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Nicole Asbury: 'I think we're in this for a whole year'

Nicole AsburyAs editor-in-chief at the University Daily Kansan, Nicole Asbury started covering the COVID-19 pandemic at the Kansas City Star at the state legislative level. There was an orientation around breaking news all of the time as she entered into the fall semester at the Kansan and there was an increased pressure because people were dying from the virus. The Kansan had just begun to stabilize, and Asbury was hopeful for an increased revenue stream in March 2020, but COVID-19 cut off revenue streams. Many members of the Kansan’s team had been covering the pandemic’s news since March and were beginning to express they were burned out. Along with this, the news that has been covered lacks authenticity due to having to rely on interviews through Zoom. Asbury mentions that meeting face to face with KU administrators is critical to building source relationships, but now that can no longer happen. However, she believes there are critical conversations happening right now that would’ve not happened otherwise. As a student, she wishes she would have known how much resilience it was going to take to endure a long-term trauma like this.

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Brenna Dillon: This is Brenna Dillon. Today is Nov. 7, 2020. I'm interviewing Nicole Asbury for the William Allen White School of Journalism Pandemic Oral History Project. So going back to March, what were your initial reactions when the pandemic hit and where were you when you heard KU was closing?

Nicole Asbury: Back in March, I had an internship at the Kansas City Star. I wasn't at the Kansan that semester. And so I was reporting in the Kansas statehouse when the pandemic started. And I believe when I heard classes were canceled. I remember when they were like, “We were told you weren't coming back.” Cause you know, there was the extension for spring break and I think I was in Omaha and that happened. And then when I like heard that classes were probably going to be canceled for the rest of the semester, I remember I was at the statehouse and I was by the security guard door and they had stopped letting people into the statehouse at that point.

And so they were joking with me because I had a relationship with a lot of the front guards and like security guards for the Kansas House and Senate. And they were like, “What's going on?” And I was like, “I don't get service. And I'm pretty sure my school is about to cancel classes for this semester. So I'm here.” And I remember when the announcement came in through the email, I was at the statehouse front door and I was like, “I called it” ‘cause we'd been hearing about it all day. And so yeah, that's where I was.

Brenna Dillon: How has this semester been different compared to the spring semester?

Nicole Asbury: You know, since I wasn't at the Kansan and I can't really speak to it, I mean I can speak to like what it was like in the fall before the pandemic. Just in terms of like the shift from me personally, it was weird going from, you know, I was at an internship, too, and I was specifically in the state Legislature. So I was in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic when it first hit in Kansas. And like covering a lot of those government decisions. And so it was kind of nice to just go back to a student focus for me. And especially because I understood a lot of the nuance of what was going on in the Kansas Legislature because I was covering it for the [Kansas City] Star at the time. And so, yeah, it's been interesting since then in terms of every day like structure, though, at the Kansan, it's differed from when I was last at the Kansan in the fall.

And that like, we don't come into the newsroom really that often, and we had to move kind of completely remotely because most of us are dispatching out anyway. And so it was kind of, I don't know, it just was one of those things where we kind of made the call of trying to avoid all conglomerating if we could. And so that's definitely been a shift and yeah, I don't know, this is also just a weird news cycle and an atypical one than we're used to seeing. And so it's felt like we've had a lot of orientation around breaking news all the time, which is, I mean, typically how it is anyway, just because like, you should kind of know as a news reporter, you're going to get a story that morning and you're going to have to file it in two hours and that's just kind of how it is.

But it's interesting because it's so much high, more pressure now because people are dying because of a pandemic. And also like the amount of news that we get right now is so much of whether it's like more people are dying and you have to write an obituary about it versus like the consequential economic decisions that are being made right now, especially in the student field. And just in general of, I mean the consequential government actions, both at the local and state government levels.

Brenna Dillon: What has been the biggest challenge of adapting to the changes on campus?

