Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu, Online Reporter
THE media industry has not been spared by the Covid-19 pandemic which has forced reporters to innovate in gathering and reporting stories.
Speaking today during a three-day Zimbabwe New Media Summit Zoom meeting organised by the Zimbabwe Centre for Media and Information Literacy (ZCMIL), Dr Peter Mwesige from the African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME) said during the Covid-19 era reporters have been forced to operate under a restricted environment while producing equally good content.
He said this has seen a rise in Zoom and WhatsApp interviews among other initiatives.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has aggravated what was already a precarious situation for journalism and the news media in Africa. It continues to pose an existential threat to a media industry that was already under immense stress from the disruption unleashed by the digital revolution and the rise of social media as major sources of news for millions of people.
“Rapidly falling newspaper circulation exacerbated by Government restrictions on movement in response to the pandemic and the substantial dip in advertising revenue caused by the significant slowdown in the economic activity has left media houses on their knees. Covid-19 has also accelerated long overdue changes in the news media industry and forced journalists, editors, managers and entrepreneurs alike to embrace innovation,” he said.
“Covid-19 has also come with silver linings, one of them being the growth of online news audiences and trust in media organisations especially in the early months of the pandemic last year. Although journalists were declared or treated as essential workers their movement was severely restricted and many had to work from home. Within a short time, many African journalists embraced new ways of engaging sources and delivering content. Journalists are now relying on Zoom interviews or WhatsApp clips that are played on air,” he said.
Dr Mwesige said the increase in consumption of online news could be attributed to interest in information about Covid-19 and probably people having more spare time due to lockdowns of restrictions on movement.
He said the Covid-19 pandemic has brought to the fore the need for journalism innovation. Dr Mwesige said it was however concerning that the African continent still remained behind in innovation.
“There is need for media organisations to leverage technology in story telling such as podcasts, YouTube videos, data visualisation and relevant archival content. Media owners and managers must embrace technology in its entirety. In all this change quality journalism remains key. People will look out for content that is relevant, compelling and engaging,” he said.
The summit is being held under the theme “Re-imagining Journalism and Democracy in Times of Crises.” It was attended by media practitioners from various media houses.
Zimbabwe Newspaper Limited (Zimpapers) like other media organisations has engaged on a deliberate drive to improve its online reporting and ensure engaging coverage of current affairs. The media organisation is now utilising a number of digital platforms to ensure that readers can access content in various forms through diverse platforms.
With the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic reporters have faced a predicament whereby they have to limit their interaction and movement as much as possible while at the same time producing quality content for the public. In some scenarios they have been forced to place their lives at risk to gather stories and ensure that content gets to the audience.
Limited restrictions have also resulted in low sales of newspaper copies.