The Weekly: Campus Editor Joanna Hou and City Editor Shannon Tyler talk Week 4

Mika Ellison, Audio Editor



In this week’s episode of The Weekly, Campus Editor Joanna Hou and City Editor Shannon Tyler talk Week 4 of Spring Quarter and mentally balancing being journalists and students, as well as their experiences covering a crisis near campus.

MIKA ELLISON: Content warning: This podcast contains mentions of gun violence and death.


MIKA ELLISON: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Mika Ellison. This is The Weekly: a podcast that breaks down our top headlines each week. This week, I spoke with Campus Editor and Medill sophomore Joanna Hou and City Editor and Medill sophomore Shannon Tyler about the past four weeks.

MIKA ELLISON: ​​Thank you both for being here.

SHANNON TYLER: Yeah, thank you.

JOANNA HOU: Thank you for having us, Mika.

MIKA ELLISON: Can you tell me what your role is at The Daily?

JOANNA HOU: I’m Joanna Hou. I am the campus editor at The Daily, so I follow all of the campus coverage including University news, administration, faculty, grad(uate) students and undergraduates.

SHANNON TYLER: I’m Shannon Tyler. I am the city editor and I follow all things Evanston community, local governments, local schools, anything and even Chicago and statewide issues.

MIKA ELLISON: I sat down with Joanna and Shannon as they continued to cover the events of recent weeks, including reporting that had an impact on both beats. Last week, one young man was killed and two boys were injured as the result of a shooting on Clark Street Beach. Nearby, Northwestern issued a shelter-in-place order. Joanna, can you describe what happened in the newsroom that night and in the hours following the order.

JOANNA HOU: So when Northwestern locked down, we were in the newsroom trying to produce for our Wednesday print (paper), which we typically print on Sundays and Wednesdays. It quickly crossed my mind, once Northwestern released an official lockdown (announcement), that I would probably have to brief it. Just because as campus editor, if there’s something like this on the university grounds, it’s probably my obligation to do that. At first, that made me feel twisted. I was like ‘There’s no way that this is the third thing that came to my brain.’ I think in my brain, before even I was like ‘Maybe I should text my parents,’ I was like ‘Oh, maybe I should go ask if this is something that needs to be briefed.’ For the next hour, I was in a room with a couple of other managing editors. We were refreshing Northwestern’s Twitter, email, EPD (Evanston Police Department) Twitter, just kind of on a loop, and throwing the device between ourselves, like my Mac was being thrown everywhere.

SHANNON TYLER: Something that I just struggled with: fight, flight, or freeze? I freeze a lot. So I just had no thoughts of like what to do. What next? There was just a lot of misinformation floating around as that does happen with lockdowns and things like this, where there’s just not a lot of information coming out. So I think that it was also very difficult to sort through.

MIKA ELLISON: The Daily did release a brief that was updated throughout the night. The shelter-in-place order was lifted shortly before 10:00 p.m.

SHANNON TYLER: Once (the lockdown) was lifted, and we really found out what was happening, that night, we stayed and talked through everything, like what does our coverage need to look like? We were told that we had to put out a paper the next day, the next night, for Friday morning. So then we thought about well, what do we do with seven pages that we need to fill? How do we best cover this? How do we do this? Because I think that we really, really struggled. And we – we had these difficult conversations.

MIKA ELLISON: The Daily’s print paper, which included articles on the shooting, Northwestern’s response, and community experiences during the shelter-in-place order, was printed that Friday. All of the reporting for the issue happened between Wednesday evening and Friday morning. The Daily did not immediately reach out to the victim’s families out of respect for their loss. Joanna and Shannon both discussed the conversations they had about balancing coverage and the compromises they came to while in the newsroom.

JOANNA HOU: We had to really come out of our individual bubbles. I think we do mostly focus on being trapped in the campus bubble, being trapped in the city bubble. And that day, it was just figuring out the best way to balance both.

JOANNA HOU: There were a bunch of ideas floated, like first we were just going to kind of roll with the print paper that we originally had and try to write a couple of stories and we were like, ‘It feels insensitive to put like anything else on this print paper.’ And I think, obviously, there was this added layer of, because it happened within inches of our campus, suddenly, this was like a way bigger priority for all of us to cover. (We thought about) how much will centering campus impact the way that people perceive us as a newspaper? How will that impact our relationships with the city? And I think there were probably mistakes made in there. But I think also just in the moment in time, the realistic thing that it came down to was, we had stronger networks on campus to be able to source faster (and) we had people who were more comfortable reaching out to us and talking to us on campus. I think also we wanted to be very respectful of the family, (of the victims) and we didn’t want to produce any coverage on city that didn’t include or have the perspective of those family members. What we landed on was ultimately a compromise. And I think we all compromised with the understanding that we didn’t have a perfect solution at that point in time.

SHANNON TYLER: I would say we definitely told the campus story and what was going on that night on campus and definitely want to talk about our decision with how to be respectful during a really painful time. Because as student journalists, and just journalists in general, we can be really extractive of the community that we report on. And that was something that we couldn’t do morally, ethically, as people. So yeah, definitely would just echo that, like, a lot of tough conversations, a lot of reflecting. And it didn’t just happen that night. It’s still been conversations every day since about how is our reporting looking, (and) reflecting on how we even report other incidents of shootings or violence or things like that in the city.

