e4m eNewsNext: Experts discuss changing newsroom dynamics in the times of COVID-19

Rajnish Ahuja, Sumit Awasthi, and Bhupendra Chaubey discuss changing news consumption, coping with staggered workforce & growing viewership during the pandemic

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Apr 29, 2020 10:00 AM
e4m webinar

The nationwide lockdown prompted by the coronavirus crisis, has been impacting news consumption in the country. People have been tuning into news channels 24x7, while frontliners like reporters are working tirelessly on the field, bringing the best of news from all over the country. The impact of the pandemic is seen in viewership numbers and news media professions have also adapted to the changing work paradigm. 

In the first webinar of e4m’s News Next Conference industry leaders discussed this rapid change.  Moderated by Tasmayee Roy, Principal Correspondent, exchange4media, the panel, comprising Rajnish Ahuja, Senior Vice President, News & Programming, ABP News; Sumit Awasthi, VP Planning & Special Coverage ABP News; and Bhupendra Chaubey, Senior Journalist, Former Executive Editor, CNN News18, spoke about how the pandemic has been changing newsroom dynamics.

 Starting off the webinar session, Chaubey shared that conventional media was being challenged pre-COVID-19 too. “Media the way we have seen it so for and consumed it is in for a massive change. The entire scenario that was built of 10-20 windows and everyone speaking at the same time has broken off. The era of doing TV news the way we use to think it would be done where you would send your OB Vans and live units is changing completely. Maybe the scenario we are in at the moment with this webinar can be the new normal. The first step post-COVID is to adapt to the new modern world. Newsrooms today are working with 50% of their capacity and can still deliver a product. I don’t see why this should not become the new normal”, remarks Chaubey. 

Moving forward, Ahuja shares how things have changed due to the COVID-19 lockdown said, “We have been in the newsroom since the beginning of this crisis we have not left the newsroom. Although, we are short of 25% of staff. From the beginning of this crisis, we decided not to bring in our reporters and cameraman back to the newsroom. We reduced the reporter strength where 3 reporters worked one batch and the other 3 in another batch. We gave our newsroom software to people who were working from home. Guests also were not brought into the newsroom from the get-go. The prominent guests are ready to come live on Facetime and Skype. The best thing about TV Journalism now is that the people who you never thought would come on TV are now agreeing to be interviewed. Also, our Newsroom is being sanitized and kits are being provided to all employees.”

 Chaubey comments on how the transition to work from home as opposed to the studio has been: "Where we are today and what we're trying to achieve as professionals is something we need to realize on our own. The COVID-19 pandemic has made us sit back and analyze what we have been doing so far. Also, we need to be enjoying our work and what we are doing. We need to adopt modern-day realities. OB vans aren't needed everywhere. Technology will only increase. There would be better vendors. The gap between TV channels and online portals will be a thing of the past. We will amalgamate the two aspects and come up with more content.”

Whilst TV is doing well viewers are also watching the news on digital. Ahuja states, “Our digital numbers are going up. There were 16 Lakh views on our YouTube channels during the PM's COVID-19 speech. This has never happened before. People are really going to consume content in whatever form whether Digital or TV.”

New talents are emerging 

Ahuja points out that, “Lots of colleagues are doing stories working from home. They're writing for digital and making video explainers. As soon as the information reaches them, they make sure it reaches the audience. They are doing things live from home.”

 Chaubey points out that the biggest opportunity for any media house is if you get the correct technology. “We may change the scenario where it would be easier to create content on the mobile screen and then putting that same content produced on a mobile on a TV channel. That will be a real game-changer”, he shared. 

Rise of Infotainment

Ahuja commented, “People are not watching for entertainment. They're focused on infotainment, news, and updates.”

 Content and Change in Consumption Patterns

"In the coming months, the economy will be a big story. Everybody's pockets will be affected. We are planning shows related to reverse migrations, issues for the labour in North India, will they be allowed to move back, will they be tested before joining the mills. Another big story would also include how they will be held”, says Ahuja. 

Chaubey says that the concept of breaking news will change. “There is so much to cover now, that each news holds significant importance. So many political discussions and meetings are now going online, the entire paraphernalia is not needed anymore”, remarks Chaubey.

 "Right now people are consuming a lot of news because they're at home. But when all gets normal, the same viewership may or may not sustain at the same level”, comments Ahuja. 

Sumit Awasthi adds, "The next big focus in terms of news coverage, post lockdown, would be economy. Are people getting two square meals? What needs to be done to get economy back on track. These would be the focus of news in the coming days."

 Lastly, closing the session, Ahuja concludes by saying, “Consumers want more news from channels. We have stepped up our understanding as per the need of the hour. We have experts from the medical field, we're trying our best to give all the information required. We will continue to guide our viewers.”

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