BALTIMORE (WJZ) — As WJZ strives to bring you the most accurate, up-to-date information about the coronavirus pandemic as well as other news in the Baltimore area, we’ve had to make a few changes to the way we do things to ensure the safety of our staff.

Business is anything but usual; the usual buzz on Television Hill is significantly lessened as nearly two-thirds of WJZ’s staff works remotely.

A view from the WJZ assignment desk of the newsroom. Reporters and photographers, along with nearly two-thirds of station staff, are working remotely due to the coronavirus.

“I think as we progressed through last week, we knew we had to take action, and it couldn’t wait,” WJZ Vice President and General Manager Audra Swain said in a remote interview from her home.

Despite the risk, the newscasts must go on.

“We all got into this profession as a public service, which is why the less people we have exposed to our building, the more likely it is that we can continue to broadcast the news and give people in the community the information they need,” Swain said.

Sales, finance, digital, information technology and creative service department staff are all working from home. Reporters and photographers, meanwhile, meet outside the station to pick up and drop off essential gear.

The precautions continue when heading out into the field.

WJZ reporter Rachel Menitoff files a story from the field. Reporters and photographers are working remotely due to the coronavirus, while other staff, including sales and digital, are working from home.

“We have to really change the way we do our workflow,” reporter Paul Gessler said. “Eric our photographer is over here, he’s keeping his distance.”

Interviews have gone from up-close conversations with a small, clip-on microphone to more of a “press conference” style with a microphone on a stand and reporters and photographers several feet away.

“We’re trying to keep a lot of distance,” Gessler said.

For those in the building, social distancing is now a common practice. Newscast producers and directors are keeping a safe distance from each other while putting together the elements you see on-air.

WJZ anchors Denise Koch and Rick Ritter open the 5 p.m. newscast on Monday standing on opposite sides of a monitor. It’s one of a number of social distancing measures WJZ staff are taking to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The changes even extend to what you see on-air.

“We can move the anchors to different parts of the set and still give the WJZ feel to a newscast but keep that social distancing, six feet apart,” WJZ Assistant News Director Mitch Friedmann said.

The steps are all precautions to make sure we can keep bringing you the news when it matters most.

“The more we can inform the public, the better chance we have of getting in front of this thing and having the impact be as minimal as possible,” Swain said.

Sean Streicher

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