MIKA ELLISON: Both editors spoke about the difficulties they faced with balancing coverage between city and campus desks while still being able to produce material for the paper.

MIKA ELLISON: How did you balance your roles as desk editors with your personal student experience during that time?

SHANNON TYLER: We had a lot of support and help from our managing editors, our EIC, our design team. Everyone was really supportive. While I do want to say we are student journalists, and we are learning, we do have the same responsibility as journalists in the field and in professional newspapers, so the balance is hard. But it’s something that we have to take on, and we have to take on responsibly. And it’s a continued conversation. I think it doesn’t just end when we publish that first story.

JOANNA HOU: I think I almost struggled to answer the question at first, because I didn’t necessarily handle balancing the two well. I didn’t go to classes, the entirety of Thursday. We spent the majority of Thursday trying to report and gather questions from admin(istration). (I’m) still trying to get caught up on everything right now. But I would definitely echo with Shannon saying I had so much amazing support, especially from the two campus editors who are now managing editors.

MIKA ELLISON: How did coverage of Wednesday affect your mental health?

JOANNA HOU: I think in the past, The Daily has created a kind of a culture where people feel like they have to stay for very long periods in the night. I think having new assistants, we are really trying to guide them to set really healthy boundaries for themselves. And I think for me, just coming in knowing like the detriment that this role can take on some people’s mental health, it was so much more important for me to be flexible with people pushing stories, be flexible with myself. One of the greatest things about being a desk editor is now I don’t have to ask people for permission to push my stories. I just move them around my budget. Without a mental health and like without physical health and like just being well, there’s no way that we would be able to even remotely try to cover what we are covering.

SHANNON TYLER: It’s really is truly amazing to have some guidance and people who were in the position able to support you. (In terms of) support for reporters and everything, that looks like making sure that reporters can come to you with any sort of issue or question or communication, they feel comfortable pushing stories and everything. So I think that I’ve tried to relay the support that Vi and Avani (former city editors and current managing editors) have given to me onto my assistants and reporters.

SHANNON TYLER: Your mental health should be most important. So you should be able to take a break, you should be able to not work yourself so hard that you can’t focus on school or can’t even have fun.

MIKA ELLISON: If you could give one or two pieces of advice to the next person to have your job, what would it be?

JOANNA HOU: I think you have to really prioritize your needs. For example, like, sometimes I’ll just be like ‘I can’t finish this reading assignment, I’m going to bed.’ At the end of the day, we’re student journalists, we obviously want to have an obligation to our communities. And we do try really, really hard. But placing that level of pressure on someone is never humane. Additionally, like increasing that pressure on yourself, like, it just has never ended well, for anyone who’s done that.

SHANNON TYLER: I think that kindness and understanding are two values to just keep in mind always, for everyone; with sources, with reporters, with assistants, with managing, with EIC. Both of those things, I think, will go a really long way. Noon always gets really stressful for me because that’s when I open my budget in the day. And I’m like ‘oh, no, I don’t have any stories for tonight.’ And then I get a little frantic. So that’s the time where I have to remind myself, kindness and understanding for all of my reporters because they’re all basically the same age as me. They have classes, they have everything. So just understanding when stories need to be pushed, understanding when sources don’t get back, because something that we’ve just repeated is that it’s not the end of the world. It will be okay.

JOANNA HOU: Not trying to kind of compare yourself to other people, like for me this quarter, I’ve just like not opened anyone else’s budget. I want to look so bad, and be like ‘Oh, what’s happening,’ and I’m not opening it. Because as soon as I do like, ‘Oh, well, this person has X amount of stories. And I don’t have that right now.’ You just don’t even want to open that door for yourself. Comparison is like stupid game. And you know, everyone’s working super hard. So you’re deserving of it and take care of yourself.

MIKA ELLISON: I want to wrap up with something a little lighter. What’s one thing you like doing outside the newsroom to destress and what’s something you’re excited for this quarter?

SHANNON TYLER: I like to swim. I like to be outside as well. Sorry, that’s two things. But swimming is my exercise of choice. That’s what I grew up doing. And just being outside. Love hammocking. I love seeing all of the stories that I don’t come up with, that reporters or something or community members come up with because they’re always super unique. I just love seeing what’s happening. I love seeing the news.

JOANNA HOU: I love running. I guess I’ll do a second one too. I love playing the piano. I literally joined bands so I could get practice room access with my Wildcard. Like Shannon, I’m so excited for the weather to be warm. I’m just so excited to edit outside, get a picnic blanket and put it down on the beach and hang out with my assistants. I love my assistant team so much. And I think it’s gonna be a fun rest of the quarter. There’s a lot of stuff that’s coming up for Asian (Pacific) American Heritage Month and stuff too, that I’m really looking forward to.


MIKA ELLISON: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Mika Ellison. Thanks for listening to another episode of The Weekly. This episode was reported and produced by me. The audio editor of The Daily Northwestern is myself, the digital managing editors are Ava Mandoli and Erica Schmitt and the editor-in-chief is Alex Perry. Make sure to subscribe to The Daily Northwestern’s podcasts on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or SoundCloud to hear next week’s episode on Monday.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @MikaEllison23

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