Thais Ackerman and Nick Wooten are just two Mercer University Center for Collaborative Journalism (CCJ) alumni who are covering the COVID-19 pandemic in the newsroom.
Ackerman graduated from Mercer in 2019 with a major in journalism and a double-minor in Africana studies and media studies. Since graduation, she has been a digital content producer at 13WMAZ in Macon. Her current day-to-day tasks include sending alerts and updates about the virus, as well as live-streaming government press conferences on social media.
Ackerman, like many others, is now working from home.
“Every day we expect the unexpected,” she said. “In a short amount of time, almost the entire newsroom has shifted to remote work. It is difficult to make the change from a collaborative space to working at home alone.”
Though it is challenging for anyone to be fully prepared for this new reality, Ackerman said she has been able to lean on skills she learned at the CCJ to ease the transition. For example, her experience with phone interviews has proven useful at a time when in-person interviews aren’t possible.
Wooten is a 2017 graduate of Mercer, with a double-major in journalism and Southern studies. He is currently the Southern trends and culture reporter for McClatchy’s South region. He is based in Columbus, Georgia, at the Ledger-Enquirer, but his work also appears in The Telegraph in Macon and The Sun Herald in Biloxi, Mississippi.
Wooten is responsible for McClatchy’s daily coronavirus updates in Georgia. He said his reporting looks a lot different right now; he spends many hours making maps, viewing spreadsheets, on phone calls with state politicians and health officials, and writing.
Reporting is a skill you build on every day, he said, and some of his opportunities at Mercer have been good stepping stones.
“I was involved with the University’s student newspaper, The Cluster, where I served as editor-in-chief my senior year. I did some writing for The (Macon) Telegraph, and I also had several journalism internships,” he said. “You learn lessons every day. All of those lessons build up, and they help when you cover something like this.”