A view from Egypt | Reporting from the frontline: the structural impact on newsrooms

Wednesday, 13 January 2021 11:39 GMT

REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Image Caption and Rights Information

At the beginning of the pandemic, some journalists, including me, decided to stay at home even before a decision was issued from the board of directors to work remotely. Personally, I have not worked at the office since the outbreak of the pandemic.

When the government imposed partial lockdown measures gradually, it was allowed for journalists – approximately 80% of the workforce [at my publication] – to work at home as long it would not impede the flow of the news on the websites. However, the number of those who are working on the print side is higher.

Most events became virtual amid the variety of online apps that facilitate remote work like Trello, Slack, WhatsApp, Zoom, Teams, and Hangouts. Online meetings for staff were convened to follow up on how working from home was working out.

Telecommuting in journalism has advantages and disadvantages; it saves more time for some journalists to apply for online workshops and courses in order to enhance their careers. For instance, I took two online workshops, and I am right now completing a diploma in journalism and audiovisual translation, besides studying German.

When it comes to the demerits of telecommuting for journalists, it was very difficult to reach sources face-to-face amid the lockdown, particularly [an issue] for the investigative journalists. But the silver lining of the COVID-19 is the pandemic is a fertile ground for thousands of journalistic ideas and pitches.

Later, when the government started easing the closure measures gradually, some journalists returned to their work at the offices, while others see it is preferable to do their jobs remotely.

Unfortunately, a wide number of journalists in Egypt don’t abide by protective measures and do not socially distance, and the result was that some people in newsrooms got infected and home-isolated, while the departments where the infection was spotted continued working after only disinfecting the place. Sadly, this is because the government and other pro-government institutions – whether state-owned or private – are following the policy of herd immunity in dealing with the disease.

As for the PPE, it is the responsibility of most of the journalists to get PPE on their expenses. At some media outlets, they believe it is enough to disinfect the offices.

However, the Journalists’ Syndicate developed its health service by providing more discounts on the PCR tests and opened exceptionally the registration for the health services, including providing PPE at reasonable prices.

When my family and I got infected with the virus in June, all tests we did were subsidised.

Magazine journalist, Egypt, Thomson Reuters Foundation Alumnus 

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