The Financial Express

Furloughing newsmen - not so wise

Furloughing newsmen - not so wise

As if the game is over for professional journalism, pessimists like to infer from circulation fall coupled with declining ad revenue after the pandemic has further plagued the media industry. If managers can't counteract business challenges, their shakiness is mostly evident in their action: job cut.

Whereas newspapers are still being published as hard copies despite their death certificate issued by a bunch of pundits, shark-like propensity for suicide among some media moguls is no more uncommon.

Since the coronavirus outbreak, 'furloughs, layoffs and closures took local journalists in the US away from the critical work they provide', according to a Poynter article, which quotes Pew Research as showing loss of 56 per cent of newspaper jobs in the past decade.

Akin to the culture of any other Bangladeshi sector, there are no official data of hiring and firing in the mainstream media. Gossips and social media disclosures suggest that a number of newsmen may have been retrenched in recent times and more may be on the way.

Apparently some industry stakeholders tend to overlook the increased demand for 'news as it is' and how the media houses are kept operational by reporters, copy editors, writers and support staff during the shutdown. One may give credit of information sharing to popularity of the online media, but that too is run by none but professionals!

If there is no great disaster shortly, life will resume in near future and so will all businesses. Maybe, journalism too has a prospect.

Who would bring into public notice, hundreds of issues such as problems and remedies of Covid-19, struggle for or solution to education, R&D, embezzlement of relief materials or fiscal incentives, border skirmishes, protests across America, torture of migrant workers, poverty and pollution, changes and beacon of hopes, if you make a skeleton team rather than injecting fresh blood?

Failing to see promises of journalism, some bosses have dwarfed themselves. For failure to present a viable business model or to prove management efficiency, others are putting the blame on those who have no liability. While cutting overhead costs, business imitators chop off heads, throwing the organisation on to a path of ruination.

This is where also the path of media revival lies. Certain old practices of journalism, which ignored people's rights and necessities, have lost relevance to, say, the millennial generation.

A handful of newspapers and television stations, globally, review their coverage every now and then. Unfortunately, readers in our part of the world haven't come across too many selling points for media products that often contain elements of 'freedom to praise'.

Therefore, journalism- that may be aimed at regaining trust - is required for revamping the media industry. Then again, how will the story of a free pigeon be documented when the bird is caged, and unless the storyteller searches for knowledge of confinement before securing its freedom?

How far French statesman Clemenceau's dictum - War is too important to be left to the generals-is a simile proper for media operators may be a matter of debate. Indeed, the mass media, if true to its cause, is not any isolated entity in society and the extinction of newsmen in a modern state defines the status of its citizens.

Only optimists can pursue journalism per se that readers and viewers would value. If the price of a Bangladesh daily is raised to Tk 30-Tk 50 per copy in the current market, any newspaper can sustain. Essentially, the answer to why readers would pay such a price should be available in the quality of contents.

If messaging is a journalistic act, its carriers and operational modalities have undergone transformation from time to time - from messengers to social reformers and from historians to students; and from letters to books and newspapers, from radio to television, and from cinema to video footage. Internet has emerged as a hybrid of diverse features, offering a new context. However, every stakeholder can't survive transition.



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