As a television news reporter, Andrew Donovan ’12 is covering the COVID-19 outbreak on a daily basis, and he’s doing so with a local focus at NewsChannel 9 in Syracuse, N.Y.
“Local news is more important now than ever,” he says, noting that what’s happening in New York City is not the same as what’s going on in Central New York. “It’s a different picture in every community, and people want hyper-local information.”
Donovan and his colleagues are continuously tracking numerous statistics for each county, including how many COVID-19 tests are available, needed and conducted, and how many people have tested positive, have underlying conditions, are in critical condition and have died. On top of all of those numbers, “the story changes every minute,” Donovan explains. Where a typical news cycle lasts for two to three days, “the coronavirus story changes by the hour,” he says.
To stay abreast, Donovan attends daily briefings by Onondaga County Executive J. Ryan McMahon II at the Oncenter at 3 p.m. and then reports live from that location for the 4 p.m., 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. news. At one of those local briefings, inspired by the popularity of an uplifting tweet he posted about a coronavirus survivor, Donovan asked McMahon, “What’s the good news?” That query quickly became the final question asked at each briefing. “In these uncertain and scary times, a good piece of news from the community can help people get through their days,” says Donovan.
A political science and history major at HWS, Donovan has been with NewsChannel 9 since 2013. While he reflects that the coronavirus pandemic is likely to be the biggest story of his career, he acknowledges that the logistics of the job have become challenging.
His days start at home with a Zoom meeting with his newsroom colleagues. Equipment must be continually disinfected and sanitized. In-person interviews are conducted from a social distance of 6 feet, while remote interviews use video conferencing platforms.
Donovan has covered a range of stories during the pandemic, including the chemical deep cleaning of an office building, the recovery of a 20-year-old student who was infected with COVID-19 while abroad and accounts from doctors, nurses and first responders. He was the only reporter granted access to the undisclosed location of Onondaga County’s emergency stockpile.
“I’m grateful to be asking questions and researching what people need to know in Syracuse and sharing stories of the heroes on the front lines,” he says. “I’m honored that the people of Central New York trust me and my colleagues to bring them information that can literally save their lives.”
Follow Donovan on Twitter and look for the hashtag #GoodNews.