Nicole Asbury: I dunno, I don't really go on campus that much, so I can't really speak as much to that. KU, I would say, like right now it's difficult to really get -- to find people in the way that you used to because usually if a source didn't answer a call, you just kind of show up at their office and they would be there usually. And so that's like the thing that I think makes it harder is that you can't really connect with people in the same way right now. And a lot of reporting is just so reliant on being intuitive and it's harder to do that when you can't see people face-to-face all the time and even Zoom kind of hinders that. And then in terms of with the Kansan, I would say the biggest obstacle we had is we were just kind of stabilizing a little bit with our financial outlook.

You know, just because we had that whole lawsuit in 2015 when the university was sued by the Kansan. And so like now we've figured out a funding pattern that's sufficient for everyone and kind of keeps everyone like every stakeholder in mind. And then right when we were like anticipating a huge revenue increase, which usually is around March Madness, I mean like the pandemic started and that kind of cut off a lot of the Kansan’s financial revenue streams. And so it's been interesting to hear Gavin, who's our business manager, talk about how he's tried to handle that. For us on the editorial side, our focus is usually just like, just keep reporting the news, and then everything else will follow suit. So yeah.

Brenna Dillon: How has your workload changed as a result of the pandemic?

Nicole Asbury: I would say, I mean, it's gotten significantly more because we have less people usually around, too, right now just because everyone is really wanting to internalize right now because we're all social distancing inherently. And so I think a lot of people want to keep kind of more to themselves right now, but besides that I mean, there's just a lot more stories all the time. And it feels like we're just always trying to figure out what straws, the one to prioritize that day. And so, yeah.

Brenna Dillon: And how has your perception of the pandemic changed over time and how have you emotionally coped with it?

Nicole Asbury: It's weird because when we were first in the statehouse covering it, I remember distinctly I had, everyone else was on spring break, but I was still going to the Kansas Legislature every day. And so I was the one who wrote the story when Kansas first went under emergency declaration. And like when the first person died in the state and at the time I remember the mentality was just like really scary because no one knew what was going on. And we were concerned. I remember the conversations of like trying to contact, figure out how to contact trace, and to figure out how much it's spread in Kansas. And especially because I remember the first death in the state wasn't a previously recorded case. And there had been four positive cases that we know and knew in the Kansas City area at the time or in the state of Kansas at the time.

And so like everyone was trying to figure out how the staff hadn't come out of there and how it had been a community transmission case potentially. And there was just so much scariness over how much it was potentially around and state lawmakers were trying to leave and get out of there because they were worried about other representatives and senators getting infected. And I remember too because I would cover the [Kansas health secretary] Lee Norman press conferences. Lee was having a conversation with Kansas senators about how they needed to take COVID seriously because there was some rhetoric being used by them that the, I think like partially the governor and Lee was concerned about, and this was back in like February or late February, early March and Lee Norman I remember when -- I think it was Senator [Robert] Olson had asked how long we could be expecting to social distance.

And I remember Lee was like, “Oh, probably till February of next year.” And everyone was like, “Are you kidding me?” And it just -- because I think the perception at the time had been like, ‘Oh, this is probably going to end in like July.’ And, you know, I remember like a lot of my friends were like, “Oh, it'll be like a few more weeks probably.” Like the associate news editor, Lucy [Peterson] had gone back to Colorado and she was like, kept telling me like, “Oh yeah, I'll see you guys soon.” Like this will probably blow over in like two months or something. And I just remember always being like, “Guys, I think we're going to be in this for a year. Like that's what Lee Norman is saying. And from a health perspective, that kind of sounds about right.” And so then like, no, I remember when I said that no one at the time wanting to believe me or wanted to hear it.

And we're like, “No, there's no way like this will be done in July.” And I just remember always thinking like “now I think we're in this for a whole year.” And even my partner at the time didn't want to hear that either. And I remember thinking, “Am I crazy by this?” And then as the months like kind of continue to go on, I was like, maybe we might be back by August and be able to be in person and see each other again. But especially in June, I remember when I think Lawrence or Douglas County specifically had flattened the curve and there was about a month or so that we were only at like 63 cases. And so I was starting to feel optimistic of like, “OK, maybe we're figuring this out.” And you know, other countries have kind of stabilized their corresponding pandemic.

