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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - Saudi media professionals strive to balance work and health during coronavirus curfew
RIYADH: The news cycle is a hectic environment, and the standard race against time to get news stories to readers has been challenged by the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The use of technology, allowing journalists to edit and produce daily stories remotely, helps, but the challenge remains, especially for those required to spend time outside “in the field,” risking their health and the health of their loved ones.
It is also a strange reality for many in the media industry, used to living life at a fast pace.
Dr. Abdullah Al-Jahlan, secretary-general of Saudi Journalists Association, said the association issued a statement to all journalists explaining to them how to work during current circumstances.
Arafat Al-Majed, a reporter for Riyadh Radio Channel, said she had taken online courses whilst in lockdown, using the opportunity for self improvement.
“I am under a lot of pressure because of self-isolation, but I feel happy because I get to spend much more time with the family and get closer to my children,” she said.
Al-Majed has not left home since curfew took effect, and uses online apps for delivery services, making sure to clean and sanitize all the deliveries she receives.
Other reporters, however, said that nothing much had changed in terms reporting and editing news stories.
Saudi journalist Khalid Al-Matrafi said that he was already used to utilizing smart applications and technology in scouting news stories and contacting sources.
The only change to his daily routine, he said, was having the time to read more.
Mohammad Al-Bishi, assistant editor-in-chief of Al-Eqtisadiah newspaper, said the new pandemic had made many journalists develop their technological skills to adapt their daily work routine.
“I still work from nine to five on a daily basis. I edit stories and articles and also review the pages of the newspaper before being sent to the press. Al-Eqtisadiah has a good system that allows its staff to work remotely without a glitch,” he said.
The only thing that has changed, in his opinion, is dealing with people, especially sources who he cannot meet in person.
The absence of events is also one of the major changes for media figures, who are used to coverage throughout the year — the news cycle, it seems, has slowed down. He advises field reporters to exercise extreme caution when reporting live or making videos.
Al-Bishi is happy that he spends more quality time with his family now and gets to play with his children and even help with their studies. “My children now know what kind of a cook I am,” he said jokingly.
Salman Al-Qarni, an anchor at Al-Ekhbariya TV channel, said COVID-19 had made him think twice before touching anything or using his hands. He sees sanitizers, gloves and masks everywhere he goes.
“I see the sign ‘don’t touch’ dangling in front of my eyes wherever I go and I think about it even when I hold the mic during an interview,” he said. “I wonder everyday what would be the COVID-19 impact on the stock market. I follow up closely with the stock market developments and wonder if they will ever collapse any moment.”
Lafi Al-Rashidi, a TV anchor, said he reads coronavirus news reports on a daily basis, and follows up closely with the coronavirus news to prepare daily updates on the latest developments of the disease.
“My daughter is concerned because of the disease and my son asks a lot of questions, but I reassure them that we are fine as long as we abide by the Ministry of Health’s instructions,” he said.
Ahmed Al-Dayhani, a reporter at Radio Monte Carlo, Saudi Arabia, said he spent most of the last two weeks reading up on culture and his hobbies and favorite sports. He works from home most of the time, and does not get to meet people as often as he used to.
“I’m more careful about how I deal with people, especially the delivery people and I ‘wash my hands after I receive any delivery. I rarely go to the supermarket and always open the windows in the morning to get fresh air,” he said.
Hamad Al-Mahmoud, manager of the Sky News Office in Saudi Arabia, commended the strong and robust internet infrastructure in the Kingdom, which has helped reporters and journalists do their jobs without any issues.
He works remotely and follows all official health instructions to ensure his safety and that of his family.
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