The Badger Report: Working Together While Staying Apart

The Badger Report logo, the letters b and r in a red circle, over an aerial photo of the Madison skyline

Students in J425: Video Journalism know a thing or two about working as a team. Throughout the fall semester, the class collaborates to create The Badger Report, a biweekly half hour streaming newscast. This year, students’ teamwork is being put to the test as the class has transitioned to remote instruction due to COVID-19. Without access to the Wisconsin Public Television studios typically used to produce the newscast, students are working together while staying apart.

Here’s a look at what goes in to making The Badger Report happen.

Tuesday: Story Pitches and Broadcast Planning

Each week, students meet via Zoom with Professor Pat Hastings and Newscast Director Peter Kleppin of University Communications to pitch ideas for stories and plan how they intend to structure the broadcast. By brainstorming story concepts, they’re able to discuss creative storytelling strategies, troubleshoot potential issues and assign tasks to different team members.

The latest broadcast fell just days after the 2020 presidential election. With the election still a week away during the planning meeting, and the results still potentially unknown during the broadcast, students had a lot of open questions when it came to covering the story.

“With this particular newscast, there’s a lot of unknowns,” said Pat Hastings, Distinguished Faculty Associate, instructor for J425 and longtime journalist. “The trick to this is just having the plan in place, you may not have to use it.”

Beyond the election, students discussed stories on community organizations, including those focused on blood and plasma donation, children’s mental health, sheltering men experiencing homelessness and providing aid to Black women. Hastings advised students to look at their stories from multiple angles.

“Remember, who is affected by the story?” Hastings asked. “They are more interesting than the authority figure in the story.”

Students also discussed other beats, including weather and sports, which poses its own challenges during the pandemic. With many athletic events on hold, students brainstormed ways to cover sports, even if it meant traveling outside of Madison to get the story.

Wednesday through Wednesday: Story Creation

With the plan laid out, students went forth to begin creating their stories.

A man facing the camera in front of a computer monitor with video editing software displayed.
Reporter Steven Potter working on his story for the week. “A new grant is being awarded to a Northside community center to help young students cope with stress and mental health challenges,” Potter said.
A woman in a winter coat, hat and mittens holds up her hands in the shape of the letter W
Reporter Sophia Madore covers the weather for the week. “Is it time for Badgers to put on winter hats and mittens? Find out with weather on the Badger Report,” Madore said.
A woman facing the camera in front of a computer screen.
Lilly Zoller is one of the anchors for this week’s newscast. “My story is about the temporary homeless shelter in the Recreation Center at Warner Park servicing homeless men amidst the pandemic,” Zoller said.
A man facing the camera next to a television screen displaying election results.
Reporter Nathan Denzin covered the presidential election. “Madison set a voting record with over 700,000 ballots cast, and election officials said the process ran smoothly from start to finish,” Denzin said.
A man in a face mask stands in front of the gate outside the empty UW athletic practice fields
Reporter Jakeb Danielson is on the sports beat this week. “My story is about the current state of Badger football, and high school action in the meantime,” Danielson said.
A woman in a face mask holding a video camera stands in front of the Wisconsin Capitol Building lit up at night.
Reagan Zimmerman is the other anchor for this week’s newscast. “My story focuses on election night reactions from first-time voters and Wisconsin residents who are looking to uphold democracy!” Zimmerman said.
A woman in a yellow coat wearing a witch's hat, holding up the point of the hat over her head.
Arailym Sheraly was the associate producer for this week’s newscast as well as a reporter. “My story is about how kids trick or treat differently this year and what kind of precautions they take to stay safe on Halloween,” Sheraly said.

Friday: Broadcast Day

At 12:15 p.m., The Badger Report newscast streams on YouTube. All the hard work the students have done to pull the stories together, as well as the behind the scenes efforts for technical setup, graphics, web and social media promotion coalesce into the finished product.

Three people in individual windows, two women student-anchors for the Badger Report and a man, a professor from UW.
Anchors Lilly Zoller (left) and Reagan Zimmerman (right) interview UW-Madison Political Science Professor Howard Schweber (bottom) about the election.
A woman in a baseball cap stands in front of the Progress Van. The photo is captioned 'Sabrina Madison, Founder & Director'.
Sabrina Madison, Founder and Director of the Progress Center for Black Women, speaks about their Progress Van initiative in Reporter Tamia Fowlkes’ story.
A woman in a face mask stands in front of the UW Carbone Cancer Center
Reporter Sally Young covering a blood and plasma drive that is being used to treat COVID-19.

After a successful newscast, The Badger Report team is back in action planning for their next show. You can tune in and see their hard work for yourself; the next newscast is Friday, November 20 at 12:15 p.m. Visit go.wisc.edu/BadgerReport or their website at badgerreport.journalism.wisc.edu to learn more.