Editors Guild of India hosts webinar on pandemic coverage in mass media

Editors Guild of India webinar brings to fore challenges and roadblocks encountered during Corona pandemic

Editors Guild of India
Seema Mustafa, president, Editors Guild of India speaking during the webinar

The Editors Guild of India organized a webinar titled “Covering the pandemic: challenges and roadblocks” on 17 July 2021. The webinar was live-streamed on the official Facebook page of the Guild. The webinar saw discussions on how the Covid-19 pandemic created a set of never-seen-before challenges for the media when many reporters compromised their personal safety to report the truth to its readers/viewers. The webinar was moderated by Seema Mustafa, president, Editors Guild of India.

K N Hari Kumar, former editor-in-chief, Deccan Herald; Om Gaur, national editor, Dainik Bhaskar; Tanushree Pandey, correspondent, India Today and AajTak; Yogiraj Prabhune, health correspondent, Sakal and Praveen Jain, national photo editor, The Print.

Dainik Bhaskar’s editor, Om Gaur, who led the Hindi newspaper’s coverage of the pandemic including undercounting of the dead due to the virus, claimed that his publication faced obstacles from the government at every stage after they broke the story of the cremation and burial of thousands of deaths along the rivers of Uttar Pradesh. “The publication suffered due to its reporting as the government stopped all advertising”.

K N Hari Kumar who opened the session explained how Deccan Herald covered the pandemic. He pointed out numerous issues from lack of scientific awareness of Coronavirus to the public and private health system of India and negligence of the government in terms of handling the pandemic at its earlier stage. Whereas Prabhune unmasked the reasons behind the mass spread of Coronavirus in Pune, Maharashtra.

Tanushree Pandey, correspondent, India Today and Aaj Tak said, “The most important challenge for the media organization was to keep the reporters safe and to get the story. A lot of freelance journalists were without these necessary safeguards.”

Commenting on his coverage, Praveen Jain, national photo editor, The Print said, “In the last 35 years I have covered the ‘84 Sikh riots, communal riots of ‘92 and the Kargil war, I think pandemic was the most difficult assignment. During reporting for the Kargil war, we were aware of how to keep ourselves safe, what to touch, and whatnot, but this Corona bomb could not be seen as everyone was carrying it on their bodies. The pandemic had forced hotels, guesthouses to close, and we were forced to sleep in our cars while traveling to different places. Even friends and families refused to provide a place to stay.”

Editors and journalists shared their experiences of the pandemic and how it will have long term implications on the media during this hour-long riveting webinar.

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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