Media frontliners tackling the challenges of COVID-19

Media frontliners tackling the challenges of COVID-19

Over the past few weeks, Southeast Asia has seen more advisories from local governments on the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Singapore has further restricted travellers into the country and put in more stringent isolation measures.

Malaysia announced a lockdown of the country and put in place a Movement Control Order (MCO).

Philippines capital city of Manila is also under lockdown.

Indonesia has called for social distancing and Jakarta Governor, Anies Baswedan has called for remote working.

Thailand has issued a nationwide Emergency Decree and postponed the popular Songkran water festival which marks the Thai new year.

Southeast Asian media organisations has had to adapt to these recent developments. Newsrooms across the region have made changes to working arrangement. Telum Media spoke to various heads of publications in different markets to learn about their operations during this time.

Evi Mariani, Managing Editor, Jakarta Post
“We have instructed those who can work from home to work from home. This includes most editors and some reporters. A few reporters and photographers that have to go on the field should practice social distancing, wash their hands often and avoid public transportation.

We also have instructed a number of reporters who had come into contact with Transportation Minister Budi Karya to do self-quarantine for 28 days from their last contact with the minister.”

Minister Budi Karya was tested positive for COVID-19 on 15th March.

Eugene Wee, Head of Media Strategy, Singapore Press Holdings
“SPH, which has eight newsrooms under its roof, is keenly aware of how an outbreak like this can affect its operations. And this is why we have put in place a business continuity plan that we hope balances the need to keep our newsrooms fully operational with the need to keep our staff safe.”

SPH has implemented five initiatives to achieve this which includes splitting team operations, giving staff options on work locations, beefing up IT infrastructure and training to use it, making staff feel safe when they come to work and getting the management staff to reinforce social responsibility messages. Eugene has detailed the steps SPH have taken in a blog post that he first wrote for International News Media Association’s blog that can also be read here.

Saraswathi Muniappan, Editor, Economic News Services, BERNAMA

“Bernama's Economic News Services has been operating from home ever since the MCO came into effect. WhatsApp has been the vital communication tool. We coordinate assignments, follow-up and processing of statements all via the app. If and when it is needed i.e. when the Economic Stimulus Package (ESP) was announced - we had four reporters in the office to ensure seamless process.

We did encounter minor miscommunications, but it seems to be manageable and we were able to sort it. So far, so good.”

Stéphane Delfour, Bangkok Bureau Chief, AFP
“At AFP we made work from home mandatory even before the emergency decree was in place. But of course, it poses many challenges for us as a news agency which we are working to address. First, we needed to put in place a new organisational structure that would guarantee business continuity. We cannot just stop covering the news! Some of the measures such as journalists conducting interviews via skype, ensuring our photographers and videographers are well-equipped for safety using goggles and gloves, and in some cases full body gear, there was also a technical challenge: delivering the news is highly dependent on the technology.

Regular videoconferencing is very useful, but I also try my best to have one-on-one contacts, to ensure that no one feels “abandoned” and that everyone keeps a good spirit. In the long run, this is where we can be most at risk.”

Ashwad Ismail, Managing Editor, Astro AWANI
"Astro AWANI had started way earlier by splitting the editorial team into three, a week before MCO began. When it comes to managing the newsroom, there must be a nerve point that coordinates and sorts out all day-to-day content flow so that stories are gathered and distributed smoothly. For that, planning and streamlining communications is of utmost importance. To ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to task segregation, we have been utilising messaging apps.

We also need to understand the risks ahead and prepare our reporters to be well-equipped on ground. Where the Enhanced Movement Control Order (EMCO) in certain areas was implemented recently, reporters gather news and shape their stories from outside the marked areas. Likewise, we have been leveraging on user-generated content. Residents in the areas share their experiences by video recording, Google Hangouts or Skype. Additionally, we partake in collaborative efforts with government media arm to amplify certain key messages that needs to be pushed out to people."

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Telum media database

  • Eugene Wee
  • Evi Mariani Sofian
  • Saraswathi Muniappan
  • Ashwad Ismail
  • Stéphane Delfour
  • Astro AWANI
    30 contacts
    12 media requests
  • Agence France-Presse Bangkok
    16 contacts
  • BERNAMA Newswires News Desk
    32 contacts
    1 media request
  • SPH Media Limited
    11 contacts
  • The Jakarta Post
    16 contacts
    13 media requests
  • Telum Media
    9 contacts
    31 media requests

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