Thursday, October 1, 2009


by Kelly Brennan

photo courtesy of Carr/AP,

I'm not going lie, I was apprehensive about the interview. I knew I needed to get the information and provide the necessary facts for viewers, but I also considered how much I wanted to put myself at risk.

On Monday I received word that three cases of Influenza A were confirmed on campus, so I set out to get student reaction. Most reporters would say that I “lucked out” with the interview, because when I arrived outside of Hudson Health Center, the first guy I talked to was a confirmed Influenza A case. So yes, as a reporter I got lucky because I was able to talk with a student directly affected by the biggest health concern in Athens; yet I couldn’t get my mind off the fact that I shouldn’t have close contact with him. Ultimately, I don’t want to get sick either--you can’t blame a person for that, right?

Clearing Confusion
The story included information about Influenza A and H1N1. I was hoping the story would clear up any confusion about these terms, and I’m glad it did because even the student was confused about what he had.
He told me he was confirmed as a “Swine Flu A” case, which actually is incorrect. “Influenza A” is the correct term, and his cultures are being sent to be tested for H1N1.

It’s funny how much attention this topic gets but yet people (including myself) are still confused. Just how much of a problem is this? Should we really be taking more precautions and wearing mouth/nose masks? I'm definitely not one to support wearing a mask…not unless H1N1 is confirmed as a widespread disease on campus. Gosh I hope that doesn’t happen, especially since I can barely afford cough drops right now!

Since there is so much confusion with Influenza A versus H1N1, I knew I needed someone from the university to clear things up. I turned to Ryan Lombardi, Dean of Students. His job is to be the communicator between the university and the students, so what better person than him to clear up the confusion?

Meeting the Dean of Students
When I got to his office he was busy on the phone-I knew it was an important call because he has always been on time when I meet with him. After waiting about 20 minutes, Dean Lombardi and I finally got to chat. It turns out that he was on the phone with a student’s mother whose daughter was diagnosed with Influenza A. It’s great to see the communication and relationship he has with members of this university; because he spoke with her, he now could give correct information to not only me, but everyone else on campus.

I interviewed him and asked the questions I prepared beforehand, but it was the conversation we had off camera that made me realize just how personable he is. Don’t get me wrong, he comes off personable on camera as well, but while I was in his office he treated me with so much respect—he listened to what I had to say and he was willing to be in contact with me with any further information that may arise about this issue.

For a reporter, this is considered a great interviewee. Not only was he willing to speak on camera, but he was willing to put me on his contact list as someone needing to receive the information first. He definitely realizes the power of the media. The ability to inform mass audiences via video is an important tool, especially with issues as hot as this. Dean Lombardi made my job a lot easier that day!

I know that not every interviewee will be as willing to go on camera and answer all questions with full information, but it’s nice to have those days when people like Dean Lombardi recognize that the media is here to inform! Check out my story below and see what you think.

Probable swine flu story for Athens MidDay

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