One year ago when I just came to the US for a one-year fellowship I had a lot of plans: travel across the country, attend various conferences, meet new people, and of course built strong network that I hoped would help me in the future. A lot of these things turned out not to be possible. But when someone asks me if I regret that I received this fellowship exactly in 2020, I say: “no”. 2020 was full of unbelievably interesting political and social events in the US and as a journalist I had many a great opportunity to witness them.
I have been serving at Voice of America as a TV-reporter in Washington, DC. I remember the first news about the coronavirus in China – back then no one could have thought that it would have such far-reaching effects all over the world. One of my first video-stories was a report about how people in Washington, DC were reacting to news about virus, whether they were afraid or not and what measures they would take. I asked people on the streets and almost everyone told me that it was not a big deal, that the virus is far and there are no cases in DC. After one month, on March 13, the American capital already was in lockdown: no restaurants, no museums, no gatherings, no fitness clubs and even no shopping – only essential services, such as grocery stores remained open.
Voice of America also transitioned into remote work. Only essential workers remained in the main officer for broadcasting purposes: 2-3 people in each service (tv-host, line-producer, and sometimes the editor of the program). All reporters and cameramen worked from home, only sometimes meeting at particular locations to film something. Working remotely as a reporter was an absolutely new experience for me, but thanks to that I developed a new skill – I started filming video stories using only my smartphone. No cameraman, no heavy equipment, and most importantly– no additional risk of contamination (many subjects of my video reports asked for our film crew to be as small as it is possible). At the end of the day, when the lockdown was lifted and the summer season eased restrictions, I continued to film my video stories by myself – becoming a multifunctional reporter.
I witnessed and covered the Black Lives Matter protests, attended the March on Washington when thousands of people gathered at the Lincoln Memorial to call for justice and racial equality honoring the 57th anniversary of the legendary March of Martin Luther King Jr., covered the pre-election process and was near the White House when, on the 7 of November, it was announced that Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States. I saw people crying tears of joy, beside themselves with joy celebrating the victory of their candidate, and later in the evening listening to his speech near the White House hoping that their country will overcome massive political and economic hurdles. Unfortunately, I also witnessed sad moments of American political life when hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol. Yet still, for one journalist it was an unforgettable feeling – to be in the center of the news that was being talked about all the world over.
So no, I don’t regret that I got my fellowship in this time, in this year. It is weird, sometimes crazy, but very interesting – and what else is truly more exhilarating for a reporter?