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Perspective: Charles Benson reflects on being a TMJ4 News virtual reporter

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Posted at 1:08 PM, May 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-22 14:29:01-04

MILWAUKEE — Unprecedented times, unique opportunities, this is my life as a virtual reporter.

It's not what I expected, but no one could have ever planned for how a pandemic would upend our normal routines.

It's been two months since I started reporting the news from my house, right after Safer at Home order was issued.

It started with me anchoring from the kitchen table with one big light and a desktop computer. My make-shift studio eventually moved to a small den with multiple tweaks by my wife Sharon changing furniture and lights. She's been a trooper.

It's not my preferred way of covering the biggest stories of my 40 years in journalism. They've included the unprecedented April 7 election, the historic state Supreme Court decision concerning Safer At Home, and the weekly COVID-19 briefings, all without leaving the house. It's my "new normal" and I'm OK with that for now.

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I've logged countless minutes on Zoom and nearly zero miles on my car. My 70-mile round trip is a now a short shuffle from the kitchen to "Studio B."

From my home office, I've interviewed former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, was in also in his home. I've talked with the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams and other cabinet secretaries about the virus.

I've had multiple virtual conversations with Governor Tony Evers, Speaker Robin Vos, Mayor Tom Barrett and other key people connected to the coronavirus crisis all from inside my home.

For the record, my learning curve on Zoom and Microsoft Teams improves weekly but make no mistake about it - the TMJ4 team has been amazing. We've held three virtual town halls with community leaders talking about how the virus has impacted Milwaukee and our state.

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I've only left my house twice for work. Once to cover the decision to move the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee from July to August. The other was to interview Vice President Mike Pence during a visit to GE Healthcare in Madison that is making ventilators.

Being a virtual reporter certainly has its challenges. I miss seeing and talking with my co-workers. But one thing hasn't changed, there are important stories to tell and key questions to ask. Just remember to hit "unmute" if I send you a Zoom invite.

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