Covid report: How the virus has changed the face and future of journalism

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The distributed newsroom is here to stay as the coronavirus pandemic forces journalists to embrace socially distanced reporting. This was one of the takeaways of The Impact of Covid-19 on Journalism in Emerging Economies and the Global South 2020 report by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The study seeks to explore how the once-in-a-generation Covid-19 pandemic has impacted journalists and the journalism industry across 26 countries in emerging economies and the global south.

Reporting from the frontline: the structural impact on newsrooms

African journalists interviewed by the study said the speed at which they were forced to adapt to working remotely presented a series of complex challenges. One journalist from Zimbabwe spoke of the challenges he encountered as a result of network issues and high data costs in the country, while a Ugandan journalist said the lockdown restricted movement and banned public transport for some time thus making it difficult for him to move around. Another journalist from Kenya said working from home was not so practical in some types of work such as those that required specialised equipment. For other journalists, working from home meant increased productivity, with one Nigerian journalist saying: “I could write an average of five stories a day. It was because I had time solely for reporting”.

In addition to the practical obstacles of doing their job, the report stressed the impact that the pandemic had had on the mental health of journalists. One reporter surveyed in the report was quoted as saying, “There was a big gap in terms of bonding, sharing ideas and loneliness”. Taking this into consideration, newsroom leaders are urged to be cognisant of the effect that Covid reporting has on journalists, while newsroom managers must encourage conversations and prioritise the mental health of journalists.

Combating fake news and the ‘infodemic’

The coronavirus pandemic threw many journalists in the deep end, forcing them to contend with an influx of information and science that most had not been equipped to deal with. But with this also came a wave of misinformation.

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