Coverage during COVID-19: How reporters adjusted to the pandemic

Our+reporters+had+to+follow+COVID-19+protocols+in+order+to+cover+football+games+this+season.

BJ McGrane

Our reporters had to follow COVID-19 protocols in order to cover football games this season.

BJ McGrane, Sports Editor

Everyone sees the finished product on Friday night.

The constant live tweeting, the videos from the sidelines, and of course the weekly game stories.

But few quite understand how much work goes into covering a high school football game – not to mention how much more challenging it became due to the pandemic.

Even being able to have a fall sports season is a testament to the work put in by our administrators, specifically Athletic Director Shawn Buchanan, who worked to ensure that we could provide coverage at any game, whether it was at home or on the road.

Sideline access is crucial to our weekly game coverage, as being on the sidelines provides the best view possible for shooting videos and taking stats for each player. In years past, our reporters covering the game were situated on Pascack Valley’s sideline – of course staying out of the way of the team. We had a clear view of the game, and covered the games week in and week out.

Due to COVID-19 regulations, we were required to stand behind the end zones, and could not go past the 10-yard lines on the sideline. These regulations were put into place to make sure we did not get too close to the team, preventing potential spread of the disease.

This posed as a bit of a challenge, as standing behind the endzone made it increasingly difficult to take stats; being far away from the action made it difficult to tell who was getting the ball and how many yards were gained on each play.

In our coverage, precision is key. If you’ve read any of our game stories, it’s clear that we try to be as accurate as possible with stats, accounting for each and every play.

Not only did our awkward positioning have an effect on our stats, but it also affected our usual timely manner of live tweets as well. We do our best to get the correct information as quickly as possible, in order to keep the community updated.

This season, with such a small amount of fans allowed in attendance, our game coverage became increasingly important. Our tweets, videos, and game stories were one of the few ways in which the PV community could follow the action.

Our accuracy and timing became even more crucial.

Although we had some bumps along the way, some facets of covering games this year stayed the same. Primarily, the players and coaches were extremely helpful and cooperative when it came to our postgame interviews. Despite having to stay six feet apart and having to wear masks, the pandemic did not have an impact on our interviews.

Press passes were needed for our reporters to be able to gain sideline access to football games this season. (BJ McGrane)

Nevertheless, we are just as grateful as the coaches and players are for the opportunity to have a fall sports season. It could not have been easy to set up games and practices, especially since Pascack Valley was forced to operate on a fully-remote schedule on more than one occasion during the season.

In addition to our own administration, we have to acknowledge the cooperation of the other school districts as well. Prior to the season, I wondered if other districts may not want our reporters on the field in fear of spreading the coronavirus. But while each of Valley’s road opponents this season did not allow spectators at full capacity, they all still worked with Buchanan to let our reporters onto the field to cover the games.

Entering my senior year – my final year covering football games – I worried that the pandemic would interfere with the opportunity to cover my last few games. Thankfully, we were able to get through the season in a relatively normal fashion, which is all we could have hoped for in a season compromised by a global pandemic.