Sports Suspended

Sports came to screeching halt in light of COVID-19 pandemic

By Ben Farrell

On the evening of Wednesday March 11, Utah Jazz starting center and reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert tested positive for novel Coronavirus, and within weeks, almost every major sporting event for the foreseeable future had been postponed or cancelled because of the virus. For some, these cancellations have caused the sudden disappearance of much-loved pastimes. For those whose livelihoods rely on sports, the situation has been far more dire. 

Wide ranging effects have altered the lives of journalists, from dashed coverage plans to lost wages, jobs and health insurance. According to Colten Bartholomew, and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter covering the University of Wisconsin football team, advertising revenue for Lee Enterprises, his publication’s parent company, tanked dramatically as a result of nationwide shutdowns. Executives at the media conglomerate took pay cuts across the board. On top of that, Bartholomew and other full-time employees are required to take two week-long furloughs over the course of the coming months.

Though it is hoped that these spending cuts will keep the publication afloat, Bartholomew remains cautious regarding his future employment. “If things continue like this, or get bad in any way, sports is obviously the first thing on the chopping block, on the local scale especially.” Because football is a fall sport, Bartholomew’s work has remained relatively unaffected by the quarantine thus far. “Lucky for them and me, Badgers players got their pro day in just before quarantine began,” he said.

The University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team and media members covering it weren’t so lucky. WSUM Sports Director, Badger’s Wire and USA Today contributor and Locked On Badgers host Asher Low’s lifelong dream of calling the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament was dashed. “It killed me to do this,” said Low, who is graduating from the University of Wisconsin this spring, “but on March 1, the day the Ivy League canceled, I said to myself, ‘look, we’re not going.’ It’s my favorite event in sports, and that was my last chance as a Badger to call it.”

With Badgers men’s basketball slated for an above-average performance this year, Low felt this could’ve been his single shot at a dream-like run with his classmates on the team. “I bet we would’ve gone to the second weekend too. We were looking really, really good,” he said. Low also detailed the adjustment of  producing current and newsworthy college sports pieces for the USA Today-owned blog Badgerswire, in the absence of meaningful sports news outside of the NFL Draft. “Ninety percent of what we’re putting out right now is the kind of stuff we know will get clicks anyway. Season in-review pieces, Badgers where-are-they-now pieces… but not having March Madness is just a huge adjustment that we weren’t ready for.”

Though media organizations that rely on small markets  are particularly vulnerable, COVID-19 related financial concerns have also led to furloughs at the national level. Mike Prada, former NBA editor at SB Nation, a leading blog in niche sports reporting, received word on April 15 that a three-month furlough, from May 1 to July 1, was on its way. Vox Media, SB Nation’s parent company, made the decision to furlough 20% of its editorial staff in light of COVID-19 related financial concerns.

Prada said the announcement was jarring, but he wasn’t completely taken off guard. “Sometime around mid-February, I began to sound the alarm to friends and family about what it would mean for the NBA and for the U.S. in general, that this was going to really mess things up,” he said. Prada attributed his foresight to the industry he works in. “Well, we cover sports, but this stuff clearly matters. The NBA claims that they were ahead of the curve as the first professional sports league to shut down, but the fact is they were planning before that, so it kind of came across in our work as we were gauging their response to all this.”

As of right now, Prada doesn’t have much to cover outside the NBA Draft. Usually this time of year would be chock-full of playoff basketball. Instead, the season was cut short on March 11. Most teams had played  62 to 65 of t—heir regular season games, leaving the 2020 championship vacant.

The postseason is an extremely important part of the NBA’s season, both symbolically and financially the crescendo at the end of the NBA’s lengthy regular season. To compound these concerns, television revenue from the playoffs is crucial to the league’s financial success. If the NBA does not finish its season, players, owners and executives stand to lose millions. “There’s a good chance they’ll try [to finish playoffs]. This league is all about money, so it’ll probably take some sort of government moratorium to stop them,” Prada said. 

