New Delhi: Covering a war often has rules for the media. But covering a pandemic of the magnitude of COVID-19 has neither rules nor guidelines. Media houses have come up with some sort of guidelines which are broad suggestions or thumb rules. There is a need to codify these guidelines in one template for ready reference and guidance, especially when reporters are at the pandemic war-front exposing themselves to the dangers of infection. While duty is paramount, self-protection is also equally important.
Towards this endeavour, HEAL Foundation (Health Essayists & Authors’ League) has released broad guidelines for journalists covering the pandemic. This has been done in consultation with media experts – print, visual and online – and sociologists and psychiatrists. This could help reporters and those at the desk especially in today’s world where fake news is a big threat. Fake news could be more dangerous than the pandemic itself as the world gears up to tackle the catastrophe.
While covering the pandemic is one side of the story, the side-effects like lockdown syndrome, withdrawal syndrome, depression, panic, fear etc., have been receiving media attention. This too calls for special skills as reporters fan out to cover COVID-19 in its enormous entirety.
Prof KG Suresh, Dean, School of Modern Media, UPES & Ex-DG, IIMC, says, “As India is under lockdown, media remains the only window open to the world for our citizens. While discharging their duties, there is a need for media-persons to take care of both on the physical and news front. Physically reporters have to take extra precaution against contracting the virus even as they cover stories from virus endemic zones and may be exposed to those infected, and while covering a story, there is a need for looking hard at facts, cross-check them and not get carried away by a perceived enormity of the situation.”
R Shankar, President, HEAL Foundation, says,“HEAL Foundation has been at the forefront of training, re-training and honing the skills of healthcare journalists by connecting them to a broad spectrum of stake-holders – healthcare specialists, doctors, researchers, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, nutritionists, wellness experts and others.”
The largest network of Health Writers’ and Communications’ network spread across India, HEAL Foundation, based out of New Delhi, is wedded to the cause of improving the quality, accuracy and visibility of health care communication, and also seeks to provide educational resources that help realise the goal of widespread health awareness in the society, has organised 7 Health Writers’ Convention and over 200 National workshops.
”In line with our previous initiatives of formulating guidelines on health and social welfare issues in collaboration with governmental and non-governmental bodies, and congregating the Health Writers’ through the conventions to advancing public health awareness, HEAL Foundation has again taken a lead under its HEAL Healthy Nudge Initiative specifically designed to stride with COVID-19 Pandemic in collaboration with School of Modern Media, UPES and Technical support from Prof. KG Suresh, Dean- SMM & Ex-DG, IIMC, and brought guidelines for Media Houses and Reporters as how to operate in the crucial time of the pandemic when infection galore everywhere”,says, Dr Swadeep Srivastava, Founder, HEAL Foundation.
Web link of the guidelines: https://www.healfoundation.in/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/COVID-19-Guidelines-for-reporters-and-Media-Houses.pdf