‘As I step out to report, I distance myself from my loved ones at home’

In today's edition of the First Responders, we feature CNN News18’s Special Correspondent Runjhun Sharma who talks about her experiences while covering the pandemic 

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Apr 27, 2020 8:54 AM
First Responders

Ever since the country has gone into the COVID-19 lockdown most Indians are tuned into news channels for most part of the day. Thanks to reporters across the country, there is fresh news every day and every hour.

In our special series - First Responders - we talk to journalists who are on the frontline, covering the pandemic. This is a way to not only to highlight their experiences of covering the COVID-19 crisis but also an attempt to thank them for getting viewers true stories straight from the ground.

In today’s edition we feature CNN News18’s Special Correspondent Runjhun Sharma who has been tirelessly reporting from all over Delhi-NCR since the crisis broke. For her, the duty as a journalist always comes first.

What have you been covering specifically on the field and since when? 

I've covered the intersection of Politics, Health and Human Rights for almost 9 years now. Covering the COVID-19 pandemic has not only been challenging in many ways but also highly risky. It is the most important story to unfold globally and needs to be meticulously​covered. The COVID-19 epidemic is not just a health story - it cuts across different beats - health, politics, economy, environment and human rights to name a few.

What has been your most challenging experience so far?

Unlike radio and print, an important aspect of television news is moving visuals for which a journalist must step out to all those places that regular people are expected to avoid during the pandemic.

In a lockdown, one wants to spend time with their family. But as I step out, I distance myself from my loved ones at home. It’s emotionally challenging particularly when the fear of infecting them is real and I try to stay in a room alone. 

Can you share an incident that moved you the most during this coverage?

The coronavirus lockdown has started a humanitarian crisis. As I captured the plight of hundreds of migrants from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh spending their days on the banks of river Yamuna and nights inside DTC buses, I was moved particularly to see a migrant (Sonu, an old man) share a portion of his food (a small paper plate of rice and daal) with a starving dog.

Do you or your family worry about your own safety? 

I have in the past been in the thick of many challenging assignments. Have travelled miles on foot through landmine infested jungles in the Naxal belt of Chhattisgarh, reported during several agitations, even extensively covered Delhi riots. But this assignment has been different - far more dangerous and risky - than anything I have ever covered before, simply because what we are reporting on is unknown. 

When I get back home after a Covid assignment - I don't interact with anyone at home, instead straight away get to the shower and wash my clothes. I try and stay as secluded as I can from my family. 

What kind of support are you receiving from your Group at this time?

The organisation makes sure that the field team (reporters, video journalists and drivers) don't step out without safety kits, which include shoe covers, gloves, masks and sanitizers. 

At CNN News18, news gathering in times of Covid-19 is not only about utmost safety and sanitization but also innovation. For eg. we do Zoom interviews with medical staff instead of going inside hospitals and other contaminated zones.

Your message at the end of the day:

Stay Indoors, Stay Safe.

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