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EXCLUSIVE: Karl Stefanovic explains how the threat of coronavirus has affected him both on and off screen

''We will get through this.''

By TV Week team
The list of major news events that Karl Stefanovic has covered could fill pages. But when he speaks to TV WEEK about how much reporting on the global coronavirus pandemic has affected him, the journalist is raw and emotional.
"It's been very challenging for everyone," he says as he walks off the set of breakfast show Today after weeks of rolling COVID-19 coverage.
"I don't think there has ever been a story that has affected everybody like this in a very real way. It doesn't matter if you're in Brisbane, Perth, Italy or New York – we're all feeling it."
"I don't think there has ever been a story that has affected everybody like this in a very real way." (Image: Getty Images)
Karl made headlines in late 2019 when it was announced he was returning to Today in 2020 after an enforced absence. But for this seasoned newsman, he knows it's about connecting with the public now, not ratings battles.
"People look to us to answer the questions they have," he says.
Some of those questions came from his own children when he returned home from work each day.
"My own kids were petrified they were going to get it," he admits. "I don't think there has ever been a story where I, as a journalist, have been more personally affected."
Karl and daughter Ava. (Image: Instagram @jasyarby)
Karl's children – Jackson, 20, Ava, 14, and River, 13 – were worried about catching the virus, and he knew that if his own kids were asking him about it, other households were having the same conversations. That's why he wanted to make sure politicians knew they had to get the messaging clear.
"I think the messaging about schools hasn't been clear," he says. "So all the questions mums and dads want answered I do as well. That's what drives it."
Karl says he's happy to question the leaders of the country, who are implementing new rules and regulations daily. But he also knows they need support, and it's about finding that balance on the show each day.
"It's more important than ever to question our leaders," he says. "Because we're talking about the lives and livelihoods of Australians – not just now, but for the future. There has never been a more important time for us to be doing our jobs."
WATCH BELOW: What is a coronavirus? Post continues after video...
Viewers of Today will have seen Karl and co-host Allison Langdon practising social distancing in the studio, but the measures to stay safe don't stop there.
"We don't have cameramen in the studio," he explains. "We have one floor manager and everyone else is in a different room. We have very little human contact."
He says they've already discussed how to broadcast Today from their homes if government-ordered restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus become more severe.
"We're taking every precaution, because we all have families at home," Karl says. "People might question why we're still going in [to work], but let me tell you: I do not want to get this. I'm 45 years old and the last thing I want to do is risk getting this thing."
Karl and Allison are now practicing social distancing. (Image: Nine Network)
While Karl knows the importance of bringing the facts and figures to viewers daily, he has also used his platform to shine a light on small businesses doing it tough.
"Karl's Classifieds" is a new segment on the show in which he gives an on-air plug to those needing a helping hand.
"I've been blown away by how creative people are," he says of the videos he's received. "That's what makes me grow in confidence that when we do come out of this thing, we'll power out of it, because we'll be ready to go."
Karl is acutely aware that for older viewers who are in isolation, he and Allison might be one of their few doses of familiar human contact for the day.
"I think people genuinely feel we're their friends, to have a laugh with and gain hope from," he says. "Eventually, we'll get through this. The next months will be hard, but we'll get through and Australia will boom out of it."

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