Home sweet home has become the Barrie 360 newsroom

The staff in the Barrie 360 newsroom has discovered radio from home has its ups and downs

Depending on which survey you look at ranking the top 10 most stressful life events, moving into a new home always finds a place somewhere on the list.

There is nothing on any list that makes mention of moving an entire news operation and splitting it seven different ways into the homes of each person in the newsroom

Germs and radio stations are like best friends. Shared microphones, shared keyboards, shared computers, shared desks, shared music control boards. Everything we were taught about sharing in kindergarten comes back to life at a radio station.

The first priority for the ownership of Central Ontario Broadcasting was to keep staff safe and to keep Barrie 360 functioning, along with the two radio station’s in the building, KOOL FM and Rock 95. To respect physical distancing, the decision by upper management was to have almost all staff broadcast from home.

The pandemic has resulted in millions of people worldwide forced to make their home environment their work environment. For some, getting out of the rat race of the office might just be the tonic. For others, not so much.

At Barrie 360, we decided to share our experiences about working from home, appreciating this has been the new normal for about a month now.

Dan Blakeley: News Director

Sticking to the same work routine to maintain some semblance of normality…up at the same time, dressed – right down to my watch – hunkered down in my makeshift workspace at the same time and after that, not much changed. The only difference has been the usual stop at Tim Hortons on the way to work. As a result, the coffee-maker and I have renewed a former relationship.

There are times the refrigerator is a little too close!

What I miss, is the interaction with the morning announcers on both stations and later, with the news team and other staff. While we are staying in touch through social apps, there’s something about being able to look over your shoulder or wander down the hall to get someone’s attention.

But we’re adapting, the way radio has always done, finding new and inventive ways to do what we do.

We’re not going anywhere.

Brett Glover: News Anchor

Like many others, working from home has been a real adjustment for me. Over the past decade or so, I’ve found a routine that works; certain tasks performed during certain parts of the day, amid all the randomness that comes with being a news anchor. That has gone right out the window, and I find myself in the same boat as many Ontarians, with my workday totally up-ended. I’m relearning how to do my job in a different setting and with different resources. It’s like I’m a guppie reporter all over again.

I’m struggling to find the same “new normal” everyone else is talking about. Ask anyone: I was pretty passionate about my occupation before all of this, making the line between my professional and personal life pretty opaque. Now that I’m not even leaving the house to do my job, that line has been irreparably blurred. I’m concerned about the effect this is having on my partner and my child. 

Like many Barrie residents, and Ontarians in general, I’m worried about how to make sure my daughter is sticking to her prescribed learn-from-home lesson plan, while still trying to keep on top of my own productivity and concerning myself with making ends meet.

To top it all off, I’m getting fed up with delivering bad news all day.

Coady Fitzgerald: Digital Content Creator

So far it’s been okay. I enjoy the change but obviously miss having the team together in the newsroom. The biggest (and I think best) change is that my work mentality has changed from time to amount. What I mean is that I’m less focused on making sure I’m working from 8-4 and more focused on getting a certain amount of content out. I’m finding it’s harder to work a straight 8-hours from home but I’m more focused and there are fewer distractions so I get more done in a shorter amount of time.

Some things I’ve found have helped:

  • I usually try to limit the amount of time I watch CP24. Not enough good news going around and watching COVID-19 coverage all day can put a damper on the spirit. I usually watch it first thing in the morning through the press conferences and then switch to something else for the rest of the day. (I recommend James Bond. I’ve just finished the Moore era😉) Though I understand it might not be an option for our “Newshounds”.
  • Getting outside at least once a day has been important. Even if it’s just for a quick run around the neighborhood, it really helps. Sometimes I’ll go and try to snap some local generic pictures for the team to use. 
  • NO SNACKING. The first week I think I put on 20 pounds because I would constantly get little snacks throughout the day but even if they’re small, they open the floodgates. Just lunch, dinner, and one healthy snack either between meals or at the end of the day. (I recommend rice cakes with peanut butter and banana. It’s delicious!)
  • Finally, keeping a routine in the week is important. Getting up at 8, lunch at the same time, etc.

One last word that I also think is important but I’m sure you already know: COFFEE.

MJ Bradford: Traffic and General Assignment Reporter

I am getting used to it. I wake up well before anyone else in the house, grab a coffee, my Cobra Kai fleece blanket and head to the at-home office. I love that I still have a job to do in the morning. I think having that routine is keeping me sane. I listen to Rock 95 and send sarcastic messages to Dan Blakeley on messenger so it can still feel like I’m at work, haha.

Around 9 a.m., my daughter barges through the office door asking “Mommy, are you all done working?” When I say no, she then makes me a Lego tower as a present. I swear this happens every day! It’s a distraction but also makes my heart smile.

I like only needing 15 minutes from wake up, to coffee to working, but I really miss heading into the office to be with people. 

Jon Meyer: Digital Content Creator

As someone who worked from home regularly before COVID-19 blew in, I can provide some tips that work for me.

Limit Distractions: I’m good at this. Mostly because I live in my own little world.

Make the other people at home aware of when you will be done and available to chat, eat, help out, change a diaper.

Wear headphones all the time. Distractions can also come in the form of emails, notifications, social media etc.

Prioritize:

I start each day by planning my content. Meaning I pre-write things, start the shell of my stories and videos.

Take a proper lunch. Don’t be Jon. I always push this too long.

Hinda Koza-Culp: Digital Director

I think the take on this will be wildly different if you’re working at home without kids and working from home with kids. I’m the only parent home during the day as my husband is an electrician, and was deemed essential, so he still going to his job site.

The balance of trying to work, keep kids learning/entertained/fed/from killing each other is exhausting. I start out with the best intentions. A schedule, a plan for how things are going to go. But most days I’m just trying to survive from one minute to the next, without any major fires starting either at work or on the home front. My kids are getting way more screen time than normal because sometimes stuff just has to get done. I miss the camaraderie of the office and our coworkers, as well as some of the creativity that comes from brainstorming at work as well.

Ian MacLennan: News Anchor/Reporter

I have been split between home and the radio station. Three days a week at home writing and doing interviews for Barrie 360, on the air at the radio station weekends. The Saturday and Sunday component also allows me to monitor the music computers at Rock 95 and KOOL FM to assist the announcers broadcasting from home.

The first day or two working from home meant several mindless trips to the pantry. Grazing without the moo. A snack here. A snack there.

Routine has been critical. For the first few weeks, I stuck myself to the office chair, eyes glued at the computer without giving myself the luxury of a good stretch of the legs, maybe even a five-minute sniff of fresh air.

I miss the chatter with newsroom staff and other work colleagues. Those simple things you take for granted, like going to the coffee machine and bumping into a colleague in sales and another in production and engaging in a conversation.

I am not bored at home. Busy is good and Barrie 360 keeps me busy.

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