Edward Ion

Covid-19: transforming journalism and how the media sees shipping

The pandemic has left journalists worldwide facing multiple crises... / By Edward Ion

It’s never been a better time to be a journalist, right?

The Covid-19 pandemic is a story with 360-degree interest in every corner of the globe and with health, medical, social, economic and political angles. It has everything going for it because it’s fast-moving and involves the whole of humankind.

While the Covid-19 story has gripped world headlines for months now and the media has reported on little else in 2020 so far, the top of the news storylines do not tell the whole story about the lives of journalists and how fast they are changing.

If anything, the pandemic is hastening the demise of the old print media. While many would welcome this and argue it’s time hard copy newspapers finally embraced the digital future, the economic reality for journalists has never been more challenging.

The pandemic has left journalists worldwide facing multiple crises - including pay cuts, job losses, obstructions, worsening work and mental health conditions - a recent survey from the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) found.

The survey, which was conducted at the end of April involved more than 1,000 staff and freelance journalists from 77 countries, showed that 65% of respondents had suffered pay cuts, job losses or worsening job conditions during the pandemic.

It seems as if the profession (some insist on calling it a trade) is at a critical juncture and like so many other things in our lives now, it won’t ever be the same after the virus is under control and we move on.

Journalists are unpopular at the best of times. As a job it usually rates down there at the bottom along with politicians and lawyers when measured against the capacity for truth, trustworthiness and integrity. A small minority of practitioners give the media a bad name and this comes into sharper focus during major running stories.

But as communicators and crisis managers, we take a different view because our role in an emergency situation is to deal with the media in an open and forthright way in an effort to be transparent and dispel rumours, inaccuracy and downright fake news.

That is why it’s our job to understand the needs of the media and to know what makes journalists tick. The truth is that most journalists today face a precarious future with little job security or career prospects. There is no better example of what working in the ‘gig economy’ means today than the job of a journalist.

One of the most important aspects Navigate Response emphasises in our media training is that journalists are human beings too, not some group of reptilian creatures out to hurt you and your company for the sheer fun or hell of it. For the most part they are doing a job like everyone else; they have demanding bosses, needy families and urgent deadlines, just like the rest of us.

Our experience is that if a company can communicate clearly, quickly and honestly in a professional manner, then most journalists will respect that. The issues come in the shipping industry not because of hostility from journalists but because there is a disturbing level of ignorance about the sector. Mistakes abound and misunderstandings are rife because the average general news or even business journalist knows very little about maritime matters.

But in a strange way, the Covid-19 pandemic may be helping change this state of ignorance. It may only be baby steps, but we detect that interest in shipping and the key issues in our business have been moving up the news agenda since the pandemic became a global phenomenon.

Shipping is being recognised as probably the single most important link in the global supply chain without which our world quickly falls apart. More than any other form of transport, it is the shipping industry which keeps things moving.

If more journalists understand this and spread this message to the wider public, then surely that’s a silver lining?

Email: edward.ion@navigateresponse.com

Twitter: @HelixEdward

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