An interactive session on ‘Role of the Journalist during Pandemic’ was organised virtually with senior journalist, Dr. Tabeenah Anjum on 21 May. The session was organized by the School of Media and Communication, Manipal University Jaipur (MUJ). Dr. Anjum is an internationally acclaimed visual storyteller and recipient of the National Award in Photography conferred by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. The session discussed how journalism has transformed during the pandemic, the infodemic of misinformation during Covid, story ideas for journalists to take up, following one’s story, and the role of a journalist.
Talking about the challenging role of a journalist during the pandemic, Dr. Anjum said that the journalist’s role as a gatekeeper becomes even more challenging during the infodemic crisis the nation is facing during the pandemic. They are not extraordinary beings. Everyone is looking after their own safety. If a journalist is stepping out and doing ground reporting they have to take the necessary precautions to ensure that they are not bringing the virus back home with them. This has also been a revolutionary time for the journalist who is suddenly a one-man army with challenges such as information blockade, shut offices and lack of resources. The need for independent journalism has also grown. A journalist needs to able to write, design infographics, take picture and videos, be active on social media, and have a podcast or a blog all on their own.
She further said that balanced reporting is the need of the hour during a pandemic. A journalist must listen to all sides and cross-check and information. They should not be in a hurry to publish a story. They must put their safety first, be informed about the rapidly changing environment, and have knowledge of equipment and tools. Similarly, a journalist should produce high-quality stories, remain calm and not panic in difficult situations. During the pandemic both traditional and non-traditional media play significant roles in keeping the people informed, safe and connected.
Sharing her experience of handling SOS calls in the past month, Tabeenah said that in these distressing times, a journalist can also play an important role of a communicator and influencer. “Right from amplifying the tweet, fetching the leads for oxygen, beds and medicine and connecting the patient with the administration, journalists can actively participate in the volunteer work as they know whom to contact”, said Tabeenah who herself has been helping Covid patients through her Twitter handle. In fact, she has been handling multiple SOS calls and messages every day, even at odd hours of the night. Social media has become a very important tool to help people in distress and journalists should put out all government orders, and verified information under one thread.
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