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Challenges and Emerging Trends in Journalism Due to COVID-19 Pandemic

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Empty newsrooms, contingency plans, teams that work from home, extraordinary hygiene measures. Media and journalists are turning to offer information about the state of alarm generated by the Coronavirus pandemic. Responsible journalism performs a valuable public service in keeping society informed.

In this crisis, the coverage and the news agenda have changed, as well as communication needs. Faced with the risk of contagion, the media modify their work processes and establish protocols to expose the health of professionals and their families.

A titanic job of coordination

Covering a health pandemic and a state of national alarm is a huge challenge for any media outlet. Editors and section managers are making a great effort to coordinate their teams and manage them electronically, with editors, correspondents, and collaborators. Most journalists work from home, except for a small group of professionals who operate physically from the newsrooms. Everything has been accelerating with the spread of the virus. In recent days the information pressure is extreme, and with most of the section working remotely, everything is even more complicated.

In many media, all sections allocate most of their resources to covering the health emergency and its repercussions on different facets of our lives. A part of the journalistic muscle is dedicated to information on the day-to-day life of the crisis.

Another part delves into the topics of its plan, with analytical, explanatory, and testimonial content. For example, British Herald, a major media outlet in the UK produces most of the news on incidents and recommendations communicated by the health authorities, as well as all the content related to public health. The coverage of journalists specializing in health information is joined by information from other editors on society, science, politics, economy, culture, sports, and the chronicles of correspondents.

Telework is imposed

The application of the state of alarm implies that newsrooms have adopted generalized teleworking in record time, both in terms of resources and processes. The introduction of telework suggests a change in the relationship between the journalist and the medium, although this is not a novelty. This working model is like that usually developed by freelance journalists, with a personalized schedule and a closer relationship with the media with which they collaborate.

New agendas and appearances without journalists

The coronavirus crisis has generated an informative plan completely focused on covering the pandemic. All kinds of public events have been suppressed, which provokes the search for alternatives to the media coverage of the scheduled events and to propose topics that, in other circumstances, would not have a place in the news spaces. The state of alarm has led to the convening of virtual press conferences, the search for testimonies by videoconference, the use of videos from social networks, and interviews with politicians in their living room.

Among the specialized information formats that have resurfaced, it is worth highlighting:

Newsletters with which many media serve carefully selected information for their readers daily.

Specialized podcasts on the evolution of the Covid-19 crisis, which the listener can listen to at any time.

Fact-checking teams specialized in verifying information and fighting hoaxes that circulate on social networks and WhatsApp.

In the case of journalists and technical teams who have to go to their jobs in newsrooms, some protocols include periodic disinfection of spaces, escalated shifts, and division of areas in the newsroom to avoid contagion.

On television and radio stations, hygiene measures are taken to the extreme: each professional disinfects the equipment they have used, the sponges on the studios are changed daily, each reporter has their microphone and sponge to avoid contagion, the professionals do not They share a vehicle when traveling, it is recommended to use gloves and masks, and to prevent exposure in places where there is a high viral load and risk of contagion.

It is worth underlining the need for journalists to self-care and to seek moments of relaxation, which contribute to preserving mental health.

Media asks for help in the face of the crisis

There is the paradox that the media are experiencing a boom in their audiences, and at the same time, they are facing an advertising crisis that will have serious consequences. Managers are concerned about the decline in advertising investment due to this crisis, which is already affecting all media.

Much of the income of communication companies depend on advertising, which is being drastically reduced, so their budgets are already out of date. It is still early to quantify these losses, which will depend on the overall impact on the economy, but the media are already reducing all expenses that are not essential.

This crisis has become a perfect storm for journalism: a massive volume of relevant information in a continuous trickle, with a severe social impact and great greed for consumption by citizens. An extreme situation that puts responsible journalism to the test more than ever.

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