Neumann University’s radio station has found a way to connect people across the globe while social distancing, and is documenting history in the process.
The college radio station, WNUW FM 98.5, is airing “corona diaries,” also called “coronacasts.” In these audio recordings, the general public documents their personal experiences during the coronavirus pandemic.
Anyone can submit a coronacast. Participants simply record their stories on a voice memo app and email it to the radio station, or call in and leave a voicemail.
The diaries can be short or long, funny or serious, scripted or ad-libbed, according to a Neumann Media Instagram post.
They are airing live on WNUW 98.5 every hour at quarter past the hour, and are also posted on social media. (Listen on the radio or via the internet on streaming sites such as TuneIn.com or Streema.com)
While many corona diaries come from local people, submissions have come from around the country and the world, including Latvia, Spain, Germany, Scotland and Estonia.
Almost 100 corona diaries have been collected so far, according to Janis Chakars, an associate professor of communication and digital media at Neumann.
“Airing the diaries gives ordinary people a voice in the media during the pandemic,” said Chakars. “Sharing them helps inform our community about the coronavirus experience in ways that they can relate to while making them feel less alone as they live in isolation.”
Entries are diverse in content and style. Some gave general check-ins. Others documented their Easter holiday experiences during the pandemic. One 11-year-old girl gave her top tips for fighting boredom.
While the first submissions tended to be sad, they are now increasingly creative and humorous, according to Neumann Media’s Sean McDonald.
Neumann University sophomore Jake Loburak is a sports director, often working live sporting events, managing crew calls and working with student athletes.
In the absence of his much-loved sports seasons, he commentated his mother making pancakes as if he were announcing an NFL playoff game, and submitted it as a coronacast.
Now, he’s created a series of coronacasts documenting the “All-American Cooking League,” with fierce athletic competitions between his mom, Chef Vicki, and favorite recipes. Check out this play-by-play of Chef Vicki vs. Cupcakes, complete with post-game interviews and a twist you’ll have to hear to believe.
When Loburak isn’t recording coronacasts, he enjoys listening to them. “I personally love to listen to a lot of the coronacasts that are published … because it’s really unique to see how people get creative and to see how people take this time,” he said.
“Stories are crucial to our existence,” Chackers said. “Even when we have direct experience of something, even something profound like a war or a pandemic, it is only after we start sharing our stories and listening to others that our comprehension really develops.”
Story sharing through the corona diaries has gone through WNUW’s airwaves and stretched across boarders.
Listeners heard from John in Barcelona, who said each night at 8 p.m., his neighborhood applauds for several minutes for healthcare workers.
He also told of a neighbor who returned home after recovering from COVID-19, and now sings to the neighborhood each evening. Recently she used a sound system, a gift from a neighboring family who particularly enjoyed her performances.
Chakars appreciated a coronacast from Maarja Merivoo-Parro from Estonia, which documented the country’s pandemic guidelines and her personal reflections on her social isolation.
“It’s a voice from a country most Americans have not heard of, but we know, as she does, the unemployment, the family hardship and the unexpected pleasures, the solitude and the solidarity,” said Chakars.
A corona diary from Sister Christine Still, a Sister of St. Francis of Philadelphia who lives in Tacoma, Washington, “hit home” for Loburak. He was working on a videography job in Seattle during spring break, not long before Neumann University moved to online learning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As communities live through the historic coronavirus pandemic, the corona diaries serve as real-time, personal records of a diverse group of individuals’ experiences.
“(They) constitute a valuable record of the experience and will be archived at Neumann University for future access, study, and reflection open to all,” Chakars said.
McDonald’s radio students will be creating radio documentaries using the coronacasts. He is also sharing the coronacast content with other college radio stations.
“If they want it, it’s theirs to use because we’re all in it together,” said McDonald.
The coronacasts will continue into the future, and people are encouraged to send in their own coronacast, or two or more.
“Right now, we all need to be connected,” said McDonald. “We want it, so community members, anyone reading this, please, send us your coronacast.”
Participants can submit content in two ways. Coronacasts can be recorded on a smart phone voice memo app and emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or participants can call and leave their coronacast in a voicemail at 484-424-9687. Happy recording!
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