Pizza is served, plants are flourishing — but a pumpkin isn’t doing so well

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Many people in public media are still staying away from their offices, but those venturing in are sharing photos on social media that give exiles a peek into their old spaces.

The newsroom at WPLN in Nashville, Tenn., buzzes most election nights, with 12 staffers on deck. But the night of the Aug. 6 Democratic primary, four employees wearing masks worked in separate offices, said editor Chas Sisk.

Sisk still followed through with the tradition of a pizza order — an opportunity to “normalize” the situation, he said.

“We can do some things for ourselves [to] make it feel like, okay, this is still election night,” Sisk told Current. “It’s still a big night for us.”

Sisk tweeted a picture of politics reporter Sergio Martínez-Beltrán as staffers were about to dig in.

“This pandemic has been horrendous but there’s one positive thing: My editors have decided to do the right thing for the first time since at least the 2018 election,” Martínez-Beltrán said in a retweet. “They bought pizza. Not any other food. Pizza. Period. Thank you Jesus.”

Staffers at public radio’s Here and Now, produced at WBUR in Boston, can confirm that their office plants are in good health. When Associate Producer Ciku Theuri sent colleagues a picture of the plants, her co-worker Ashley Locke, also an associate producer, tweeted the photo and said the update was a “moment of joy.”

Theuri has been going to the office periodically to direct the show since the office went mostly remote in March. It’s eerie, she said, with only five or six desks spaced far apart.

She’s not surprised that the plants are getting the necessary attention. The show’s team is “very good about taking care of each other in that way,” she said.

A pumpkin at WAMU in Washington, D.C., has not fared as well. After four months away from the office, Audience Producer Alex McCall went to the newsroom to pick up items from his cubicle. He tweeted an image of a decaying Halloween gourd on a co-worker’s desk, a reminder of how long the pandemic has lasted. (Though presumably, the pumpkin already had some age on it in March?)

“WAIT EVERYONE, this is what’s left of a PUMPKIN that was sitting at @mtmarch’s desk,” McCall tweeted. “I’m laughing so hard.”

“That pumpkin is a metaphor for 2020,” tweeted WAMU host and reporter Esther Ciammachilli. “It rotted away unblinkingly as the world shutdown.”

The pumpkin’s owner, Digital News Producer Mary Tyler March, told Current that the pumpkin and a desk plant were perfectly healthy when she was last at the office. She would have taken them home if she’d known how long the pandemic would be keeping her away, she said.

March said that she was happy to return and pick up possessions on her own visit to the office.

“It was a fun surprise to come back to it last month and be like, oh, I have a whole bag of Easter candy,” she said.

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