On the Front Lines
June 3, 2020
Mary Sugden, Investigative Reporter
WREX-13, Rockford, Illinois
BA, Broadcast Journalism 2013
Mary Sugden joined the WREX team in December of 2014 as the evening producer and is now the Investigative Reporter. She grew up in Woodstock, Illinois and graduated from Loyola in 2013. She shares her thoughts on covering the coronavirus pandemic:
Working as a journalist during this pandemic has reignited my passion for the career I've chosen. I'm the investigative reporter at WREX. Before the pandemic, my week consisted of one "day of" story with the rest of the week devoted to tasks like sending out FOIAs, touching base with sources, and developing long-form stories for our investigative team. Like everyone else across the country, COVID-19's impact on my workflow was swift and dramatic.
I'm now turning a story every day from my apartment. Interviews are conducted via Zoom or Facetime. I write, voice, and edit my stories from my kitchen table. The morning and afternoon editorial meetings that gathered our small but mighty newsroom together in one room now happen virtually. This abrupt change has made my day to day incredibly lonely. Newsrooms become family and I'm desperately missing mine. In the first few weeks of the stay at home order, I worked close to 50-hour weeks as our station scrambled to get our arms around this new normal.
It's not lost on me that while I continue to balance a heavy workload, I'm reporting on layoffs, closed businesses, and record-breaking unemployment. I'm lucky to work for bosses who truly care about my mental health and with a team that never hesitates to take on extra work and run full speed toward the chaos.
What I've loved most about being a reporter is that I'm not confined to a desk. I go where the story takes me and connect with people from all of walks of life to constantly learn more about my community. I may not be able to engage with people like I'm used to, but what's important is I'm still able to tell their stories and answer their questions. All eyes are on us.
Viewers are looking to us to provide reliable information and transparency. Now more than ever, we need to get it right. It's a challenge I'm honored to clock in and tackle every day. I've never been prouder to be a journalist and of the work newsrooms across the country and turning out during this pandemic.