Indian journalists find new ways to work with restrictions caused by COVID-19

Published On June 3, 2020 | By Gundeep Singh | COVID-19, International, News
Salik Ahmad conducting interview during Covid-19 at Jhalokhar village, Hamirpur district, Uttar Pradesh, India (Salik Ahmad)
Salik Ahmad, left, conducting an interview during COVID-19 at Jhalokhar village, Hamirpur district, Uttar Pradesh, India. The pandemic has changed the way journalists perform their job. (Courtesy Salik Ahmad)
Gundeep Singh

Salik Ahmad, a senior correspondent at Outlook magazine in New Delhi, has fear fatigue.

He’s been forced — like everyone — to change the way he works since the COVID-19 pandemic forced the lockdown of nations in mid-March.

“You can’t photograph subjects. You must do telephonic conversations mostly, which often are not a great way to reach a comfort zone and have rich chats. And without visiting a place, you cannot write a very flavourful or descriptive account,” Salik Ahmad said.

Indian journalists, as are others around the globe, are working on the ground and in newsrooms amid COVID-19 to update daily news. But social distancing requirements has forced limitations in how they perform their tasks.

“I work with a magazine where good and descriptive writing is almost essential,” Ahmad said. “With public transport shut, going to any place is a challenge if you do not have a vehicle.

“So, I borrowed a friend’s motorbike,” he said.

The number of confirmed cases in India has jumped to 208,800 by June 3, with more than 5,800 deaths. The global tally is more than 6.48 million people affected and more than 383,000 deaths.

Journalists who leave their homes to work are putting the lives of their families and themselves at risk.

“My family also feels scared when we step out and are concerned about the way we work but they stand with me in these times as a backbone and they understand that this is the nature of my job and I have to deal with the situation,” Charu Vij Majumdar said.

Charu Vij Majumdar working in newsroom in Cnn-news18, Network 18, New Delhi, India. (Charu Vij Majumdar)
Charu Vij Majumdar working in newsroom at Network 18, New Delhi, India. (Courtesy Charu Vij Majumdar)

Majumdar, a senior producer at CNN-News18, Network 18, believes COVID-19 has made the work more challenging as they have to work with limited resources along with the deadlines.

The main obstacle for journalists is to keep performing their duties even though there are confirmed cases in their organization.

“There have been 16 confirmed positive cases in CNN-News18,” Majumdar said.

The network has changed its schedule to ensure the safety of their employees and made other changes to make sure that employees maintain enough social distance.

“We are working with minimum staff and we all are divided into batches and work on a seven day rotation basis,” Majumdar said.

“The office is taking all possible measures as the building gets sanitized at night,” she said. “After every roll, we have a symptom checker on our official portal which we need to update every day and it has a set of questions which are related to our health.”

Furthermore, there is a compulsory temperature check done inside the office premises.

It is extremely difficult for technical personnel, such as producers, video editors, graphics designers, and production control room crews, to disseminate the news without proper equipment while sitting at home.

Wion, based in New Delhi, India, is one of the organizations that already has 35 confirmed cases and another 85 quarantined in various private and government quarantine centres.

Sankalp Tomar, an assistant producer at Wion, feels work pressure to be immense as the number of bulletins have increased and the working staff is limited.

Sankalp Tomar working in newsroom in Wion, Zee tv Co-op limited in New Delhi, India. (Sankalp Tomar)
Sankalp Tomar working in newsroom in the Wion newsroom in New Delhi, India. (Courtesy Sankalp Tomar)

“Different kinds of shows involve different technical departments to carry on several stories at the same time while the number of people in each team is fewer than usual,” he said.

“The question ahead of me right now is how do I carry out my duties as a news producer and still be safe and to work in an exposed environment where I could be infected with the virus,” Tomar said.

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