Global print media gets Coronavirus jitters, Indian newspapers battle it out

Even as a number of global magazines & newspapers are looking at going completely digital due to the coronavirus crisis, newspapers in India have been delivering papers at the doorsteps every morning

e4m by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Updated: Mar 20, 2020 2:07 PM
Print Media

Playboy suspends publication for this year, US-based Shepherd Express says publishing to be shut temporarily.

The coronavirus pandemic has left Playboy, the global magazine, and many other foreign publications acknowledge that with such challenges to content production print was no longer a viable business, at least in these testing times.

The Shepherd Express wrote to its readers: “For the next several weeks, the Shepherd Express will shift its focus to our website and temporarily suspend our print edition. This is the first time the Shepherd newspaper has temporarily suspended publication in its 38 year history.”

Cut to India. Newspapers go to print on time. Every day. Coronavirus or not.

The publication of print media in the country has never been put on hold. Deadlines stay intact and so does employee safety.

Be it alternate days at work or complete work from home arrangements, those in the business of newspapers have strategized employee shifts in a way that editorial commitment of the brand doesn’t get hampered. However, employee safety is of utmost priority said newspaper owners.

“The most important thing for us at the moment is taking care of our people. Workplace has been completely sanitized and there is security check at every required point so that safety is maintained at the office at any given time,” said Rajan Bhalla, CMO, HT Media Group.

“We are analysing the jobs of our entire workforce to understand which employees are required to be physically present at work and accordingly we are initiating a work from home model. Our commitment to editorial remains the same. In spite of the crisis we are not compromising on our editions and news quality especially at this time, when delivering the correct news and spreading awareness is of utmost importance,” Bhalla said.

While most newspaper offices have started work from home facility for employees some are in the process of finalizing the same. Most organizations have also stopped all work assignments that require travel.

Reporters of The Economic Times are working from home and so are reporters in The Times of India and Navbharat Times. The Hindu Business Line has gone for work from home as well. Journalists have been given no date of return to office.

Alongside newspapers, digital is also maintaining safety standards as pressure to update news mounts every second on all digital platforms. Puneet Gupt, COO, Times Internet said: "At Times Internet, we have always had progressive work policies where work outcome has been more important than work location. Our digital-first journalists are equipped with company-issued laptops as well as all the necessary software and content resources required to publish stories securely from any location. Most importantly, we trust our colleagues and believe that in times of crisis such as these they will rally to ensure they maintain our high quality standards."

Down South, too, newspaper and magazine publishers are putting up a tough fight to keep their employees safe and the editions running simultaneously.

Mathrubhumi Group, for instance, is using technology to the fullest to stay connected internally and deliver news on time. “Most of our meetings are taking place on video conferencing so that we stay safe yet fully functional. We have also completely sanitized the office premises,” said MV Shreyams Kumar, Joint Managing Director, Mathrubhumi.

There’s more. Vikatan Group known for their publications like Ananda Vikatan, a Tamil language weekly magazine, which is also one of the largest circulated magazines in India, has said that safety of their employees is first on their minds.

B Srinivasan, MD, Vikatan Group, says: “With hand sanitisers, memes, posters and the 'temp' gun, we have been sensitizing the 'open office' workforce about COVID-19's challenges. Writing about COVID-19 without instilling fear, calling out ill-informed posts and providing solid medical evidence has been the first response from our editorial.”

Adopting online collaboration has helped the group be more productive during such times, said Srinivasan. “The culture of collaborative functioning and remote working has become second nature to us. Little did I dream this would come handy at a trying time like this,” he added.

“We believe our reporters have enough connections to be able to keep the news flow kicking and relevant and we are focusing on the new megatrend of WFH as an important content and community engagement phenomenon,” Srinivasan said.

With inuts from Simran Sabherwal

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