The Kenyan media was concerned when Covid-19 hit the country on 13th March 2020. Journalists with other staff aimed to remain relevant and sustain themselves. They played a central role in notifying the general public concerning the disease. The media played a very critical role in disseminating information. As you all know, staff such as journalists are always up and down in searching for information and reporting matters to the general public. They always interact with the public to make their work efficient. How could this happen amidst COVID -19 where social interaction was prohibited?
Media houses had to adjust very fast during the pandemic to maintain efficiency at their work. The houses have so many employees and sometimes work hand in hand with the government hence, had to sustain themselves by all means. As some of you may say that the pandemic unmasked the ills in the media houses, they sought to be flexible and adapt quickly. This article simply aims to reflect back concerning what the media houses went through as COVID began.
How COVID-19 brought complications in the media house fraternity
Newsrooms turned on to work from Home.
Various newsrooms had no choice but to change their working areas, especially working at home. Essential media staff was the only ones who were allowed to access the office to minimize exposure. For instance. If you are a Social-media staff, you could not be allowed to live-tweet from the studio. Team working on YouTube or Newspaper uploads had to get special software on their devices so they could work from home.
Each team had to present a business continuity plan to the management in the face of the pandemic just to show how they have coped. Managing pandemic coverage while transitioning newsroom processes to adhere to public health guidelines was a little bit challenging to the newsroom.
Digital Newsrooms had to adapt more quickly.
Investing in the digital tools that allowed for remote work shortened response time to the new public health regulations. There was a purchase of tools that would work from anywhere now that flexibility was necessary. The tools included laptops, cameras, production equipment that are portable in nature. Much time was spent through the recruitment and induction process of online content creators to inform their online community concerning the pandemic. This was to allow content creators to understand the style or workflow and the expectations from the audience.
Engaging the Audience in content creation.
There was an increase in audience engagement as the crisis began. All citizens including you sought to be participants in the public dialogue concerning the handling of the Virus. A lot of engagement went on the social -media platforms and SMS especially before and after national press conferences. Kenyans were particularly interested in understanding the impact the state directives will have on their day-to-day lives.
You were also eager to raise your concerns concerning the government handling the pandemic. You should remember that your response as the audience was key in making appropriate response strategies as the situation continues to unfold. The media monitoring your responses across platforms enabled quick focus to life under what many of you described as the ‘new normal ‘.Your direct feedback as audiences collected from various stations, social media, SMS, and Web-Platforms provided insights on how to engage the audiences.
Employees were laid off as Advertising Revenue dropped.
With COVID-19, there was much decline in the economy, advertising sector, and revenue. Most of the companies went back on spending. The media owners could not hesitate to announce measures that could reduce spending including mass layoffs and probably some pay cuts due to financial strains. Later on, the affected employees including the representatives and their unions sought to litigate the matter. Since the pandemic hit the country, media owners have been laying off journalists, supporting staff, and enforcing pay cuts.
Media Sustainability needs to be addressed.
Since the media is always very important in updating us in our daily life, its sustainability is fundamental hence needs attention. The COVID-19 pandemic really exposed the mess in many media houses even as many of you say that the houses were in a big mess even before the COVID-19.
The industry has witnessed many numerous changes. As the markets and the audience evolved, the industry approach is said to have remained static. Even when new ideas are formed, they struggle to implement them. Projects that do not show immediate financial promise are totally abandoned altogether.
Governments need to honour their obligations to media.
The mass media fraternity led by the Media Council of Kenya [MCK] called upon the state to walk the talk as far as sustainability is concerned. There were calls for the payment of outstanding bills owned to market organizations. Imagine the state which is the biggest advertiser currently owes media organizations billions of shillings. This is happening amidst the media owners laying out staff and imposing salary cuts. The government is being called upon to rescue the media the way it rescues other sectors like the tourism sector.