The PANDEM!C

Charlotte Journalism Collaborative Brings Artist and Journalists Together to Tell the Stories of COVID-19

In October, the Charlotte Journalism Collaborative (CJC) and BOOM Charlotte launched a graphic novel telling the stories of people in the Charlotte region who have been impacted by the coronavirus. In addition to qnotes, the CJC is a partnership with The Charlotte Observer, La Noticia, QCity Metro, WCNC-TV, WFAE-FM, the James L. Knight School of Communication at Queens University, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and Free Press.

“COVID-19 is affecting the lives of everyone,” says Chris Rudisill, director of the CJC. “This creates an opportunity to translate local news reporting and scientific information in a new and dynamic way that will reach audiences who are typically not regular news readers or viewers.”

The multimedia reporting project pairs local reporters and local artists to translate stories from the Collaborative into a graphic novel, or comic book. Each chapter is based on a different real-life story from the local community. Chapters are released every two weeks through February and appear online at charlottejournalism.org and on the group’s Instagram page, @CLTJournalism.

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Rudisill, who is also a contributor to qnotes, said “This project is something new. It transforms storytelling and is creating collaborations that are unique to the city of Charlotte.” Like all forms of media, comic book artists have started addressing the pandemic through their work. Just last week, Marvel Comics announced a new comic book that will celebrate real-life healthcare heroes from Allegheny Health Network in Western Pennsylvania.

In the most recent Chapter of “The Pandemic,” presented here, artist Gil Croy took our story by David Aaron Moore about a gay couple in North Carolina who both tested positive in June. The two were less than 100 feet away in separate rooms of the hospital. “Even knowing that Brian was in the same hospital as I was, I didn’t know where he was or that it was possible for us to see each other,” Tom Costales told Moore, speaking of his husband. The couple know first-hand how devastating the impact of COVID-19 can be.

“Hopefully this project, in some small way, may help to inform and educate our community on the importance of listening and learning from others’ experiences, not just with the Pandemic, but with every situation that we as the human family face,” said Croy.

He is one of eight artists working with local reporters. The others include Marcus Kiser, Wolly McNair, Kiana Mui, Matthew Clayburn, Josh Henderson, Makayla Binter and Chris Taylor. BOOM Charlotte is sponsoring and leading the diverse group of artists. BOOM has been producing an annual three-day festival of avant-garde and grassroots performances in Charlotte since 2016, and their mission is to transform the way art is created and shared, and how people connect to causes and community.

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“I hope that the project supports those needs within our community and serves as a testament to our experiences during the pandemic,” says Rudisill. “This information is vital for people to remain healthy and safe — if we can begin to connect these dots between the news and the community, the CJC can be an amplifier of collaborative work that makes a difference in the daily lives of people who live here.”

So far, the Charlotte Journalism Collaborative has released an introduction and the first three chapters, which are available in both English and Spanish through its website.

Chapter 3 (click on images to enlarge)

Pages 1, 2, 3 (Illustration Credit: Gil Croy)

Pages 4, 5, 6 (Illustration Credit: Gil Croy)

Pages 7, 8, 9 (Illustration Credit: Gil Croy)

Pages 10, 11, 12 (Illustration Credit: Gil Croy)

qnotes is part of six major media companies and other local institutions reporting on and engaging the community around the problems and solutions as they relate to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a project of the Charlotte Journalism Collaborative, which is supported by the Local Media Project, an initiative launched by the Solutions Journalism Network with support from the Knight Foundation to strengthen and reinvigorate local media ecosystems. See all of our reporting at charlottejournalism.org.

Join us: This story is made possible with the help of qnotes’ contributors. If you’d like to show your support so qnotes can provide more news, features and opinion pieces like this, give a regular or one-time donation today.

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