Many in and around the league have discussed quarantining participating players, coaches and staff in a hotel and playing the games without an audience. Prada believes that the season should be scrapped due to safety concerns, even in light of what would be the resulting large-scale losses to both journalism and the NBA. “That model of putting guys in a hotel would be a cruise ship basically, functionally, and as we’ve seen, cruise ships—putting a lot of people in condensed spaces and incubating—have lead to some of the worst outbreaks.” 

The NBA announced on April 25 that they were planning to allow teams to open their practice facilities to players and staff beginning May 1, shifting focus onto when, not if the league will try to finish its season. 

That said, the future schedules of almost every sport at both the collegiate and professional levels remain unclear. Bartholomew voiced concerns about lost revenue affecting play in the future. “If college football isn’t played next year, and since we didn’t have March Madness, a lot of these teams might have to consider cutting programs,” he said.

For now, journalists and fans alike will have to wait and see how leagues worldwide address these issues. Prada, though, perhaps the most well known of the three, was most skeptical about the future of sports journalism. “Probably, we’ll see a drop in the number of legitimate NBA insiders, and a clearing out of the middle, of midsize publications.” Though Prada’s words should be taken seriously, nobody can predict what will happen in coming months. Now comes the waiting.

Food Security

Rising demand, lower donations and higher stakes: How food pantries are keeping people fed during the pandemic

By Molly DeVore

Open Seat has moved their pantry from the fourth floor of the SAC to the sidewalk outside Union South.

A line forms in front of two folding tables outside Union South. It looks like a typical campus event, only there is no one else around and the people behind the table are wearing face masks– these students aren’t selling posters or asking you to sign up for their org, they’re giving out pre-packaged bags of groceries. 

Open Seat used to operate out of the Student Activity Center feeding around 2,000 University of Wisconsin students a month, but COVID-19 has changed everything. 

The SAC, along with all other campus buildings, has been closed. Zoey Dlott, UW senior and Internal Director for Open Seat, said they have started distributing a virtual order form where students can sign up to receive a bag of pre-packaged groceries that they can then pick up outside Union South from noon to one every Tuesday. 

Students are instructed to stand six feet apart from one another and Open Seat workers wear masks and gloves at all times. The prepackaged bags are donated by Second Harvest Foodbank, southwestern Wisconsin’s largest hunger-relief charity. 

In Wisconsin, these food resources are essential as about 1 in 10 households in Wisconsin were food insecure before the pandemic, according to the Wisconsin Food Security Project. However, COVID has led to a spike in demand and a drop in donations, forcing Second Harvest to purchase more of its food directly. 

Michelle Orge, Second Harvest’s CEO, said that in the 20 years she has worked with food banks she has never seen a situation as bad as COVID.

“As food bankers we’re just used to trying to fix everything.” Orge said. “But I don’t know if we’re built for this. It’s pretty big and we’re doing a great job and we’re keeping up to some extent, but it’s gonna take more resources to do what we want to do.”

All Open Seat workers must wear masks.

Second Harvest is a member foodbank of Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization. Feeding America reported that almost all 200 food banks in their network have experienced a spike in demand, yet nearly 60% are facing reduced inventory levels.

Orge said Second Harvest is now distributing more than double the amount of food, despite a decrease in donations. 

Because of this increased need Second Harvest has had to focus all of their resources on their Mobile Pantries. These pantries travel across southwestern Wisconsin, though some days they run out of their pre-packaged boxes before everyone has been fed. Orge said that hearing someone had to be turned away is “the worst possible news.”

Second Harvest is not the only food resource that has had to drastically change the way it functions. Barb Luedke, food pantry coordinator for the Keep, a pantry providing food for local students, faculty members and staff, said they had to move their operations from the basement of Luther Memorial Church to the sidewalk out front. 

The Keep also receives their donations from Second Harvest, meaning they have made the shift from self-selection to pre-packaged bags. 

