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The challenges of reporting from the frontline during the pandemic

Updated: Aug 5, 2020

Journalist opens up about her reporting during the deadly pandemic.

Picture Credit: Soumyaraj Bhattacharjee

Receiving reliable information on COVID-19 is a challenging task and reporting stories on it is much more challenging. Daiaphira Kharsati, a journalist from The Shillong Times says how most of the COVID-19 stories were given importance to get the reader’s attention, ‘be it the press conferences that updated the situation or soft stories that were COVID related.’ She says how as reporters were allowed to travel but they had to be cautious, ‘There were some villages that do not allow outsiders, so we had to make prior communications.’

Daiaphira says the lockdown gave ample opportunities to build sources and contacts which will help the news team gather information for future references as well. She says they would travel to work and also how they would meet officials from whom they received the information and also local traditional heads such as, ‘Dorbar shnongs, the Syiems or the Khasi Chiefs’ to solicit their opinion on the pandemic and how they are managing things.

‘The lockdown gave us opportunities to explore stories that we ignored or didn’t get to write during pandemic free days’ says Daiaphira. She speaks about how she always wanted to write about women working under the MGNREG scheme which is a scheme on rural employment and during the lockdown, they were on their way back to Shillong from Sohra, ‘we saw a group of women breaking stones and interacted with them.’ She says how she still has fond memories of that time.



‘The lockdown gave us opportunities to explore stories that we ignored or didn’t get to write during pandemic free days’ says Daiaphira. She speaks about how she always wanted to write about women working under the MGNREG scheme which is a scheme on rural employment and during the lockdown, they were on their way back to Shillong from Sohra, ‘we saw a group of women breaking stones and interacted with them.’ She says how she still has fond memories of that time.

To check the authenticity of a story, Daiaphira says they would call the officials to check the information provided to them by the public. Most officials were forthcoming with the information. She also says that receiving important information from the government has been something that bothered the press of Meghalaya, ‘The Chief Minister Conrad Sangma takes to his Twitter account to make crucial announcements before informing the press.’ She says that they struggled to get COVID-19 updates as there were no proper dissemination tools, ‘I had a talk with the president of Shillong Press Club, David Laitphlang on this and he said that crucial information reached the public before the press.’

While speaking about the safety measures, Daiaphira says how the organisation provided sanitizers and masks to the reporters. Curfew was imposed in the district of East Khasi Hills following the death of the first COVID-19 patient in the state. Later, only essential shops were allowed to open for a few hours only. She says during this period, ‘people would come in large numbers. I was very apprehensive about seeing a large number of crowds. Hence, I was ultra-careful.’ She then concludes saying how there were washbasins kept on the roadside which helped them sanitise themselves.

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