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The COVID-19 pandemic poses serious questions about newsroom practices and for media companies.

Journalists became the focus of public discussion when it was reported on 21 April that 53 of them in Mumbai city had contracted COVID-19, in the line of work. It is obvious that there would be other cases among media persons in other parts of the country too. The pandemic has not only struck the world, including India, in ways that are sweepingly disastrous, but also presented Indian media with challenges for the short as well as the long term, as perhaps never before. The portents signal changes that will have to be faced by not just media owners across print, broadcast and online platforms, but also by journalists. More significantly, this presents an occasion to examine the way newsrooms operate and newsgathering takes place.

Wading into dangerous situations and conflict zones is considered “part of the job” by news journalists everywhere, and international media organisations regularly compile the growing number of deaths and even murders of and assaults against news reporters and photographers. While newsgathering is a job, it is also one that carries with it the responsibility of a fundamental duty of the media: to inform its consumers of the ground reality as truthfully and as quickly as possible. However, the coverage of the present pandemic’s horrific and multifarious impacts at the ground level is fraught with serious consequences not just for the individual journalists but also their families, colleagues, and even neighbourhoods. As soon as the news of the 53 journalists being infected with the coronavirus broke, social media was rife with posts about many journalists, especially television journalists being coerced into physically reporting from the hotspots, forced to present “piece to camera” (talking to the audience directly through the camera) from affected sites, and generally having to meet dignitaries and officials for in-person interviews rather than conduct telephonic ones.

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Updated On : 28th Apr, 2020

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