The prevalence of presidential news conferences, state press briefings and around-the-clock coronavirus coverage show the COVID-19 situation is vastly evolving. Boston University alumnus David Charns is working to condense and summarize that reporting through a video project called “Coronavirus Daily.”
A broadcast journalist, Charns produces a 60-second video nearly every weekday from his home in the Greater Boston area, posting the segments on five different social media sites. He said his videos have received several thousand views in total over five weeks since his first production.
Charns, who graduated from the College of Communication in 2010, said his inspiration for the project came from the overwhelming nature of the virus and how media outlets are covering the situation. In an effort to keep up, he said he felt an urge to collect and simplify each day’s events into quickly consumable and accurate information through a visual medium.
“I’ve been trying to find a way to… share the news without it feeling monotonous and scary,” Charns said in an interview. “I would see the stories on Facebook and Twitter and read the newspaper, and it was coronavirus overload. I felt that we were standing on the beach watching the tsunami come at us, and there was nothing we could do.”
“Coronavirus Daily” is published each night on Charns’ various accounts, including TikTok, an application where he reaches younger audience members and where Charns said he has received the most engagement with his content. As a reporter for 11 years, Charns said that a generational shift in media consumption signaled a need for a news program to reach several age groups.
“The majority of students are getting their news online… and I think that, by doing what I’m doing, I’m filling in a need,” Charns said. “It frustrated me that we’re living in this dichotomy where we have TV and newspaper and traditional journalism in one way, and digital streams in another.”
Circulation through social media, however, poses an inherent risk, Assistant Professor of Emerging Media Studies Chris Wells said. While major media conglomerates post reputable content through social media, he said other unchecked sources could degrade that medium.
“I think people are spending a lot of time on social media, partly because they’re cooped up at home,” Wells said. “What I don’t know is how people’s perceptions of information are changing and whether or not they’re trying to go to more and more ‘reliable sources’ in their news seeking.”
Alexis Shore, an master’s candidate in the Emerging Media Studies Program at COM, said she noticed the homogenization of news correspondence in the past month, as the spread of the coronavirus increased. By targeting audiences using social media, Shore said she believes “Coronavirus Daily” reflects how society is evolving and consuming media.
“I think the most prominent thing is that [the coronavirus] is all the media’s covering. Before the pandemic, you had a variety of different topics being covered in news every day, whether it be about technology or politics or opinion pieces,” Shore said. “[The show is] putting [information] in a language that everyone understands, rather than having it… dumbed down in some other cases.”
Shore said constantly consuming coronavirus-related news can be mentally draining and harmful, a problem she thinks could be simplified through Charn’s work.
“If I were to look at the news all day, I would definitely be driven crazy, it’s not good news that’s going on,” Shore said. “But [I’m] trying to find that balance, staying educated without being put into this rabbit hole of very depressing information.”
As a means of educating, Charns works for “a couple of hours” each day, composing a script after viewing national and local news online. At the beginning of each installment, Charns cites the recent case statistics in the U.S., accompanied by statements made by the White House and stories from suburban cities in the country.
In a time of uncertainty — career-wise and healthwise for many Americans — Charns said that continuing to work as a journalist is more important than ever. With the focus on daily reports, Charns said he believes there is still coronavirus-related news to be investigated and that personal accounts are vital.
“We’ve all been affected one way or another, whether or not we’ve had [the coronavirus],” Charns said. “And at this point, I think everybody or mostly everybody has a story to tell, whether or not they want to share it.”