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Faith Burling: 'You find your support system'

As a broadcast journalism major, senior Faith Burling has learned how to adapt during the pandemic. When classes first went online in the spring, Faith, her professors and peers learned a lot about how to cover news during the pandemic. At first, they used CNN News Source when they were remote. This semester, Burling and her fellow broadcast journalism students have been able to safely report the news without a mask on by speaking though plexiglass barriers in the newsroom. 

Burling understood how serious the pandemic was after someone close to her became sick with Covid-19. She wants everyone on campus to stay safe, and she believes that if one student does not take the pandemic seriously, it can have a domino effect and get many other students sick.  To cope with the pandemic she has taken many solo drives in her car. Initially, Burling struggled with wearing a mask due to her claustrophobia, but she knew how important it was to stop the spread of Covid-19. Now she is used to her mask and barely notices it. While this semester has been different, she feels it has brought her and her classmates closer together since they are all experiencing the unprecedented times together. 

► Listen to the audio version here.

Kate Robinson: This is Kate Robinson. Today is Nov. 13, 2020. I am interviewing Faith Burling for the William Allen White school of Journalism Pandemic Oral History Project. So Faith, going back to March, what was your initial reaction when the pandemic hit?

Faith Burling: Well, actually when it got really bad, I was in California on spring break and there were like rumors floating around that we were going to get a week off school, like just one extra week. And I was like, OK, I guess I understand because so many people were traveling and it was just very different and I wasn't really expecting it to take that turn. And then when we came back and everything was online, I was like, Oh, I'm stuck at home now. And so, yeah, it was kind of crazy. I think it was definitely a big learning curve because while I've taken online classes before, I wasn’t expecting to just up and move all my classes online, especially when I'm in broadcast journalism. And so when everything went online, it was just kind of like, Oh how are we supposed to do this?

Faith Burling: Especially because we can't go film. We were kind of in like a small lockdown. So we weren't able to film. We had to use CNN News Source, which I guess a lot of colleges were doing, but I didn't feel like I was able to get as great of a, I guess, experience as some, as I expected in a 552 class, like a pretty high class. And so that's kind of affected, like, don't get me wrong. My professor was great, but it kinda has affected how this semester is going, but yeah.

Kate Robinson: OK. Where were you when you first heard the news that KU was closing?

Faith Burling: Do you mean like for the week or do you mean like completely, like we're not coming back?

Kate Robinson: When it completely, we're not coming back.

Faith Burling: I'm pretty sure I was just at my apartment and I was like, Oh so we get an extra week because we're going online. Not because they were just like, Oh, we're going to let it chill a little bit. So probably at my apartment, I was with my roommates and we were all like, what is going on? Yeah.

Kate Robinson: How has this semester with the pandemic been different than the spring semester with the pandemic?

Faith Burling: Well, I think KU has been a little bit more prepared in that case. I've still had classes in-person this semester because I'm in journalism 620, that's my only in-person class. So it's been nice that we've been a little bit prepared and we were able to go, so far, don't want to jinx anything, the whole semester of being in-person and actually putting on shows. It does limit how many volunteers we can have, it seems, because we have to, so we can only have so many people in the studio at a time. But yeah, so that's the big difference.

Kate Robinson: OK. And what has been the biggest challenge of adapting to the changes on campus?

Faith Burling: I think like definitely during the summer, this is going to sound like so goofy, I think. But during the summer, when it was really hot and having to wear your mask, like going up -- everyone's still getting used to their mask. It's kind of different now because I think everyone's grown accustomed to it. But when we were first all wearing it and having to go up the hills, you kind of stunk, but yeah, I think that was probably the biggest challenge. Other than that, I think I've just gotten so accustomed to wearing it ‘cause I have to wear it when I’m at my jobs and stuff like that. I don't think it has been too much to handle.

Kate Robinson: OK. How has your workload changed as a result of the pandemic?

Faith Burling: I think my classes have been so lenient. I'm a double major. So for my practicum, I have just found some papers and watched a few studies take place via Zoom when normally I would spend like 20 hours at the Dole Center. So that's definitely changed it. I think my journalism classes have pretty much stayed the same. I'm in First Amendment and while it's via Zoom, like, I feel like it's a little harder to concentrate, but from what I've picked up, the classes really haven't changed that much. Does that make sense?

Kate Robinson: Yeah. How has your perception of the pandemic changed over time?

Faith Burling: So I think part of it had to do with people that I was around, but at first I thought we were being a little bit overdramatic about it. I think a lot of people thought we were. I was like, you know what? Still better safe than sorry. So I've gone along with it. Didn't like break any codes or anything. Then my boyfriend's dad got sick and he got like really sick and that kinda changed my view on it a little bit. I was careful before, but I think now I'm a little bit more careful after seeing that.

Kate Robinson: Yeah. OK. And how would you say you've emotionally coped with the pandemic?

Faith Burling: Well, quarantine was not fun for sure. I definitely had to get out of the house, but not break any rules. So I would just drive around for hours. I'm trying to -- I'm claustrophobic, like medically prescribed medication for it. And so I would have to get out of the house and drive around for a few hours. Wearing a mask was kind of difficult ‘cause it was so close to my face for it. But I think I've found ways to cope through just like driving around, through I'm watching more TV than I normally do because I used to like, not watch TV at all. But yeah, talking to a lot of people, FaceTiming like that.

Kate Robinson: OK. I know you're involved with a few of these, so if you want to speak on a few of them, you're welcome to, but how has your involvement and J-School organizations, other student organizations, Greek life or other clubs been affected?

