As COVID-19 spread through our state, so did confusion and concern. People were navigating a complex pandemic in isolation, with heightened anxiety and uncertainty.
In response, WKAR shifted resources and adjusted priorities to launch several new initiatives to help our capital region community and the state of Michigan through these difficult times.
A key initiative was the launch of “COVID-19: Answers and Insight,” a new, weekly public affairs TV mini-series adding context and depth to current issues and events as Michigan responded to the pandemic. Nine weekly episodes were produced and broadcast March 26 through May 20. Series host Shawn Turner, a strategic communication professor of practice at Michigan State and an analyst for CNN, talked with guests from government, education, economic and science sectors, exploring critical questions and sharing viewer concerns.
Episodes examined issues including how Michigan government and other state institution leaders were handling the pandemic to keep Michigan residents safe, resources for seniors in vulnerable circumstances, and the academic and emotional challenges of closing school buildings. Guests included U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin; Brian Calley, president of the Small Business Association of Michigan; Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive of Michigan Department of Health and Human Services; and Samuel L. Stanley Jr., president of Michigan State University and an infectious disease expert.
Episodes were available for online streaming on the airdate (or even before whenever possible) and were also shared on Facebook and Twitter to reach as many Michiganders as possible.
The WKAR production and engineering teams quickly developed a production model for using remote video conferencing technology, such as Zoom, to connect with the host and multiple guests, while maintaining baseline standards for broadcast television. Workflows were adjusted to get digital versions online as soon as possible.
All production roles and in-house facilities were modified to maintain the health and safety of producers, crew and engineers.