So maybe we might be out  of this earlier. And especially because Governor [Laura] Kelly was rolling out the Ad Astra plan to reopen Kansas and Douglas County had been entering phase two. And I remember like when the bars had reopened the explosion of cases that followed suit. And I had a friend around that time who got infected with the coronavirus and I was potentially exposed. And I remember when she started telling me how she was losing her taste and smell and what have you and how all of her roommates had gotten infected. And I was also counting through my head of like, “OK, I might've gotten exposed. Who may I have exposed?” And that's when I realized, too, like the way contact tracing even internally works and how much like this virus just kind of flutters out in populations. And so it was after then that I had like a really, really hard turn back to it.

And I was like, “Yeah, we're probably going to be in this for a year.” And we just kind of have to stabilize and deal with it and maybe longer, but also just because I was also working with Poynter at the time, which is kind of like a journalism think tank. And we were writing about how there wasn't -- there was a critical shortage of syringes, and that was really going to affect people when the vaccine came out. So we should potentially not expect to be back till next July. And I just like every single day, I feel like I learned something new with this whole thing. And it's so interesting how multifaceted this whole thing is, but also just like, I don't know, covering it from a health perspective and hearing like how the Corps of Engineers was involved and also how, you know, health experts were perceiving it. And what have you, you know, it just really, first of all, I think the main thing that I've learned is that we don't know anything ever. And second of all, we're fooling ourselves if we act like we do and even more so, I think like most predominantly it's just that your instinct kind of with these things is always right. And you just got to kind of hunker down and follow the angle that you know

Brenna Dillon: And you mentioned a little bit about covering the pandemic and we talked a little bit previously about the UDK and the Kansan. How has the pandemic impacted the Kansan?

Nicole Asbury: Yeah, from, I mean, a fiscal perspective, I think the Kansan lost, the figure that I was previously given was 45% of its potential operating budget that didn't happen through revenue streams. So that was one of the main things is that the advertisements that I think our business side was looking to get off of March Madness didn’t come to fruition. So that was the first thing. And I remember back in April, even though I wasn't at the Kansan, Student Senate was determining kind of student fee allocations. And even then I was still like, a lot of the people involved in the fee review subcommittee for student government still texts me all the time because I used to cover them. And so they were texting me asking about -- I think the chancellor [Doug Girod] had requested that Student Senate go under a certain point with their fee package.

I remember they had like a huge increase. They were initially expecting with student fees and the chancellor asked them to set it back down to, I think, like, I can't even remember the exact numerical margin that was involved, but the Kansan had just gone from $2 to $2.50 initially with the first proposed fee package. And so I remember I was like listening to this meeting because all the student government people that I still talk to were texting me, like, “Yeah, you got to like come into the Zoom link. It's about to be crazy.” And they had kind of anticipated that I'd be editor-in-chief coming up because they'd heard that I had applied. And so they were hopeful that I would get it just because we used to all be colleagues pretty much. And so I remember during that meeting, like the amount of, kind of work that was happening with some student government people and with Rob Karwath, who's our general manager.

And so we ended up getting our fee instead of like, initially they were going to cut it from $2.50, just down to $2. And essentially we ended up getting it up to $2.35, which doesn't, when you hear that low amount, you probably are like, “Well, you know, I don't understand why that was a big deal,” but because there's like 20,000 students on campus that pay that fee it brings like a significant amount of money to the Kansan and for funding student jobs there. And so I remember that was like a big deal at the time that we restored that and how much conversations that took and also source building that just has happened over the years if -- I think like the Student Senate and Kansan relationship used to be fairly terse, but like two years ago when I worked with Noah Ries, a lot of that kind of started spinning around.

And so I remember, like, I can't remember if it was the chief-of-staff or I think it was Tierra Floyd, who is a wonderful woman and was the first woman of color to be student body president. And one of them had said something like “the Kansan’s saved themselves and we just need to stop acting otherwise.” Like, you know, it was really nice to hear from them of they were very complimentary in terms of saying like, you know, “The Kansan’s really proved themselves to be great journalists and like people who are empathetic to different issues. And so, of course, they're going to sustain themselves during this time” and they really saw the value on us staying around and funding us because they knew, I think at the time, how we were going to be socially distancing for a while. And, you know, all their perspective was like, this is going to be one of the things that makes us feel like campus is normal in the coming months.