The Keep gives out 10 lb bags every Thursday afternoon, including non-perishables as well as produce and dairy products when they can get them. So far they have had enough food for everyone who shows up, though Luedke said the situation changes day-to-day. 

“The word is flexible these days,” Luedke said. “Everything is subject to change is the second term we hear so often.” 

Both Second Harvest and the Keep have had to operate with less volunteers as many have been asked to stay home due to their advanced age and therefore, increased vulnerability to COVID-19.

 According to Feeding America, member food banks across their network have shown nearly a 60% decrease in volunteers. Orge said that due to this decrease, Second Harvest has hired 15 laid off service workers as additional temporary staff, another unforseen added cost. 

While some food resources are scrambling to meet the growing need, others have had to stop operating entirely. 

The Campus Food Shed, a student organization working to address campus food insecurity and reduce food waste, had to shut down mid March. 

The Food Shed stocks a fridge in the SAC with unsellable food from Fresh Madison Market and Madison Sourdough. This food is available to any student for free. Now that the SAC is closed, they have had to stop. 

Kayva Ayalasomayajula, a junior at UW and Campus Food Shed team member, said she is worried about the impact this loss of food will have on students, as according to a study published by the College and University Food Bank Alliance, one in five students in the U.S. identifies as food insecure. 

“Many students are out of jobs so they’re more worried about paying their rent than buying fruits and vegetables,” Ayalasomayajul said. “Nutrition is so important for mental health and immune functioning, that’s something that we’re worried about especially because it’s already such a stressful time.”

This rise in unemployment is impacting food pantries across the country. According to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, the number of unemployment applications filed on March 30th was 24,664, more than 20 times the amount filed on this date last year. 

According to Feeding America, this rise in unemployment paired with school closures could result in an estimated 46% increase in the number of  people experiencing food insecurity nationally.

Dlott said Open Seat is prepared to serve this potential increase in hungry students. That if campus reopens this fall they will be able to double the amount of food they order each week.

“The pandemic has impacted everyone in a different way but what a lot of people don’t understand is that the pantry is how most students who use the pantry normally get the majority of their food,” Dlott said. “With people being out of jobs… it makes now even more important than ever that we provide this service.”

Dlott and Luedke urged those who are financially able, to donate money to Second Harvest, and those who are healthy, to volunteer.

Orge said that without their current volunteers and donations they would not be able to stay open. Second Harvest and other local food resources will continue to need this community support, because as Orge said, the demand will not be going away anytime soon.

“Don’t forget about us once this subsides because we’re still gonna be here feeding people and even more people than we’ve fed before,” Orge said, “It’s not gonna be over when it’s over for people who are still food insecure.”

The Media’s Role

Social distancing resistance highlights media’s role and challenges during pandemic

By Haley Bills

A Bucky Badger statue at the Memorial Union serves as an example to Madisonians to wear a face mask.

Nearly every day since Gov. Tony Evers issued a ‘Safer at Home’ order on March 25 I’ve heard my mother struggle with her parents on the telephone over their “inability to follow the rules,” as she would say. “Did you really have to go to the post office when you have a mailbox at the end of your driveway” or “I think you can survive sacrificing the daily bakery trips for a few months” are tidbits from just a few of the conversations I get to look forward to overhearing each day. 

As time in social isolation drags on, I’ve observed a wide array of responses to social distancing orders like those from my parents and grandparents. After talking with Professor Dominique Broassard, the chair of the Department of Life Sciences Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, these differences aren’t due to age according to the data she helped gather on compliance and attitudes about social distancing during the COVID-19 outbreak, which showed little variation across age groups.

Instead, Brossard pointed to issues in the media coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak that could affect a person’s perception of the outbreak and social distancing orders, one of her main concerns being the constant coverage focused on the always-changing numbers and statistics rather than the things community members are doing to help each other get through the pandemic.

