I served The Fordham Observer as editor-in-chief during the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. The month of March 2020 began as innocuously as any, but by now you surely know the story — it ended in a completely new reality for everyone.
This included the staff of The Fordham Observer, which, on the day we were instructed to return home by Fordham University, scrambled to put together one last print edition, one day early, to a campus already one-half empty. This is The Observer’s story as I lived it, email by email, message by message, one year later.
It’s natural to sometimes wish for a return to the way things were. But as we forge a new present every hour of every day, reporting with open minds on a changing world, we risk regression by looking back for too long. Allow me — and my long-buried inbox — then, to simply pay respects.
from: Courtney to: me, Observer Staff subject: OBSERVER WORKSHOP TODAY
Happy March, hope midterms treated you well! We’ll be meeting for our usual workshop meeting today at 5:30 p.m., in 140W G74 (again, the room is subject to change, we are waiting to hear back from Student Involvement).
Hope to see you there … we’ll be having presentations from our Social Media and Newsletter teams today!
from: Shamya to: me, Courtney, Gil subject: Newsletter Fliers!
Hey Courtney and Owen,
Gil and I were wondering if we could have these approved and printed?
The top of this email feature highlights for this week, scroll to the bottom for all upcoming events & meetings for the next few weeks!
from: Courtney to: me, Observer staff subject: OBSERVER: NO GENERAL MEETING TOMORROW
Following the University’s programming protocol, we unfortunately will not be having our general meeting tomorrow (3/9). Stay safe, and take care!
from: Evan to: me, Opinions List subject: Write for the April Fools Issue!
Are you looking for a chance to write satirical or humorous pieces for the Observer, or have you before? If so, listen up: we’re putting some extra effort into the issue that comes out for April Fool’s Day, and we’d love to hear your pitch for anything silly, hilarious and witty. Unfortunately due to the Coronavirus we won’t be having a general meeting this Monday, so just email myself, Grace, Haley and Emily with your idea before Tuesday and we can get started!
from: me to: Observer staff subject: OBSERVER: March Deadlines and Contingencies RE: Class Cancellation
Fordham has canceled all in-person events and classes, and students have been instructed to go home. In-person classes and events, according to the most recent information, will resume no earlier than March 30. The Observer is more than equipped to operate normally under a fully remote system.
The Observer’s plan, as of 2:30 p.m. Monday, March 9, is as follows:
Issue 4 will be printed on schedule. Please address all edits sooner rather than later.
Issue 5 will continue as scheduled. If we are unable to return to campus on March 30, we will produce the issue remotely and send it to print, pending the availability of our print contractor and feasibility of effective distribution. Issue 5 will be published online on time regardless.
Interviews and elections will also continue as scheduled, pending administration approval to return to campus and hold events. In the event that we are not able to return to campus for the planned interview day, we will reschedule. As a reminder, applications are due 3/29, and interviews will take place 4/4.
The Observer will comply with the university’s safety measures and only operate on campus after taking every precaution. Contributors and staff, please check your email regularly for updates as The Observer and the university respond to this evolving situation. Expect weekly updates, if not more frequent.
E-Board, be prepared to work remotely, keep your writers updated on section deadlines / initiatives, and present meeting-style section check-ins via remote correspondence. Information for E-Board members about remote meetings will be communicated before the end of the day.
Thank you for your understanding and cooperation. Stay safe, stay informed and stay productive.
from: Courtney to: Observer E-Board subject: TO PRINT @ 3:10 a.m.
We did the damn thing, old school in one night! Thanks all for your help and patience with these last minute university protocols; stay safe and treasure any hand sanitizer you own!
from: <[email protected] via mailchimpapp.net> to: me subject: [TEST] Newsletter Special Edition: The Coronavirus Report
Hello Rams; we hope everyone is feeling healthy and well. There’s been a lot going on this week as Fordham has taken responsive measures to the coronavirus outbreak. We’re bringing you a special edition of the newsletter to keep you informed on how the situation has progressed thus far. The Observer’s website and social media will continue to be updated with the latest developments as they occur.
On behalf of all of us at The Observer, we wish you good health and safe travels.
from: me to: Observer Staff subject: OBSERVER: Adapting to a Remote Semester
By now, you’ve learned that Fordham has canceled all in-person classes and events through the end of the spring semester. If this is news to you, gofollow us onsocialmedia.
Here’s what this means for the rest of the semester:
Though we will suspend print operations effective immediately, we will continue to publish consistently. Keep in contact with your section editors and be mindful of our existing schedule.
Stay tuned for new meeting procedures.
Our general assembly, section breakouts and E-Board will take a new form as we work remotely. We’ll be in your inbox soon for how we’ll continue to keep in touch.
Elections will continue on schedule, albeit remotely.
