When journalists reported Covid-19 has affected industries, they meant all industries, their very own, journalism, included. A Zoom webinar organized by Telum Media — a media database based in the Asia Pacific region composed of former public relations professionals and journalists — tackled the state of journalism under the pandemic and what the future is looking like for the industry.
The speakers included Bloomberg Managing Editor for Southeast Asia Stephanie Phang; Director for Asia of the World Association of News Publishers and Vice President of the Singapore Press Club Joon-Nie Lau; and Multimedia Correspondent of The Straits Times and Management Committee Member of the Singapore Press Club Yeo Sam Jo.
According to these journalists from the region, newsrooms have taken this period to rethink their plans on how to run the publications.
Factual and accurate reporting is definitely still the focus, but there are some challenges in moving forward including income, subscriptions, and transition to online platforms.
In the case of Bloomberg, they have maintained putting importance on their correspondents around the world because it is crucial to have local perspectives as an international company. Another change they worked on was employing more women in leadership positions in the newsroom, which includes their global content officer, Asian newsdesk leader, and senior news managers in Asia.
“Obviously, this is a work in progress and we have much to do but it’s all about being committed to diversity into the newsroom. It really matters who assigns a story, who reports it, who writes it, who shapes it, and who are we talking to for those stories” shared Bloomberg’s Phang adding that they move towards interviewing more of those who are underrepresented for better inclusivity.
Meanwhile, the journalists agree that one of the biggest challenges of the industry continues to be the transition of media publications to online.
According to Lau, print is not dead but “it is not thriving.” While more people would be subscribing to online news rather than newspapers, there is still a long way to go before the industry fully shifts online.
The Straits Times’s Multimedia Correspondent Yeo seconded, “We’ve been given this ‘print is dead’ narrative for the longest time. I heard it when I was an intern 10 or 11 years ago. It’s like one of those death hoaxes online where it’s not really dead. Maybe it’s dead for some publications and in some forms, but it’s not dead as a whole.”
“I think it really boils down to the fact that print media has some form of intrinsic value. For one, print media has the ability to capture a longer attention span. When you’re online, there’s so much noise, and a lot of people are looking for the next exciting thing that you haven’t seen before. There’s something to be said about print being very focused or very linear, and to an extent, very sacred,” Yeo added.
Yeo pointed out numerous public areas are still home to magazines, coffee table books, and airplanes and offices to newspapers, since these stories can be accessed even without the need for internet connection. Having print media is also a more personal and therapeutic way of taking in a story.
“I personally get anxious when I open an article and I see the scroll bar on the side of the page and it gets shorter and shorter, because my impression with going online is everything has to be quick. Whereas with print, it’s already on the page, you kind of gauge where it is going,” Yeo ended.