“Our projections are based on models, and that means that they’re not certain. They change every day … and the information is very negatively oriented,” Brossard said. “The media could try to focus on what’s happening in communities that are actually coming together to help each other: the stories of the college students that organized to buy groceries for the elderly, the retired healthcare workers that actually came back to offer their service to help the overcrowded local hospital and so on.” 

Coverage like this helps communities to not only think in terms of “doom and gloom.”It brings attention to the many connections a community has, according to Brossard. This type of media coverage helps build community resilience, or a community’s ability to withstand and overcome adversity, like a global pandemic.

Further, coverage that solely focuses on numbers makes the outbreak an issue that feels disconnected or irrelevant to peoples’ lives, an attitude that might hold a person back from taking CDC guidelines seriously. 

“Unless you have someone in your immediate circle that has died of coronavirus, it makes it something that isn’t very tangible. It doesn’t make it real,” Brossard said. “Another way to communicate about it would be to say how many lives you save: ‘Look, distancing yourself saves 100 lives. You may not see it, but you save 100 lives.’” 

Media coverage that uses metaphors to communicate how easily the virus spreads would also be more effective, Brossard said. For instance, comparing the virus to glitter, something that sticks to peoples’ hands and gets all over the place, would help people better understand why they need to wash their hands and keep their distance from others. 

From my own experience, understanding and actually practicing social distancing has seemed to be especially difficult for young, college-aged adults. For instance, my roommate Brooke Lindseth said that she saw several houses near the UW-Madison campus with up to 20 people gathering for “dartys” only a week after Evers issued the “Safer at Home” order.

Though Brossard’s data didn’t show that adolescents disobey social distancing orders any more than any other age group, Professor Chris Cascio, an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at UW-Madison who researches the neurocognitive mechanisms associated with social influence and persuasive health messages, said that adolescents, people who are 14 to 24 years old, tend to make riskier decisions and have greater sensitivity to social influence, which can make social isolation especially difficult.

The neural mechanisms involved in social pain have many overlaps with those associated with physical pain, and Cascio has used these similarities in his own research to show that those who experience more pain from social exclusion are more likely to engage in riskier behavior.

“What would I do if I was a freshman in college and this happened during my semester, how do I think I would’ve behaved? My first thought is that I would actually not stay in an apartment by myself. I would have immediately gathered with a bunch of friends and said, ‘Let’s all live in the biggest house that we can find, and let’s stay put but have some social connections so we’re not so isolated during this time period,’” Cascio said. “It’s just a guess, but that decision-making itself reflects more of an adolescent, riskier decision: more people in one house, if one person gets sick, you’re probably all getting sick.”

Some effective health messages that are targeted towards adolescents, like The Real Cost campaign which aims to eliminate teen smoking, have picked up on the fact that adolescent years are really important for social bonding, Cascio said. One of their commercials depicts a girl missing out on social interactions because she is too busy smoking.  

The coronavirus outbreak creates an interesting situation for health communicators because doing the right thing, social distancing, is causing social pain for all ages, Cascio said.

“One thing they could target is alternative forms of social bonding. So have people meet online with their friends and hang out how they normally would, but everyone’s just at their house,” Cascio said. “I think there’s other ways to socially bond at the moment, obviously mediated, but I think an advertisement that sort of highlights ways in which you can do that and not put yourself in jeopardy might be the key to maintaining social distance.”

Still, there are many people who are unable to maintain such distance due to socioeconomic factors that they cannot control. For people who cannot afford to stock up on a month’s worth of groceries, for example, trips to the grocery store will be more frequent. 

“I think making that a little bit more clear to people because I think people now are starting to get to that point where they’re getting anxiety from staying at home,” Cascio said. “They’re starting to wonder how long is it going to go on for and when the endpoint will be. They’re getting anxious.”

COVID-19 has changed everyones’ lives in some way. While it’s unclear when or if they will return to normal, many look to the news and media for guidance. 

“This is a big communication challenge,” Brossard said. “And I believe the media has a big role to play in helping us get through.”

