'Coronavirus and the Classroom': Inside NBC News' Revealing New Special

Coronavirus and the Classroom
Preview
NBC News

NBC and MSNBC's platforms are bringing viewers in-depth reporting over the next several days with its "Coronavirus and the Classroom" programming, among which include a live primetime special hosted by Lester Holt.

Set to take place Thursday, August 13, at 8/7c, the special will focus on education in America and the challenges being faced amid the ongoing pandemic. In addition to highlighting newsmakers and experts the broadcast will share practical guidance for kids, parents and teachers as they navigate their return to school, however that may appear depending on where they live.

Along with programming slated for Today, MSNBC, Meet the Press and more, the company's news division is focusing on the timely topic as students, teachers and parents try to figure out what returning to school looks like. TV Insider spoke with NBC News and MSNBC Senior Vice President Rashida Jones who offers some insight on what to expect.

"Coronavirus and the Classroom" is a broad scope of programming. What can viewers anticipate from the primetime special with Lester Holt?

Rashida Jones: Our focus on the special is to try to drill into that critical period where decisions are currently being made on how to handle the return to school. For many of us, we're all figuring out in our real lives, how do you navigate the health situation, the pandemic, the need for education? And we understand that there's no easy answer here. And so, from our audience interests and this being a week that's an apex of decision making across the country, we've really wanted to drill down into what goes into those conversations.

Cornavirus and the classroom nbc news

(Credit: NBC)

And who should people expect to see featured in this special?

It's a combination. We're spending some time talking to parents, students, and teachers about what it's like for them as they navigate this. One of the pieces that I'm really excited about is hearing from some students in their own words on how this is impacting them.

We have some experts joining us to talk about, not only navigating in a world of virtual learning where  technology is not equitable across the board, [but also] how do parents navigate shifting to a hybrid or virtual learning environment, and how do school districts manage this in a way that ensures all students have access?

We've got some experts just talking about the impact on kids. Everything from loss of socialization, to the learning, to mental health, and just how are we managing with our children as they too are dealing with just this unprecedented dynamic of not being in a classroom in some states. Not being with their friends, having to adapt to learning in a different way, and understanding that one size doesn't necessarily fit all.

Should families be tuning in together then?

Absolutely. This is something that affects all different tiers of the family dynamic and affects the parents in a different way from children. I think there's something to be learned on either side of the house. And one thing that I think is important for this show is, it's a national conversation where we really want to bring practical guidance, but we don't have all the answers. So I think the idea is to start a conversation, that your family can continue and adapt in the way that makes sense for your situation.

NBC News Rashida Jones

(Credit: Virginia Sherwood/NBCUniversal)

And this programming ranges across different networks and platforms. What's the key to tailoring news stories for differing audiences?

We know we're talking to different audiences, but the issues that trouble Today Show parents are going to be the same as an MSNBC dayside parent. So this has been a unique topic where literally every platform within our ecosystem has a way to speak to its audience about this issue. I think one thing that's unique for us is we do have so many different ways to reach people.

This primetime special will highlight aspects of education that not everyone considers. How do you think the special will change peoples' perspectives of our education system?

Whether it's students who speak English as a second language, whether it's students with physical disabilities, with other challenge, or even students who learn differently. All students don't necessarily learn under the same formats on the same level. I think one thing that will be eyeopening here is there are so many other factors that perhaps you're not taking into consideration that may influence the overall decision making for how America returns to school and in what capacity.

It's a busy time for news, what can you tease about the coverage viewers can expect in the coming months?

I think what's interesting right now is all stories are connected. Any story that we cover, whether it's politics, whether it's pandemic, whether it's social and civil injustices, they're all connected. And so I think if anything, you'll start seeing more and more of these stories intertwining. You'll see how they impact and relate to each other. Obviously we're in a big election year with the conventions starting next week, and then the presidential debates and election day. Every bit of storytelling that we do now will somehow be woven into the bigger picture and what this means for the country after election day.

Coronavirus and the Classroom Primetime Special, Thursday, August 13, 8/7c, NBC and NBC News NOW