Just because it was Zach Thomason who said it, the former Student Senate, chief-of-staff, who said like, “You know, it'll be good to see that things are still happening on campus and provide some sense of normalcy.” And so that was nice at the time. And then in terms of the Kansan shift overall, I mean, like we had a lot of changes that also just happened subsequently because of the protests that were going around in the U.S. and I think like everyone started to take, you know, civil rights a little bit more seriously just because everyone's inside. So everyone is actually having time to like, dedicate to understanding this issue versus like, I think what we saw in 2014 with Mike Brown and Ferguson, there were definitely people who really understood the issues at the time and understood what Black Lives Matter was about, but like, you know, it was still, I think, coming into people's awareness at the time and we hadn't all been able to dedicate as much time to it then I think because we weren't social distancing.

And so it's been good to see that shift, but it also was able to launch conversations at the UDK that I think, like a lot of my colleagues that are people of color on staff, have been wanting for forever. And so it was nice after a few years, like, and honestly very like validating for me, that we could finally be having those conversations in the newsroom. And also that I, since I was editor-in-chief, that I could make sure that they happen. And so I'm just glad that as a result, we were able to make a more racially inclusive environment for sure. And kind of start mandating that that's an accountability issue. Just because I don't know, it was gaslighting for a little bit to like always, you know, first, off we didn't capitalize the ‘I’ in Indigenous, which is like, you know, just, it was AP style at the time.

But I'm glad we had moved that way and same with capitalizing ‘B’ in Black and even more. So I think we set up a community editor position over here just because, I mean, journalism overall at the same time is having a lot of its reckoning with the New York Times opinion section. And oh my gosh, there was like that place in Philly that didn't let the Black reporter cover the George Floyd protest. And so I think there was this whole recognizing overall with objectivity and like how we address diversity and equity. But I just remember while this was all going on, I was like, we needed to establish a position that audits how, or like if we're talking to a diverse group of people and shows the kind of the bias in our own reporting and lens. And so we started that position and it's been so helpful because now we just have someone who their whole job is just going around the community, talking to people about how they perceive the Kansan and the stories we might be missing.

And it's a good accountability standpoint for us. And also just because like, I don't know, it's just been, I think, a good narrative change, too, in terms of now we're not just writing stories that tokenize people as much. I think that was kind of a pattern that I was observing that I was always concerned about of like something would happen. And then the conversation was “Let's talk to all the people of this specific like identity.” And it was just very like tokenizing. And I was thinking about it from my perspective of like, gosh, if someone ever contacted me and was just like, “Yeah, I'm trying to talk to like Latin Americans,” I would feel so like, OK. I don't know. It sometimes just seems like it's a cop-out for people in terms of addressing diversity of while we talk to these people on a, you know, I think it was getting away from having this holistic view of gender representation, like adequate gender representation, adequate racial representation, people with disabilities like should be something that you're thinking about every day with your reporting and holistically with your reporting.

And I think we were just getting into this weird holding pattern of like, “Oh, we did it this one time. So we're going to go interview, back to interviewing singularly White people or ignoring people with disabilities in our coverage.” And I just was like, “I can't do this anymore, and we're not going to do this anymore because it's, it's not good and it's not doing a service to our community.” So that was one of the other things that I think just kind of has been impacted. And overall, I would say like staff morale can be a little low sometimes just because we're all not seeing each other in person. Like when we went in for election night, it was so different because it was nice that we all got to see each other and spend time with each other. And so I think our, like spirits were a little bit uplifted because that social interaction is so important.

