field contributes to a number of their views, so adding a video may increase the number of views for a story. Forbes, on the other hand, is primarily editorial-based, so they may provide less visual information.

Though there are differences, each of the platforms include some sort of page or blog dedicated to updates surrounding the coronavirus, and each have been updated on an almost daily basis. CNN had the largest number of reports on a daily basis. Similarly, each page includes a variety of topics related to COVID-19, such as the current political climate, what to do and what not to do, various statistics and more. However, each of the platforms speaks with their own voice and has a number of audiences that tend to graduate towards them. Each platform discusses a different way in which education and students have been impacted, as well as how they have dealt with the problems they have faced.

How Students Can Get Ahead During The COVID-19 School Shutdown
A student uses a computer to complete remote learning. Photo courtesy of Forbes.com.

What's Next?

As the future of the virus remains uncertain, some schools, such as Boston University, have remained undecided about what steps they will take in order to continue education. Others are unsure, but remain hopeful that they will be able to welcome their students back to campus in the fall of 2020. However, how will students be impacted by this in the future? Currently, e-learning may not be ideal for all college students, especially for those with majors who require some sort of physical element to their education, such as engineering, nursing or even broadcast journalism. Similarly, every university provides a different curriculum to each of their programs compared to other universities. What one student may be learning online may be very different from that of what another student may be doing.

The job market looks especially unclear for the moment, and this could impact the likelihood of securing a job for current college seniors. They have already lost great moments of celebrating their successes, as well as being able to spend their final moments of college on their home campus. What remains unknown is when the virus will fully end, which may arise with the help of a vaccine. However, it is not clear when that will be available, as the BBC reports that most experts believe it will be available by mid-2021. E-learning may continue to be in effect until an effective vaccine is released, but universities remain hopeful that they will be able to reinstate normal educational protocol by the time fall classes come around. The media has kept readers up-to-date with current results of COVID-19, and they will hopefully continue to do so as it progresses.

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