Far From Home

Far from home: Living a time zone away with aging parents at the heart of the pandemic

By Ben Farrell

Faizan e Madinah Mosque, 715 Coney Island Avenue, Brooklyn

It was a grey March morning in Madison, Wisconsin. I sat, slouched in Helen C. White library “cafe”, kneading the final quarter of that day’s peanut butter Clif Bar in my left hand, trying to gauge the minimum effort possible to earn the ever-illusive AB on a test I had later that day. I opened my email, falling back on procrastination, thinly veiled in productivity. “Updates to Campus operations”, from Chancellor Becky Blank, was the first message I saw.

Though what I read wasn’t entirely unexpected, I was shocked. Classes had been moved online until at least April 10th. At the time, I was dumbfounded. Was this Corona thing really that serious? In just under 48 hours, I had a flight back to New York to see my mother and father. Until that moment, I hadn’t had any second thoughts about going home. But if an institution of this size was exercising extreme caution, shouldn’t I be too?

That same day, my mother, Denise Rinaldo, boarded the subway at Beverly Road near our home in Flatbush, a neighborhood in south Brooklyn. She was on her way to teach a fourth grade english class, help highschoolers locate much-needed books, and keep the general peace in the ever-chaotic library. My father, now retired, sat at home in the kitchen, preparing a pot of coffee, waiting to embark on his daily walk around prospect park. None of us knew it, but that was the last normal day we would have for who knows how long.

Mitoushi Sushi, Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn

As an only child, the focus of our familial anxiety is almost always directed toward my academic pursuits. After I decided not to come home, things felt different. My father suffers from Parkinson’s disease and has poor heart health, rendering him extremely vulnerable to severe infection. My mother, though healthy, is a senior. We are extremely lucky in our relative financial and home security. Even so, my parents have been stripped of their agency (along with everyone else in New York). I’ve never felt more physically secure than them, and so responsible for their wellbeing. This change prompted me to ask a question: How have their lives changed in the past couple of months? I decided to interview in the hopes of answering that question.

On April 22nd, I stepped out of my house, and walked down to James Madison Park. I took my place on a bench, and dialed my phone, “Mom?”

“I hear you’re outside. Is your mask on?” she scolded.

“You’re in New York, not me”

I started out by asking her a simple question: when did it become clear to you that this was really and truly going to affect your life, in a way that other things just hadn’t?

“I realized when I talked to my friend Eileen. She’s 85, and her husband just died. We go to the same dance class, she’s still in really good shape, but she hates being stuck inside. As each thing closed, she got more and more upset and there was just nothing we could do.”

Church of the Holy Innocents, E. 17th Street, Brooklyn

As stores shuttered and the city’s residents fled, my mom said she was looking for a way to do something. For years, a network of thousands of people had built up around her. The unspoken co-dependencies and silent relationships every New Yorker has, from aloof neighbors to the man on our corner who sells watches out of a suitcase, began to fall away. This sea of many individuals, which becomes the unified medium onto which your life cast, can only be seen for what it is when its gone, “I found myself just standing by the train station the other day like waiting for the Q train to come in, just to see the Q train, to help me imagine being with everyone each morning,” my mother said, exhaling.

My father, unsurprisingly, started our interview with a joke, “soon there’ll be kids roaming the streets again. As soon as it’s warm, I bet they’ll be out.” He also made sure to let me know that unlike my mother, he was managing to stay positive, “unlike your mother I’ve been starting to hate the subway. How many times can a man my age be expected to let some dweeb like you cough in his face?”

A goofy seventy two year old, his approach to things both serious and trivial has always been tinged with humor. But, as our conversation continued, a twinge of sadness became audible even through the phone, “Mr. Vincent, our barber, he’s worried. He might be going bankrupt. What can I do? I don’t know. No people, no haircuts, no haircuts no money.”