And having that space with each other is pretty critical, which is something that I had forgotten about. And so we all get along really well. Like it's a very good environment to be in and everyone's super nice, but it's so hard to always have this upkeep when a lot of the times it feels like you have this nail file that's constantly on your soul because you were writing about people dying all the time, or, you know, like just a lot of the issues that are going around in the university community. And I mean, for me and our -- so my associate news editor, Lucy who I work with, both of us have been covering this since it started in March and haven't had any break or vacation. And so, like, it's just been a lot, I think, internally for a lot of people to deal with. And I know that's definitely going around staff right now of just like, I think everyone just kind of holding out for when this kind of ends, so we can at least kind of get back to some normal mental health state, at least.

Brenna Dillon: How has the media's coverage of the university changed due to the pandemic?

Nicole Asbury: I'm trying to think. I would say overall it's a lot harder to get into KU in terms of like, we also had a new provost that came in and so usually whenever a new source and especially in such a prominent position like that comes into office you know, I remember when Carl Lejuez first started his interim [provost] position. I was the administration reporter at the time. And so Carl and I would like, I just went,  I remember I talked to people around him and I was just like, “What's he like, you know, what do I kind of need to know?” And Noah Ries, I had a conversation about it before I met Carl, and Carl and I remember the first time I went into his office when he first came in, we were able to sit down and talk for like an hour about what was going on at the university.

And at the time had been like the $20 million budget cut. That was a big deal. And so I remember just being able to sit with him and talk things through and kind of, you know, him being able to see my face and understand what I was about and everything. It was really critical to building that source relationship. Same with the KU Public Affairs folks, like Erinn Barcomb-Peterson is usually the spokesperson for KU. And so when her and I met in person, it's helped our relationship a lot and it helps them see that you're like a real person. And now it's hard because we're all social distancing that we can't do that. I think typically I would have set up through the provost executive assistant meeting with provost [Barbara] Bichelmeyer the week that she came in and so that didn't get to happen.

And so there's a lot of like kind of absence that's there that you kind of usually get to have. And I mean, I remember before this pandemic I would go into all the university governance meetings all the time and get to sit in the corner and they would always joke with me after meetings and what have you and tell me what was going on. And like for student government meetings, I always had this policy of, I'm going to wait in the union lobby because there's always going to be some student that comes up to you and tells you what they think has been going on it, or gives you a story tip or like, and so you would end up staying there for like 30 minutes or an hour, just talking to them about things that were going on. And now Zoom, like you can't do that.

You can't stay here or kind of hide in a corner and wait for someone to come find you. So you're missing a lot of the critical story tips that you'd usually get. And especially because people don't know how much they can trust you because they're usually seeing you through a computer screen or just hearing your voice. And so, like, that's been, I think one of the big things that's been a part of KU’s coverage of just like, you're not seeing as much authenticity in it because you don't, I mean, you don't get to connect with sources the same way right now, unless you knew them before, but even more so of like how, the one thing that I've learned through covering KU is how multifaceted this all, all is. And more so of, there's a certain bureaucratic system that they have here, that if you understand it and you work with them on it, they'll start letting you in.

And you're missing a lot of those clues that I think you would usually get to kind of help navigate the puzzle that this school is. And so that's one of the things for sure. And I think just overall KU’s coverage got really critical this summer. And part of that is because Connor Mitchell, who is like the beat reporter for the LJ [Lawrence Journal World], when he was there, like he and I understand very intimately how this institution works. So we were just like at the beginning and August, or no, I think it was like July, just picking at things for days and checking everything. And since we also had state government backgrounds and reporting from that angle of working with the regions, I remember there was like this whole month where we were just pulling every single thing, like straw that we could and writing about kind of what was being rolled out on GTAs and everything.

And then like now it's just like, I feel like we're getting back to kind of a nice little, general tone of what's been going on. And it's, I mean, there's definitely critical decisions that are still being made that are at times kind of skeptical, but you know, we're not seeing as much of the craziness that we were because of how finicky our plan was when we were first returning to campus and how many questions were kind of unanswered at the time. And now a lot of those questions that we used to have aren't really there anymore. And so now it's weird because we're getting back into that mental space where reporting on KU is just -- isn't just singularly about reporting on COVID again, and like how they're rolling out these plans, but also tangentially like we're getting back into the space where we're reporting on sexual violence on campus and have the bandwidth to kind of pick at that issue now. And so, yeah, it's just been weird.

