The News Between Four Walls: Student Journalists Cover the Home Front

Apr 30, 2020

Some of the students in Justin Catanoso's news writing class used Zoom backgrounds they knew would make everyone laugh.
Credit Courtesy of Justin Catanoso

When in-person classes were cancelled for the semester at Wake Forest University, Professor Justin Catanoso knew he would have to break some of his own rules. 

Catanoso teaches an introductory journalism class, where he asked students throughout the semester to cover campus events as if they were writing for the student newspaper. They were not allowed to interview their friends, they had to use quotes and they had to step outside of their comfort zones to find the scoop. But with all his students now off-campus, Catanoso asked them to cover the pandemic as they saw it from their homes.

Catanoso joins host Anita Rao to talk about the unconventional assignment along with two students from the class. Junior Marlee Rich shares her experience in writing about the upturned lives of her family members — her sister’s 18th birthday, her laid-off father and her immunocompromised mother’s visit to the grocery store. Sophomore Anthony D’Angelo talks about the process in writing his piece about his sister bringing home the coronavirus from college and moving their grandmother out of the house to protect her. Students Gabby Balthazar and Madison Borsellino also share what they wrote.

Anthony D'Angelo (center) and his family.
Credit Courtesy of Anthony D'Angelo

Anthony D'Angelo's family decided to move his grandmother out of their house after his sister, Francesca, traveled back from New Orleans and tested positive for COVID-19. Then, his father also contracted the virus.

Anthony D'Angelo's story.

''In the house, everything was different in terms of how we interacted with each other. Francesca did not eat dinner with us, and we tried to stay away from her.''

Marlee Rich (second from left) with her family.
Credit Courtesy of Marlee Rich

Marlee Rich wrote a vignette of her family's life in quarantine on her sister's 18th birthday. Each family member experienced the day quite differently.

Marlee Rich's story.

''She jumps out of line and tells him she would be happy to give him one of her masks. The man smiles and begins repeatedly thanking her, as if she had given him a 100-dollar bill and not a glorified piece of cloth.''
Gabby Balthazar and her father.
Credit Courtesy of Gabby Balthazar

Gabby Balthazar's father was one of the first confirmed COVID-19 cases in North Carolina. She wrote about him having to contact trace and reach out to people he may have infected.

Gabby Balthazar's story.

''Making a list of all the people I had unknowingly endangered was possibly the worst feeling I had ever felt,'' said Joe Balthazar.


Madison Borsellino (far left) and her family, including her late father.
Credit Courtesy of Madison Borsellino

Madison Borsellino wrote about the struggle to adjust to life isolated at home while in quarantine. Earlier in the semester, she spent time at home after her father passed away. 

Madison Borsellino's story

''Far too often, the constant reminders of my father's death are more haunting than the virus.''