“I just want to walk down the street and greet people,  say hi to people,” he said almost indignantly, “I’m here with your mom but you know how I talk to people. Now everyone crosses the street when they see me. Well not me… But that’s how things are.”

Mashallah Restaurant, 663 Coney Island Avenue, Brooklyn

In essence, what my father was trying to tell me was this: never before had New Yorkers been defeated like this, “A lot of people draw the comparison to 9/11. To me that’s just wrong. When 9/11 happened, it was this horrendous thing. Then in a week or so, at least in New York, me and the people we knew, we were back to business. We all talked about it, we wanted to help each other as a community, but it wasn’t fear that won the day. Now, it’s just fear. People are afraid.”

The phone line fell silent. My father, like my mother a few minutes earlier, let out a long sigh, “It’s creepy Ben. I don’t know what else to say. I don’t like uneasiness, and that’s what it is.”

After I said my goodbyes to my Paul, my dad, my mom took the phone again, “let me tell you one more story; we were standing outside of this church, on Flatbush, admiring it… and this guy got out of his car and said, ‘want to buy it?’

Obviously, we didn’t. But he was really nice, and you know, socially distanced, he showed us everything about the church. The pastor, this guy, was involved with the black power movement in the 60s or 70s. And he said that Sunday, they were having their last service. And I just in that moment, realized how sad it is that, like, people can’t gather together and like how you take it for granted that you can just, like, go and play Sunday with their community.”

My mother said she wanted to remind me that, as bad as things got in our heads, we need to remember who to really look out for. Who it is that doesn’t feel uneasy, but is uneasy. We exchanged our love, and hung up.

Quarantine Crafting

Creative crafts to pick up while in quarantine

By Abby Doeden

These four crafts are fun ways to distract yourself and have some fun during quarantine.

If you’re like me and need something to keep you active in quarantine other than work or school, crafting is a great hobby to pick up. Whether you coordinate with friends and do a craft happy hour, or turn on a movie and paint a little, these crafts will use up a few hours of your day and give you something to be proud of when you’re done. 

Here are some popular crafts to make while using items commonly found in your home. And if you don’t have these items, you can pick them up at any local craft store doing pick-up orders, or order them on Amazon!

Home Sign

This home sign is a super fun craft and can be adjusted for any state you’d like! This is also a craft that can be adjusted for any piece of wood or canvas you have at home, any paint you may have (I used ceiling paint) and any design you’d like.  

Although I’m a Badger through and through, I’m a Minnesota girl at heart and wanted to make my sign with that in mind. Follow these steps to make your own home sign!

What you’ll need:

  • Printed stencils of the letters and state, sized for the wood
  • Wood 
  • Paint (of any kind – I used ceiling paint and acrylic paint for the MN)
  • Paint brushes or sponges
  • Scissors or a X-Acto knife


String Art

String art is a fun craft to get out stress from a long day and can be adjusted for any picture you want to create. I decided to create a Wisconsin for my string art because I’m hoping to use this in my apartment at UW next year! Follow these steps to create your own string art.

What you’ll need:

  • A stencil of your shape, sized for the wood 
  • Embroidery thread
  • Wood
  • About 200 nails
  • A hammer


Bleach Tie Dye

String art is a fun craft to get out stress from a long day and can be adjusted for any picture you want to create. I decided to create a Wisconsin for my string art because I’m hoping to use this in my apartment at UW next year! Follow these steps to create your own string art.

What you’ll need:

  • A stencil of your shape, sized for the wood 
  • Embroidery thread
  • Wood
  • About 200 nails
  • A hammer



Macrame is a craft that is coming back into style and can be either very easy or very difficult depending on the pattern you follow. For my marcame, I loosely followed this guide and adjusted it for the pot I wanted to use and the amount of string I bought. Follow these steps to make a macrame plant hanger.

What you’ll need:

  • Macrame cord – I used 3mm cord
  • A metal hoop
  • A pot
  • A ruler
  • A pencil
  • Scissors