Brenna Dillon: How do you feel about the School of Journalism's response to the pandemic?

Nicole Asbury: Oh, the School of Journalism in response. How did I think that it was? You know, I don't know. I think it's been fine because like here, the professors are very encouraging and very, I would say, I know a lot of the professors here fairly well from the news and info side. And so I understood a lot of their thinking through it. And I don't know, I felt like they've been pretty good about being like, yeah. Do whatever you think is safest for you. Which is pretty good. And before we came back, I remember they put up the video and Scott Reinardy had told me about it, of like how some of the staircases were going to be ‘up only’ and others ‘down only.’ And some of the different, like I would say, mechanisms that they had in place in terms of I don't know, the AC and stuff to make sure that we weren't spreading the coronavirus among ourselves.

So I thought with all things considered, it's been like, it had been pretty good. And I mean, the other thing is, I don't know, a lot of the transitions in terms of like Zooming and safety precautions were things that the Kansan had been doing anyway. And so, yeah, I felt like it's been pretty decent with all things considered. I appreciate how like, here, because they also know you pretty well and how small we are. They are pretty good at answering your questions and are very open with people about what's going on. So, yeah, I haven't had any qualms.

Brenna Dillon: How, how do you think that the pandemic has changed the William Allen White School of Journalism and KU as a whole?

Nicole Asbury: I would say with other students that I know that they're all burnt out right now just from like everyday school pressures and then also kind of covering all of this. I would say, too, I think professors are very, very receptive. I think they always have been, but especially receptive and sensitive to personal life issues that are coming on right now because of the way that this is affecting everyone. It's a weird like community collective experience. And with KU as a whole, I would say a lot of people have really shown since this started a lot of like, I don't know, traits that I don't think would have been there that have just been coming out because we're all enduring a long-term trauma. And so, like, I don't know a lot of the -- like the pandemic has brought out a lot of people's worst stress and anxieties, and it's allowed them like, or not allowed them, but kind of inclined them to feel like they should project that on people or project that in certain ways.

So it's been really interesting to watch a lot of my sources that I work with kind of how they've changed through this. And so that's always been the strangest thing. And also just because like in student government, in particular, I mean, I've worked with a lot of those people for three years. Like the current student body vice president was -- my freshman year I remember I met him because he was like the DA in my residence hall. And so I've seen his whole journey and I've covered his whole journey since he was a freshman. And, you know, when he was first thinking of running for office and everything. And, and so it's also been really interesting to watch his journey through this because Grant [Daily], like before he took over office, had like this huge list of demands and things that he wanted to accomplish were like relative to gender-based violence prevention and other things, and all of that has just flipped for him.

And it's also been interesting to see, like with forces like that. I mean, like with Grant specifically because we've known each other for so long and worked around each other for so long. And I get to see a lot more of -- and I know a lot more of the stresses that he has to deal with because I've covered also that office for years. So I know kind of what the job responsibilities are. And I remember one time I was like, “Well, Grant, like, what are you up to this evening? Like, I haven't caught up with you in a while and I kind of want to know what's going on.” He showed me his task list and it was four pages line by line of things that he needed to do that day. And I was like, everyone really is just going through it right now and how to like accomplish.

And so, and I know it's similar with Strong Hall, too, of like with Public Affairs, like the amount of things that they have to address right now and the task list that's on everyone in governance's mind. It just -- it's hard because we're always -- we're critical of a lot of the decisions that are made and try to be always skeptical and have, you know, kind of be objective to a degree. But also we know all of these people that are making these decisions and we know very much of the amount of work that they put into these things. And so, you know, I think that's been the interesting thing overall is just to see everyone kind of pushed toward this goal of reopening and making KU be upkept, but the amount of like task lists that they're always having to do to, to do that, like, it's really interesting to see how much hours and how much they're dedicating themselves to this.

