Are We in COVID-19 News Fatigue?

Would 2021 be any better? Telum Media speaks to South East Asia’s key media spokespersons virtually on what to expect next

The media scene had been changed unequivocally by COVID-19. When countries went on quarantine to contain the virus, a new newsgathering and news reporting method had to be adapted and reformed by organisations and newsrooms. But what can we expect for a year such as this one? Would it be appropriate for journalists to continue adapting to a new change, or will things return to what they were pre-COVID days?

Telum Media Webinar of ‘Journalism in Southeast Asia in 2021: What Should We Expect?’ opened this for discussion with Marites Vitug, Editor-at-Large of Rappler, Kamarul Bahrin Haron, Editor-in-Chief of Astro Awani, Stephane Delfour, Director for Southeast Asia at Agence France-Presse, Walter Fernandez, Editor-in-Chief of Mediacorp, and Zulfiani ‘Uni’ Lubis, Editor-in-Chief of IDN Times to share their insights for journalism in Southeast Asia in 2021 with participants from all over the region.

Inequality across different nations, the importance of fact-checking, the relevance of press releases in this age, and how COVID-19 will still be a crucial topic this year are the main highlights mentioned by different panel members.

“COVID will remain in the top topics of this year,” says Stephane Delfour, as the return of tourism and vaccine is adjacent to the virus. As long as the ultimate solution has not been reached, the issue persists to be common and is in demand for the New Year.

As Telum bridges the Public Relation with the media, the questions on what would catch the editor’s eye when they blast press releases on behalf of clients were naturally raised. Walter Fernandez explained, “It is essential for PRs to link the current situation or public interest, with the brand they are trying to promote. You need to understand the basics to pitch the story,” he said as he emphasised the importance for PRs to understand their target audience when sending out press releases.

“Please be mindful of what is happening around the world. The reality is we do not have the bandwidth to cover other events,” he added, citing mindfulness on event coverage limitations since journalists are also human and are exposed to risks of infection.

“For 2021, it’s like a second season of 2020. It’s really the pandemic year in Indonesia, and we are still on the first wave”, Uni Lubis said, painting a picture on the situation in the country. “It’s been more than ten months, and people get pandemic fatigue, including journalists.” She shared that while journalists and the media play a significant role in educating and informing about COVID-19, journalists are tired because they feel that what they have done is insufficient.

When it comes to the pandemic, the media industry has always relied heavily on one’s own nation’s policy. “We need to hear from leaders in different sectors who are able to propose solutions that provoke us into thinking, encourage discussions and enhances clarity,” says Rappler’s Editor-at-Large, Marites Vitug on the thought-leadership process.

Kamarul Bahrin Haron shared that regarding press releases, newsrooms are flooded with it and said that, “Content is the way to go. Content that touches the heart. I do not look at press releases, I look at solutions. Stop sending us announcements. Send us content.”

Catch the hour-long full discussion, made viewable for the public at Telum Media’s website for more depth and extended sub-topics from each key highlight mentioned.