D-Day Scribes: Breaking the News in Social Isolation
We live in dangerous times. In the age of coronavirus, where the world faces a complete lockdown as we know it, fearless journalism has become the one hope with which real news gets broken. As thrilling as journalism has always been, it has never been more dangerous for those in the fourth estate as they battle all odds to get us the real stories from a panic-stricken world with timely news and photo stories that have thousands tuning to the airwaves and feeds from the safe confines of their homes. We look at how these truth warriors battle against fake news and curfews to get us updates from the front lines.
˚THE RURAL DISCOURSE
While India maintains a self-imposed curfew, tangible and fact-checked information is hard to come by. With most news agencies basing themselves out of metropolitan cities, often at times, reliable news from the villages and rural hinterlands (accounting for about 70% of the country) is quite often hard to come by.
Yet, dedicated reportage from rural field reporters such as PARI (People’s Archive of Rural India) are pushing the ante by getting us the state of affairs from the countryside. In times like these, where the villages suffer the angst of the coronavirus crisis much more acutely than those in the cities, these reporters tell us exactly how. From stranded migrants battling the odds to survive in alien cities, to the voiceless karamcharis involved in essential services, these are the stories that offer a different perspective of stories that would be overlooked were it not for these heroes.
If there is a raging fire, most people would head in a direction far from the fire. Not the reporters, however. As streets lay bare in the most populous cities of the world, a breed of nonfiction documentarians have taken to bringing us visuals and photo stories that offer a perspective of life that’s gone on a standstill. Take for example, the documentary photographer William Daniels who has been bringing visuals from Paris and has worked with the National Geographic. Global photo reporters such as the team at the New York Times recently put out an evocative photo essay titled ‘The Great Empty’, showing how emptiness proliferates major cities like the virus — a stark reality of the times we live in. From Haneda Airport in Japan to the Americana Diner in New Jersey, the impact of the virus are best felt in these pictures that speak louder than words. Closer home, photojournalists such as PTI’s Arun Sharma have been breaking the news on how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted life in places from Ghaziabad to Shaheenbagh.
In the age of quick fix remedies and extensive digital proliferation, journalists and reporters are fighting hard to beat fake news and unqualified Whatsapp University forwards that do more damage than good. While news studios have turned into live helplines overnight, front line reporters whether from the print, broadcast, or digital media, offer fresh, qualified status updates without prejudice. At times like these, the Press Information Bureau and the official website for coronavirus updates in India — www.covid19india.org, offer a welcome respite from the fake medical solutions, conspiracy theories and unmitigated rumour-mongering.
And global tech companies have extended a rightful hand to curb the extensive misinformation out there. While Facebook has offered free advertising to the WHO, almost all digital tech platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Linkedin, Google, Microsoft are collaborating with official news organisations to curb fake news. For example, Snapchat launched a dedicated space in ‘Discover’ called ‘Coronavirus: The Latest’ which aims to put the highest quality news coverage and information about coronavirus at the very top of Discover.
˚CITIZEN JOURNALISTS WALK THE TALK
These perilous times have in fact turned most people staying indoors into citizen journalists. From breaking community updates, to showcasing the world on lens around them, individuals have taken to social networking platforms such as Instagram to show the massive change we are all in the throngs of. From celebrities such as Priyanka Chopra and Shah Rukh Khan, to the aam aadmi forced to stay indoors, the impact has been very real, and it’s for the world to see. Citizen journalists are playing an important role to bridge the news gap in places where reporters find it hard to cover, while bringing real stories of strife, struggle and hope straight from their cellphones.
As we conclude, it must be said that although we owe a heavy debt of gratitude to those in the fourth estate, we must understand that these heroes are facing mounting pressures as they fight the fight against coronavirus.
While in India and the world over, many reporters have fallen globally to cover the coronavirus, sometimes falling in the line of duty, the going has been tough. In India for example, many reports have emerged of highhanded behaviour by the police as they curb journalistic freedom, although accredited news agencies come under the fold of essential services. A few days ago in a statement to the country, the Prime Minister himself extended a humble gratitude to those in the media, fighting hard to battle against the coronavirus, and expressed his grief on people attacking news personnel. Yet, news reporters are doing everything in their grasp to cover the state of our life in 2020 with gravitas and bravery, not seen before. All the while facing up to the reality that the newspaper industry as a whole may be at the verge of bankruptcy in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Far beyond the perils of the virus, rest the thrills and fulfillment of changing the world for these selfless journalists, and we remain grateful for their dedicated call to duty.
©️ 2020. Gut and Flow Media Pvt. Ltd.
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