And so I think everyone just still is in this marathon race, so it'll be nice to see you when everything comes down so everyone can have a break, but yeah, that's how I've witnessed KU change the most of just the amount of things everyone has to address right now, especially the people that are leaders and keeping this institution up and even more so of, I don't know, just how everyone you can tell is kind of terse and still pent up from kind of being cooped up for so long. And so, yeah, it'll be interesting to see how we ever get back to what happened before the pandemic like that kind of community mentality and what have you

Brenna Dillon: Yeah. How do you think KU will be better from everything that's happened?

Nicole Asbury: You know, I think, I think there's a lot of critical conversations that are happening right here that we've not had to have before. I mean, first of all, in terms of racial equality, I think, you know, there are “Strip Your Letters,” too, which is the people over there that are affiliated with that are really, really like in-tune activists. And so I think there's going to be first off, like in terms of equity, there's going to be a huge conversation, Greek life that's still coming. And especially with what we've seen happen through this semester. And so that's like the first thing. And I think in terms of kind of, I don't know, I think a lot of administrators are going to have a lot of pressures coming up in terms of what does the next step look like and how do we move forward? Because a lot of these institutions right now are really struggling financially and KU always kind of has been, or at least in the recent years that I've been here. Because I remember when I first came as a sophomore and started covering administrators into the news side, they were really dealing with losing 26% of their operating budget. And now we're in this mind space where like, “Oh my gosh, we have a $48 million estimated shortfall in revenue that has to be made up. Both in our unions -- ’ Because like the Union is a separate LLC of the, of KU and in Kansas Athletics and everything. And so we're going to lose a lot of, I think our tenured faculty that will take buyouts, but also, and I think that'll be sad because they have a lot of institutional knowledge that they bring to these -- this university. But even more so, I mean, like, it's just going to be, I think institutions, unless they got some bailout from the federal government, you know, are really going to be struggling.

And so I don't know what that resolution looks like, but whatever is going to happen. I mean, these next few years are going to be really, really critical for administrators. And what have you, because I mean, they're going to have to find a way to make up for that shortfall and we're going to lose, I think, and we already have locked that, or I don't know like we're already losing a lot of tenured faculty that, if they weren't lost in the budget cut from two years ago, are going. And so if you have the sources that I've worked with for years, that really have upkept this place, are, you know, taking buyouts and what have you. And so I don't know, that's going to be a huge, huge shift here in terms of how they operate. And also a lot of the people who really have taken time to make this place what it is aren't going to be around anymore. So it'll take like a new kind of generation of people from KU, I think.

Brenna Dillon: Yeah. Last question here for you, Nicole, what advice would you give someone 100 years from now who may be dealing with another pandemic?

Nicole Asbury: I would say you can't expect anything. And you know, I think it's important to stay on your toes all the time. And I mean, I think journalists, in general, should have that mentality of like always, you know, anticipate you potentially being wrong about something. And you're like, think about everything and understand that you don't always know anything. And especially in cases like pandemics, when it's a new strain of a virus or disease, everything can consistently change. I would say the one thing that I wish when this had all started that I knew was how much resilience it was gonna take and persistence because of how long this was going to be drawn up. And I also wish that someone would have, like, told me at the time that a lot of like anger is projected insecurities because I think, you know, I had a lot, everyone is so much more terse right now.

So you have a lot of people who can be more short with you. And so I think the other critical reminder that you know, I was told when I first got into journalism was that it's not about you. And that even goes with sources being upset with you. ‘Cause I also remember when I was covering in the Kansas Legislature, the Kansas Department of Labor website had been crashing because of the unemployment rates. And so I would have people and I still get them now emails of people upset with me because they don't know how to file for unemployment right now.

And they felt like I wasn't providing sufficient information over it, and so that was something that I was like really high anxiety for me when this started because I was like, I have people who are emailing me upset all the time. And it's just remembering everyone's really upset right now because this horrible thing is happening. And so I think in those horrible circumstances, remember like people being upset with you, it's not usually about you. And most importantly, I don't know, just expect the unexpected and understand that you're going through a long-term trauma. So a lot of your behaviors are going to be different.

Brenna Dillon: Well, this is the conclusion of this oral history.


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