Hi Aloysius, thanks for joining us. How is your work being disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
The COVID-19 pandemic hits all aspects of life globally, including the media. Within the last month, my work routines have completely changed. Social distancing as a result of this pandemic has forced me to get used to working from home. This is a work rhythm I have not experienced in my 13 years working as a journalist.Tell us a little more about how the team is currently working…
As an editor, in one week (six working days), I work four days at home, and the remaining two days at the office, taking turns with another editor. Reporters who usually work in the field are given full discretion to work from home.
If the situation becomes increasingly unconducive, we have prepared a strategy to fully work from home. At this time, editors sometimes still work from the office to ensure all the editing and pre-printing (for newspaper edition) processes work well. But, in principle, all work can be done remotely from home.
Based on the Large Scale Social Distancing (PSBB) regulation in Jakarta, including its greater areas such as Bogor, Depok, Tangerang, and Bekasi, the communication and media industry is still allowed to operate. This is important because the media serves as the strategic information and dissemination channel for the public in managing the COVID-19 pandemic.Do you have any concerns about the welfare of media workers?
These concerns are surely there. But, thank God, until today, I still receive my full take-home pay from the company. Of course, we hope this COVID-19 pandemic will end soon, because the impact is so massive for the media industry, especially with decreasing advertisements.Between print, online, TV, and radio, which sector is most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
I cannot measure which media sector suffers the most, because there are no surveys about this. But for sure, all media are experiencing a massive blow. For printed media, the impact is not only on the decrease in ads spent but also the surging prices of paper material used in newspapers, which must be imported.Stay outdoor nowadays is a luxury. (Doc / Aloysius B Kurniawan)This is a new challenge for Indonesian media, and one not covered by many disaster recovery plans. How is your organisation coping?
Our company has provided disaster coverage training several times. But, an unimaginable pandemic disaster like this is really beyond any planning or forecasting. One case similar to the COVID-19 pandemic was the swine flu and avian flu epidemic several years ago, albeit at a significantly smaller scale.
As soon as COVID-19 appeared, the company immediately prepared a special SOP and protocol to address it. Some of the steps included spraying disinfectant at the office, stopping overseas and out-of-town assignments, and implementing work from home policy. Fellow journalists who came into contact or interviewed patients were immediately tested at hospitals, fortunately with negative results.
To maintain its employees’ stamina, the company provides vitamin supplements. Journalists and editors who sometimes work on the field are also given flu shots. The company also provides primary protective equipment such as masks and disinfectants.Have media in Indonesia provided sufficient protection for journalists who have to go to the field? What can be further improved?
Based on my observation while involved in the Indonesian Independent Journalist Alliance (AJI), not many Indonesian media provide enough protection for their journalists when they work in the field. Fellow journalists who are susceptible to working in the field are especially those without the status of permanent employee or contributor / correspondent. Besides not being equipped with self-protection gear, they also only rely on income from published news / photos / videos. This is a concerning phenomenon that has occurred for many years before this pandemic even existed. In the company where I work, all employees hold permanent status, so every month they receive fixed salary. But many other media still use the aforementioned working pattern.
As a journalist, what can you learn from the current situation?
I think this pandemic is creating a new history in the journalism world. The classic saying that journalism is a “footwork”, something that has to be done in the field, suddenly gets thwarted by COVID-19. On the contrary, now journalists have to work from home when developing their journalistic reports.
This is a new challenge that requires journalists to use the power of their network, sharpen their analyses with data and various references, and think of ways to cope with the limited working space.
But out of all that, the core principle of journalism remains the same: verification, verification, and verification. In this work from home situation, the basic obligation of journalists in conducting verification remains absolute and has to be done.In your opinion, will there be changes in how the media industry work after the pandemic ends?
I believe a new working pattern will emerge in the media industry. The pandemic has forced the media to accelerate their adaptation with the latest development of information technology. Press conferences that have always been done offline are finally held online, face to face meetings can be conducted online, and various journalistic products are now also presented online.
This crisis will automatically also serve as the natural filter for media that lately have grown massively in Indonesia. The public will only wait for the media with credibility, independence, and trusted information. The media that can come through at the other end of the COVID-19 pandemic will most likely to survive in the future.
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