REPORTING IN PANDEMIC

Covid hits pause, scribes face dearth of news ideas

Braving virus, TV reporters, photo journalists continue visiting hospitals in city

Covid hits pause, scribes face dearth of news ideas

Restrictions on movement and health concerns have affected coverage of news. Sunil Kumar

Manmeet Singh Gill

Tribune News Service

Amritsar, August 5

As all sections of society have been unsettled by the Covid-19 pandemic, journalism, too, is no exception. As reporters are expected to file ground reports, restrictions on movement and health concerns during the period have affected coverage of news.

Suddenly, press conferences, political rallies, film promotions, cultural events and all other social, political, economic and religious events became a thing of the past even seasoned journalists were face to face with a dearth of story ideas.

“It reminded me of my initial days of profession when I would have to think really hard before listing a story idea,” revealed a senior journalist and political observer, adding that while ground reporting has took a back seat, reporters with good ‘source-bank’ have managed to stay afloat.

For reporters of print media, dependence on mobile phone, social media and personal contacts has increased as ‘work from home’ has became the new normal in many organisations. But for television journalists and newspaper photo journalists, daily work still includes visiting places in the city.

Reporters are complaining that news other than those related to coronavirus have lost relevance in the current times. “Even seniors at head offices are more interested in Covid-19 updates. With newspaper decreasing the number of pages, other news stories have lesser space available,” said a young woman journalist working with a national daily newspaper.

“A little political activity has resumed but leaders are mostly issuing political statements. They surely cannot afford to stay away from headlines for long. It has come as a bit reliever for us,” quipped a TV journalist, adding that most politicians prefer to upload a video on the social media, knowing well that channels would pick it up and use as fodder.

A few in the local journalist fraternity felt that reporting had seen new low during the pandemic. “In times of turmoil, insurgency and disaster, journalists are expected to leave their comforts and report on problems of the general public. But much to our dismay, many among us tried to project undeserving people as heroes. Every one became a philanthropist overnight and many of them wanted just fame,” said a reporter with a Punjabi newspaper, adding that journalists should not oblige anyone by misrepresenting facts.

Increased inaccessibility

Of all problems shared by many journalists, the most prominent one was the increased inaccessibility of higher officials of various government departments for obtaining official versions. Journalists complained that the flow of authentic and unbiased information has got compromised.

“It seems that all of sudden, officials have become no more accountable. Some don’t even pick the phone to deny an accusation or confirm a development and this all is being done on the pretext that they are busy in Covid-19 related duties. Many of them are really busy but everyone isn’t,” said another journalist.

‘Never report on an empty stomach’ was a senior journalist’s advice for me when I was assigned health beat as a new recruit. “An empty stomach is more prone to viral infections,” he explained, adding that health reporting involves frequent visits to hospitals.

In the last week of March this year, when Covid-19 started making headlines and a nationwide lockdown was announced, I would often ask myself if a full stomach can guard me against the new deadly virus. To tell you the truth, so far, it has worked for me.

Layoffs and resignations after salary cuts at our office forced the remaining staff to work double shifts. I could not find time to sleep. A few days later, I started having dreams of coronavirus. During this time, I was living alone and that made things even worse. A desk journalist

I lived in a PG. The landlords asked me to vacate as I had to go out for my job on daily basis. I had to find a place with my relatives. My parents were also worried as I have been assigned health beat. They ask me to avoid going out. Gradually things improved and I have found a new place to stay. City-based woman journalist from Jammu

I try not to touch my face and repeatedly sanitise my hands. I try to stay away from people but still at the back of my mind, I am always worried. The biggest worry is that I go out to work daily and return home every night. I fear if I catch virus, I may also infect my family members. A television journalist

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