Completing DC field placement during a pandemic means learning to adapt

Jackie Graves on placement at Metroland Media one year ago (left) and now doing her current placement with Durham College's Journalism-Mass Media program (right) from home. Photo credit: Jackie Graves

After having my final year of college ‘figured out’, a historical pandemic impacted people across the globe. Now, I’m trying my best to finish strong, despite the circumstances.

With hundreds of thousands infected and dying from COVID-19, Canada and other countries have encouraged (or, in other cases, enforced) people to socially distance and stay home. This means many businesses deemed non-essential are being forced to shut down, lay people off, or even close indefinitely.

Essential workers are people considered critical to preserving life. This includes health and basic societal functions such as first responders, health care employees, infrastructure workers and people who provide medicine and food, to name a few.

However, what does this mean for post-secondary students who have to complete mandatory placements in order to graduate?

I’m a third-year student at Durham College studying Journalism-Mass Media who completed a seven-week placement at Metroland Media in Durham Region last year. In order to graduate from my program, I need to complete another four-week placement to graduate this year.

I had my placement set up months earlier once again with Metroland, as we established a great professional relationship and were looking forward to working together again. I was so excited to see my old co-workers and begin writing for the news outlet once more – I really felt like it was where I belonged.

That changed after the COVID-19 outbreak.

Metroland was undergoing a change in management while having made the switch to remotely producing content. I spoke to my old boss, Mike Johnston, who passed me over to Mike Lacey, who is now the managing editor.

Both Mikes were extremely kind and sympathetic to my situation. However, they simply weren’t able to take me on as a placement student for Metroland, given the circumstances. Lacey did, however, offer to let me complete a placement at an undetermined, later date when possible.

This left me with two options – wait for an uncertain start date at my ideal placement, or find an alternative.

So, I decided to reach out to my program co-ordinator, Brian Legree.

Legree set me up to take on the role of editor for the second-year Journalism-Mass Media students. They also had complications with finding placements, so instead, they’re producing content for our college news outlet – which you are reading now – the Chronicle.

The goal is to provide me with a new ‘placement’ experience and also provide the second-year students with a scenario that mirrors a real newsroom as much as possible. I wasn’t sure how I – a student myself – was going to be able to impart my experience at Metroland onto my peers, especially remotely.

While it’s only my first week on the job, I’m working on various projects outside of just my editing role and I’m feeling both very grateful and positive about my placement situation.

I’m getting a ‘different’ taste of working in a newsroom – helping develop stories, reviewing first drafts and connecting reporters with sources.

While it wasn’t my ‘first choice’ initially, I am excited at the prospect of giving students, like myself, the opportunity to experience at least some of what I did working for Metroland.

Being able to help foster the experience they originally may have thought they’d miss out on definitely gives me a sense of purpose and I am grateful to have the opportunity.

In short, being able to adapt and work together, whether it’s with employers or people in your school community, is just one way we can all support each other through these difficult times.