Stay tuned for how we’ll conduct interviews. If you’ve signed up for an interview slot, that time remains yours. As a reminder: applications are due Sunday, March 29, and interviews will be conducted Saturday, April 4.
This is a historic time, and it is our duty to stay safe, stay informed and record it!
All aspects of this situation are worth analysis and opinion. I encourage you to keep your eyes and ears open for stories that resonate with the Fordham community.
We are in this together.
My inbox is always open for comments, concerns and ideas, as are those of every member of our editorial board. We’re here to help you as we figure out how to best uphold our role as the Student Voice of Fordham Lincoln Center in these trying times.
I can’t thank you enough for your continued understanding and cooperation. I look forward to finishing this semester strong.
from: me to: Observer Staff subject: OBSERVER: Issue 5 and General Meetings
I hope all is well and you’re safely enjoying your spring breaks. We will proceed with Issue 5’s remote production and conduct meetings remotely as follows:
Issue 5 will proceed as planned and publish online. Stories will appear on bothfordhamobserver.com and a special, abbreviated online pdf issue.
The April 1 special issue is off. We’ve made the editorial decision to refrain from publishing this content given the circumstances. The Rubberneck will also refrain from publishing content for the foreseeable future. We’re not against fun, and I encourage you to continue to find the human element and student angle in your writing, but we believe this is the right decision for the moment.
We will resume meeting every Monday at 5:30 p.m. via Zoom, starting March 23. There, you’ll be able to hear from me, E-Board presenters and your section editors.We’ll also have time for questions. We will conduct our E-Board meetings directly after.
Stay in contact. Though we won’t be meeting this week as a whole group, your editors are able to answer any questions you may have in the meantime. We have a lot to talk about, and I look forward to seeing everyone on Zoom next Monday.
Wishing all the best, and I appreciate your continued enthusiasm as we get used to our remote operations. Please stay safe, and best of luck with your classes.
from: me to: Observer Staff subject: OBSERVER: Spring Elections and Interviews
I personally dislike reading emails with the following opening, but know now more than ever that I mean it: I hope this email finds you well.
Our upcoming issues and spring elections loom large. Here are some updates on how we’ll proceed:
Interviews will take place via Zoom. The full invitation text can be found in the Interview Signup Sheet. As a reminder, applications are due Sunday, March 29 at 11:59 p.m. Please join the meeting at least five minutes earlier than your assigned time so that we may allow everyone a full and fair interview.
Speaking of assigned time…
All interviews will be three hours later. Many of us will be conferencing in from different time zones, and we decided that a 4 a.m. call for our California friends was a bit much. Please review the Interview Signup Sheet and confirm that your rescheduled time still works. If not, please select a different open interview slot. All interview times are in Eastern Time.
Pitches for Issue 5 are due next Monday, 3/23. Drafts will be due that Friday, 3/27. Coronavirus is the big story for the foreseeable future, and we will strive to cover all aspects of its impact on our community — at Fordham, in New York City and with every Fordham student in every corner of the world. Your section editors will be in touch with ideas and assignments soon if they haven’t reached out already. Our inboxes are always open to ideas, leads and suggestions!
I am immensely proud of The Observer’s editorial board for their enthusiasm and determination to continue our mission through this unique time. You should think about joining this immensely talented group. Regardless, I look forward to seeing everyone at our first general Zoom meeting on Monday, 3/23 at 5:30 p.m. (and weekly after that).
Enjoy the break, stay safe and keep your ears open.
from: Dorothy to: me, Courtney subject: Website Minor Edit
Hi Owen and Courtney –
Congrats on all your work keeping the paper going. I’ve been looking at all your instagram updates and breaking news stories.
I noticed tonight that the website references your issue 4 on stands as on the top banner I see
If that can be changed to reference the online version of Issue 4 or taken down entirely, I’d appreciate it. Public Safety has been minimizing people on campus so folks can’t get a paper from the stand currently.
from: <[email protected] via mailchimpapp.net> to: me subject: [Test] Newsletter 3/26: Home Work
Owen, Fordham College at Lincoln Center ’21, is editor-in-chief emeritus of The Fordham Observer. He has written for The Observer since September 2017. Serving as assistant opinions editor from January to April 2018, he assumed full editorial duties for the section until April 2019. After serving as editor-in-chief for a year, he now heads up The Observer's advertising team.
Gillian “Gil” Russo, FCLC ’21, is one of The Observer’s virtual vanguards — er, online editors. Previously, she worked as the arts & culture editor and one of the inaugural newsletter editors. Gil is a journalism major/theatre minor who had hoped to write just one Broadway show review before graduation, and although that didn’t happen, she did achieve her new goal to do at least one thing for all 15 divisions of The Observer by then. Other fun facts include that she enjoys dancing and sword-fighting, she can say the alphabet backwards, and she modeled for a French chair catalog one time. gillianrusso.com