Working from home now the ‘norm’ for 4 News Now

SPOKANE, Wash – You’ve no doubt noticed this week that 4 News Now looks a little different than normal. That’s no surprise, given how COVID-19 has upended all of our lives and businesses. What you’re seeing now will likely continue until this virus moves out of our community.

Journalists are essential workers and we feel the responsibility more than ever to keep our communities informed. But, we also need to keep ourselves and our families safe. Weeks ago, we started moving people to work from home. That’s no easy feat, considering so much of our workflow depends on technology that’s not often considered to be “mobile.” Most days, we now have three or four people in the newsroom at a time, juggling news stories and information and phone calls. Our once-bustling workspace is pretty quiet these days.

Our multi-media journalists were among the first to work mostly from home. Those are the reporters you see on TV who are also responsible for shooting, writing and editing their stories. Our team has been incredible. It’s not easy doing interviews from home and gathering all the video you need without walking outside. They’ve adapted so quickly – and, we’ve seen a lot of their living rooms in recent weeks! They and our team of photojournalists still work in the field if the story calls for it. There are some risks that are assumed in this job; we’re just making sure we’re only taking risks when there’s no other way to tell the story.

Our sports team is working from home now, too, but I was not at all surprised at how quickly they adapted. They’re so used to working on the road covering major sporting events, they’ve edited stories in closets, in hallways and in the backs of cars for years. What I’m most proud of is the way they’ve been able to tell local sports stories, even as sporting events are on hold. If you haven’t seen their Shining Star Senior Night stories, check them out at this link. Grab some tissue first.

Our digital team has been working from home for weeks, as well. Fortunately, they’re able to work remotely rather easily, though we miss them in the newsroom and I’m pretty sure they miss us, too! Their job has never been more important, as they sift through new information all day and all night, making sure the community has access to the information as quickly as it becomes available. I’ve never been more impressed with a team of journalists than I am with our digital team. They’re doing remarkable work. I can’t wait to get them back in the newsroom!

We never thought we’d be able to do it, but our producers are taking turns working from home. Nothing about that is pretty. They’re doing everything from selecting and writing stories to ordering graphics to keeping newscasts on time. We still have producers in the building in some parts of the day, but we’re trying to maintain social distance and moving producers in and out of the newsroom on a rotating basis seems to help that.

The next big piece was to have our anchors working from home. I never thought I’d see it, but now we see it everywhere from local news to network shows. This was the first week for us, as Derek Deis and Aaron Luna anchored their newscasts from their living rooms. Our entire team has taken that in stride and it has worked more smoothly than I ever could have imagined. Next week, Robyn Nance and Nia Wong will anchor from home and we’ll bring the guys back in the studio. It will continue this way until this crisis has passed. Some stations have done this with remote technology like cell phones and iPads. I’m proud to say our company made it a priority that you could see and hear our anchors clearly – what they’re saying is a matter of public safety. So, while our setup may be a little more elaborate, it’s all to make sure you stay connected to the information you need.

This is a challenging time for all of us. It’s hard for journalists, too. In most of our careers, we cover tragedy and crisis from an arms-length distance. This is different. We’re worried about our own health, we’re worried about its effects on our kids, we miss our extended families, many of our journalists feel isolated, combining their workspace with their living space. But, I know it’s making us better and will make us better in the long run. Empathy is crucial in reporting; we’re feeling this story, because we’re experiencing it along with you.

We know people are turning to local news in record numbers right now, looking for information, resources and, often, reassurance. Trust that no matter what happens, we will find a way to be here and bring you that information. Even after the health crisis passes, the economic crisis will remain. We’ll be here to help guide you through this uncertain time – even if we’re doing it from our couch with our slippers on.

If you have questions or comments about our coverage or have a story you’d like to share, please feel free to reach out to me at MelissaL@kxly.com. Thanks for your trust during this difficult time. We don’t take that for granted.