Live Coverage: The Human Stories of the Coronavirus Pandemic

Live Coverage: The Human Stories of the Coronavirus Pandemic


The Backstreet Boys put on a concert last night.

They sang “I Want It That Way,” and maybe they were just a little rusty in spots — it’s been more than two decades since the song’s original release.

The boys weren’t together, of course. Brian was in his living room in Atlanta. Nick was by a pool in Las Vegas. Kevin was backed by his two young sons, one on the drums and the other strumming a small guitar, at his home in Los Angeles.

They were among dozens of entertainers and artists — including Billie Eilish, Alicia Keys, H.E.R., Ellen DeGeneres, Lizzo and Dave Grohl — who performed songs and recorded messages for iHeartRadio’s Living Room Concert for America on Sunday evening. It was broadcast on Fox and streamed on YouTube.

The concert was like a modern version of the old-school telethon, benefiting two organizations: Feeding America, a national network of food banks, and the First Responders Children’s Foundation, which supports the families of emergency medical workers dealing with financial hardship because of the coronavirus.

Some of the celebrities appeared in sweatpants or pajamas, dispensing advice about social isolation from their outdoor patios or on living room couches. Tim McGraw, in bluejeans, sang while straddling a diving board over a backyard swimming pool. Mariah Carey set up shop in her home studio, with background singers and a pianist video-conferenced in.

“The most inspirational thing about this situation is watching everyone join forces and lift each other up,” said Elton John, who hosted the video event.

“I’d play a song myself, but I happen to be quarantined in the only house I’ve ever been in without a piano,” he said.

With plenty of time on their hands as a result of stay-at-home orders, entertainers of all kinds have tried to help during the pandemic. From the singer Liam Gallagher reworking the songs of Oasis into hand-washing anthems to the actress Gal Gadot’s polarizing “Imagine” video, there has been no shortage of options for people looking for a potentially helpful distraction.

Enter Samantha Newark, the original voice of Jem from the cartoon “Jem and the Holograms.” Her public-service announcement from late last week, in which she warns about bogus medications and encourages social distancing and hand-washing, will help us defeat the coronavirus. Jem’s rival band, The Misfits, has yet to weigh in either way.

In a revealing look at how tight-knit the New York City basketball community is, and how devastating the coronavirus can be, Marc Stein and John Branch reported on a birthday party for a former St. Johns player that has left three people dead and multiple other people having tested positive for Covid-19.

The party, which was being held for David Cain, included people who had played at all levels of New York basketball — including Steve Burtt Sr., a former N.B.A. player, who talked about putting the pieces together of having attended a party that resulted in Lee Green, a teammate of Cain’s at St. Johns, and two others dying.

“We were just out having a good time,” Burtt said. “When I got wind of it, I called Dave to check on him, but I didn’t put two and two together. And then Lee died. I’m like: ‘Wait a minute — they said he was at a party. I was at the party.’”

Marc Stein discussed how the story of David Cain’s birthday party came together and the challenges that reporters — particularly sports reporters — are facing in a changing era.

How much of a challenge was it to coordinate the reporting of this story with the two of you in different states?

Stein: The reality for reporters right now, like it or not, is that much of our reporting has to be done by phone, text, WhatsApp, social media channels, etc. All stories are better when the reporting can be done face to face and on the scene, but it’s just not possible at the moment.

You both are used to spending a lot of time with your subjects and digging really deep into things. How much of a challenge was that in this case?

Stein: Speaking strictly for me, even in a season as rife with downbeat stories as this 2019-20 N.B.A. campaign has been, this whole story was out of the norm for me. Not only because we were writing about a community outside of my usual N.B.A. bubble but because the subject matter was so heavy.

It was a basketball story, but let’s face it: It was about much bigger real-world stuff.

With sports shelved for the time being, there seems to be a real challenge ahead for sports reporters. How does your mind-set to storytelling change and adapt to something like this?

Stein: Since my day-to-day beat is the N.B.A. and given the widespread interest in all the ways that Covid-19 is disrupting this ascendant league right when it anticipated moving into playoff mode, there hasn’t been anything close to a shortage of story ideas yet.





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