A Day in the Quarantine Life of NBC News’s Antonia Hylton
In March, NBC News unveiled a slate of shows to air on the short-form video platform Quibi and introduced the correspondents who would host them. The journalist Antonia Hylton was one of them.
The job was a dream, but it was not the environment in which Hylton—whose previous work at Vice News Tonight on HBO had earned her an Emmy Award—had expected to share “some personal news.”
Less than 48 hours earlier, the World Health Organization had recognized the coronavirus as a pandemic, the NBA suspended its season, and American sweetheart Tom Hanks revealed on Instagram that he had tested positive for the disease.
At Vice, Hylton (whom—full disclosure—I’ve known since college) had traveled the world to source impactful stories, with a particular focus on social justice, politics, and civil rights. Now she’d have to spend most of her time in her apartment, learn how to launch a brand-new show under statewide lockdown orders, and meet her coworkers via Zoom.
It’s been over six weeks now, and Hylton has ironed out some of the glitches (she has become a skilled architect of the makeshift recording studio). But her new routine is still an exercise in resourcefulness—necessitating sharp pivots, late-night rewrites, and a lot of hand sanitizer. Here’s what that looked like on a recent Thursday.
The Report from NBC News airs twice daily on Quibi during the week and once on Saturdays and Sundays.
6:30 a.m. Wake up. Check out NBC News’s newsletter Morning Rundown, mentally prepare for today’s shoot, and do some stretching. I have been feeling super stiff since quarantine began. I’ve gone from walking around Brooklyn and 30 Rock to walking from my couch back to my bedroom.
7:30 a.m. My mom calls me. She’s come down with a fever and chills. I feel anxiety about her potentially having the virus. I’m one of seven kids, and she is the glue that keeps our huge family together. But she’s apprehensive about going out to get the test.
8:00 a.m. Shower and do my hair—embarrassingly excited to actually see and talk to people in person today.
8:30 a.m. Jump into script for a story I’m working on for NBC News’s The Report on Quibi about SAT/ACT test cancellations and realize that I forgot to eat anything. Quickly make fried eggs and eat them as I write at my kitchen counter.
10 a.m. Share the SAT/ACT script for edits, jump into some rewrites for a different story about the spread of coronavirus in prisons and jails. It’s airing on this Saturday’s Weekend Report on Quibi, and it’ll be my first longer-form story for the program. The Report airs twice daily during the week, once in the morning and again in the evening, and we do one longer-form episode on Saturdays and Sundays.
11:00 a.m. Realize I have 20 minutes before I need to leave for my shoot. Quickly heat up some leftover chicken and grab some granola bars to go.
11:20 a.m. Collect my masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer and call a car to take me to Long Island City, where I’m interviewing the team behind an organization called LIC Relief. They’re a local, entirely volunteer-based operation that is feeding thousands of families living in LIC. They run a pantry and do direct deliveries, and have managed to pump money back into the local economy by partnering with restaurants for hot meals.
12:00 p.m. I meet Pastor Patrick Thompson and Kelly Craig, the founders of LIC Relief, and prepare to interview them. I am still not used to standing six feet away from my interviewees and trying to enunciate through a face mask, but I’m just grateful to have the chance to talk to people and see their work in action.
1:30–3:00 p.m. Interview several people outside Astoria Houses. Queens, New York, has the highest rate of infection in the city, and the communities in these housing developments have suffered tough job losses. One woman tells me she knows several people who’ve lost family members to complications from the virus. A pastor mentions he’s had to rethink funeral and memorial services during this time, and that it’s painful helping families who’ve called up every funeral home and can’t find someone to take their loved one. Finally, I speak to an 85-year-old woman who insists on leaving her home about twice a week to help organizers deliver food to her neighbors, though her family would prefer that she stay safe inside.
3:00 p.m. Get some additional footage back at the food pantry. Say my goodbyes to Patrick and Kelly and call a car to return home.
3:30 p.m. Open up my laptop to find dozens of Slack notifications—some changes have been made to the prisons piece, and I need to rerecord lots of voice-over. In lieu of a studio, I’ve made myself a fort out of a blanket and a few pillows. I get set up, record, and send it all in.
4:00 p.m. Call with my producer Tommy Nguyen to strategize around some finishing touches to the story. Our team is doing as much work from home as possible, which means many conference calls, video meetings, etc.
6:30 p.m. Some adjustments to SAT/ACT script, and then back to my voice-over fort.
7:45 p.m. Family Zoom meeting with some of my siblings and a few of my aunts and uncles. Everyone is worried about my uncle who’s an anesthesiologist in California and is spending a lot of his time intubating patients with COVID-19. Two of my siblings are teenagers, and they’re tired of remote learning and feeling unmotivated.
8:30 p.m. Order some food. I started quarantine out strong and I put effort into some nice, home-cooked meals. Not tonight…I am tired.
10:00 p.m. Watch down the latest cut of the prisons piece.
10:30 p.m. Listen to some calming music in an attempt to reset.
11:00 p.m. Bed.
Mattie Kahn is the culture director at Glamour.
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