Faith Burling: Yeah, for sure. I'll start with Greek life. Greek life has been kind of weird because not everything's in- person, so we're still paying quite a bit of money, but they've lowered it a little bit. So that's nice, but I'm still paying money to pretty much via Zoom everything. And nice thing is that I've been able to keep my job and work during what used to be required events, which has been really helpful, especially with my dad losing his job during the pandemic. So like that has helped me pay for the things that normally I would have struggled really hard to pay for by myself.

Faith Burling: With journalism organizations, we teamed up with the Kansan this election to report it. All our meetings were via Zoom. The only time I saw anyone in person from the Kansan is when one of them came down to the studio to talk about our partnership during a show. So that was kind of like, I got to know them, but I got to know them through Zoom. And yeah.

Kate Robinson: OK. How do you feel about your fellow students’ response to the pandemic?

Faith Burling: Well, I tweeted about it and so I was going to use this analogy, especially at the beginning and still kind of going on. I tweeted how it's kind of like kindergarten and when one kid misbehaves, we all kind of get punished and that's how I kind of feel with like everything going on. So like we're all in close quarters, the people that have online student, or in-person classes. And so being in-person, if one person gets sick in your class, like there's a high chance that like another person is going to get sick in the class and just like cycle in. So that's the big thing. I know that a lot of students that don't have in-person classes have just kind of been doing whatever they want or it seems like that, like, I'm sure there's a lot of people who go unnoticed that are following the rules, but like with the gatherings and stuff, I don't think that's ever going to stop. And people that have online classes only, like I can see why they would just be like, Oh, I'm gonna just do whatever I want because, if I get sick, I'm not gonna miss any classes. It's not really affecting me.

Yeah. That's how I have seen the responses. I've seen both sides of the spectrum extreme, especially with social media. You're able to kind of see that like I have a friend who has hardly left her house and then I've seen like people in huge gatherings without masks and partying it up.

Kate Robinson: OK. And do you have plans to adopt your career or education because of the current situation?

Faith Burling: So I'm actually going to grad school next year. Hopefully fingers crossed. And so my right now job or career path/educational plans, haven't really changed. It'll just depend like what the school does.

Career-wise I think it will be six years until I'm in the field. And I haven't really prepared for that because it's so far away … like in 2019, you could've said, “Hey, there's going to be a pandemic at the beginning of 2020,” and I don't think anyone would have believed you.

Kate Robinson: Right. OK. How do you feel about the School of Journalism’s response to the pandemic?

Faith Burling: I think the School of Journalism has gone really well with the guidelines. Luckily, which might sound kind of crazy, we've been able to take off our masks during shows so that we can use them for our reel, because newsrooms, they still don't have masks on. We just have like barriers between us. So it's like this long stand plastic barrier that we put between the two anchors while they're talking. So that like our mask, I guess, kind of.

But yeah, I think we've done really well limiting, like, the in-person classes, like where they are.

Kate Robinson: Yeah. OK. How has the pandemic changed at the School of Journalism and KU in general?

Faith Burling: For the School of Journalism, I honestly think at least during my classes, we've a lot closer than we have in like past classes, just because we're going through something that like nobody knows anything about for the school or KU. I think it has shown like we are trying to be better. I think it has also shown, like, I don't want to make KU sound bad, but I think it, at the beginning it kind of showed greed of having us still come to class. Still making us pay full tuition, but also like there's prices that you can't get rid of either. So like you went and you lose them. I think it was just -- kind of showed us like with students, like true colors of students, like their caring and levels of care. And, but I think we're also all hitting kind of like pandemic fatigue and kind of just tired of it and want to go back to normal. But it's just like realizing, like to go back to normal, we have to do this very strictly to then go back to normal, hopefully.

Kate Robinson: OK. Do you think there are ways that KU will grow or be better after everything that's happened?

Faith Burling: You know, I don't know. I was actually going to do a story on Greek life and KU during this pandemic because KU is doing randomized testing, which seems to be … like if you're in Greek life, you had a two in three chance of getting picked. While, if you weren't Greek life, you had a one in three chance being picked is what it looked like as my results. And so I think it will change like a dynamic there, if that goes super noticed and continues to be the way it is. I think KU will probably grow a little bit. I know, like at the beginning, we got a lot of, what do you call it? Like backlash, I guess, from the media because of fraternities not paying attention, students in general not paying attention, like stuff like that, getting out and showing up. But I think as it's gone on and until recently our numbers hadn't really spiked. I think it shows that KU, while it didn't seem like they were being responsible, they took the best approach that they could financially.

Kate Robinson: And what advice would you give someone 100 years from now who may be dealing with another pandemic?

Faith Burling: I gotta think about this one. Probably to just like stay strong. Find what comforts you that's not going outside, hanging out with big groups of people. Well, I guess you can still go outside. Don't get me wrong. That's super important. But to find like smaller things that comfort you. I know, like I realized through this, that I kind of just distracted myself a lot of the time. And so just like getting comfortable like that this isn't the first time that's happened. And that we all made it through it. Some of us struggled more than others, but it is possible. And you find your support system. That's super important as well.

Kate Robinson: OK. And is there anything else about your experience with the pandemic that you would like to share or add something that we haven't touched on already in this interview?

Faith Burling: I don't think so. I think we've, I've hit like a lot of it by going off tangents of your questions.

Kate Robinson: OK. Well, this is the conclusion of this oral history.

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