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Journalists in the era of #Covid19: Learning along with their audience

───   09:08 Fri, 25 Jun 2021

 Journalists in the era of #Covid19: Learning along with their audience  | News Article

If one could sum up the job of a journalist, it mostly comes down to telling stories. Not our own, but those of other people. This might sound simple, but the work that goes into writing and broadcasting or publishing a story can take days.

Journalists are thus considered people who have a wealth of information on the widest variety of topics. Now, taking this into consideration, who would ever think we would live in times where we would have to report on something unknown, invisible, so foreign, never experienced in modern times, and only learning the (mutating) facts as we write?

That’s Covid-19 for you. It can certainly be considered a watershed moment in the media industry globally. One day the OFM News team was chasing a story about a church gathering with international guests in Bloemfontein with possible Covid-19 positive cases, the next the whole country had been shut down – lock, stock, and barrel – cut-off from the rest of the world. I remember telling a colleague, who responded very calmly, “Not to worry, so is the rest of the world”.

The newsroom was abuzz with more questions than answers. Information overload was the order of the day. The team was in daily brainstorming sessions to figure out ways to tell the story differently. We had to make sure we were double-checking and questioning ourselves all the time. Are we giving enough information? Should we give more? Are we maintaining the correct balance of warning without causing panic? What should we do differently?

But still, the ink from our pens could not dry. We had to learn and inform. And then learn more and inform more. We epitomised the Confucius quote: “The man who asks a question is a fool for a minute, the man who does not ask is a fool for life”.
It was clear that it did not matter what happened, the basic test of journalism – whether a story is considered news or not – still applied. If you do not know the answer to a question, chances are about ten of your friends or family members do not know it either and that is enough people who will be interested in the story.

Another foolproof strategy in journalism – especially when you run out of angles for news articles – is to tell the story through someone’s eyes. To try and make it more human and to tell the story using someone else’s words. But as time went on, we realised that hundreds and thousands of people were tested positive and a frightening number of them were succumbing to the pandemic.

As is the case with any news department worth its salt, the OFM News team sets the news agenda for listeners and readers in Central South Africa. Our ability to keep people informed has been tested in so many ways with the coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Although listeners and readers were glued to their radios and screens during hard lockdown, they became overwhelmed within a few months, and news and pandemic fatigue set in. I do, however, believe that never before have the South African public and the government understood the importance of the news industry as well as they do now.

The OFM News team strives to keep listeners in Central South Africa informed and up to date. More than a year later and the country is now experiencing the third wave. At provincial level, the vaccination programme is in full swing. As the pandemic continues to change our lives in a million different ways, we, the news writers, will continue to learn along with our listeners and readers, and, most importantly, report on it.


ENDS
For more info, please contact Lindiwe Mtwentula on 051 5050 900, 082 416 1665, or lindiwe@ofm.co.za.


Joernaliste in die era van Covid-19: leer saam met hul gehoor

As 'n mens die werk van 'n joernalis sou kon saamvat, kom dit meestal neer op stories vertel. Nie ons eie nie, maar die van ander mense. Dit klink miskien eenvoudig, maar die werk wat ingaan in die skryf en uitsaai of publisering van 'n storie kan dae duur.

Joernaliste word dus beskou as mense met 'n magdom inligting oor die grootste verskeidenheid onderwerpe. Nou, met dit in gedagte, wie sou ooit kon dink dat ons sou leef in ‘n tyd waar ons verslag moes doen oor iets onbekends, onsigbaar, so vreemd, wat ons nog nooit in moderne tye ervaar het nie, en die (muterende) feite moes leer terwyl ons skryf?

Dit is Covid-19 vir jou. Dit kan beslis beskou word as 'n waterskeidingsoomblik in die mediabedryf wêreldwyd. Op 'n dag het die OFM-nuusspan 'n storie nagejaag oor 'n kerkbyeenkoms met internasionale gaste in Bloemfontein met moontlike positiewe gevalle van Covid-19, die volgende dag was die hele land gesluit – so te sê met slot en grendel… afgesny van die res van die wereld. Ek onthou dat ek dit vir 'n kollega gesê het en sy het baie kalm geantwoord: 'Moenie bekommerd wees nie, die res van die wêreld is ook afgesluit'.

Die nuuspersoneel het meer vrae as antwoorde gehad. ‘n Ooraanbod van inligting was aan die orde van die dag. Die nuusspan het daagliks koppe bymekaar gesit om maniere uit te dink om die storie anders te vertel. Ons moes onsself die heeltyd afvra, Gee ons genoeg inligting? Moet ons meer gee? Behou ons die regte balans sonder om paniek te veroorsaak? Wat moet ons anders doen?

Maar tog kon die ink uit ons penne nie droog word nie. Ons moes leer en inlig. En meer leer en meer inlig. Ons het die Confucius-aanhaling beleef: "Die man wat 'n vraag vra, is 'n dwaas vir 'n oomblik; die man wat nie vra nie, is verewig ‘n dwaas".

Dit was duidelik dat dit nie saak maak wat gebeur nie, die basiese toets van joernalistiek – of 'n storie as nuus beskou word of nie – was steeds van toepassing. As jy nie die antwoord op 'n vraag weet nie, is die kanse groot dat tien van jou vriende of familielede dit ook nie weet nie, en dit is genoeg mense wat in die storie sal belangstel.

Nog 'n onfeilbare strategie in die joernalistiek – veral as die invalshoeke vir stories min raak – is om die storie deur iemand anders se oë te vertel om dit meer menslik te maak en om die storie te vertel met die hulp van iemand anders se woorde. Maar met verloop van tyd het ons besef dat honderde en duisende mense positief toets en dat 'n skrikwekkende getal mense sterf.

Soos die geval is in enige nuuskantoor wat hulle sout werd is, stel die OFM-nuusspan die nuusagenda vir luisteraars en lesers in Sentraal-Suid-Afrika. Ons vermoë om mense op hoogte te hou is op soveel maniere getoets met die dekking van die Covid-19-pandemie.

Alhoewel luisteraars en lesers gesmag het na nuus tydens die inperking, het hulle binne 'n paar maande oorweldig geraak, en nuus- en pandemie-uitputting het ingetree. Ek glo egter dat die Suid-Afrikaanse publiek en die regering nog nooit vantevore die belangrikheid van die nuusbedryf meer besef het as nou nie.

Die OFM-nuusspan hou luisteraars in Sentraal-Suid-Afrika op hoogte en op datum. Meer as 'n jaar later en die land beleef nou die derde golf. Op provinsiale vlak is die inentingsprogram in volle swang. Omdat die pandemie ons lewens in 'n miljoen verskillende maniere verander het, sal ons, die nuusskrywers, voortgaan om te leer saam met ons luisteraars en lesers, en veral daaroor verslag doen.


EINDIG
Vir meer inligting, kontak Lindiwe Mtwentula by 051 5050 900, 082 416 1665, of lindiwe@ofm.co.za.


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