Since the pandemic began over a year ago, journalists have found themselves having to adjust to a new work environment like everyone else, one that is constrained or predetermined by safety protocols and public health concerns.

Health protocols and practices had changed the manner reporters gathered and form their stories. Quarantine restrictions limited the ability of newsrooms to cover the story in a manner they had been used to, where sound bytes are extracted directly from sources often during face-to-face interviews, or where field reporters pound the beats in order to provide depth and context to their stories of the day.

While most enterprises have embraced work-from-home arrangements as the new normal in doing things, journalists struggled with it. To begin with, there were limited options available to replace the necessity of doing field interviews or reporting to the studio to prepare stories and break them to the public.

It is not surprising that many newsrooms had found themselves at risk and on the receiving end of this malevolent virus.  The Palawan News newsroom was no exception, as it found itself directly confronting this situation early this month, when several of its reporters contracted the coronavirus and had to undergo isolation and receive medical attention.

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The PN newsroom did not grind to a halt. It simply could not, and opted to continue covering the story albeit with limited manpower capability as most of its staff who were close contacts of the others had to undergo procedural home quarantine.  The experience, currently and hopefully on its tail-end, allowed the PN journalists an in-your-face glimpse of the pandemic akin to covering a war story from the frontlines. The takeaways were precious and instructive to the public as well.

We had come to better understand the workings of frontline government agencies working on the trenches of this pandemic, and gained insights on the strengths and weaknesses of their systems in place. 

On hindsight now that most of our staffers have emerged from their restrictive quarantines and a few others are well on their way to full recovery, we realized we could have been hit harder by the surge if we were not prepared and did not have the proper awareness and organizational capability to handle it.

Appreciating and understanding the limitations of our health care system was an important takeaway. A lesson can be gleaned here on the critical importance of having a keen understanding of the virus, one that can be gathered from expert opinion and awareness of the science behind the pandemic. It allowed PN to constructively work hand-in-hand with the Incident Management Team (IMT) and its frontliners to emerge from our own debacle with not just our individual safety assured but with a broader perspective to continue covering the story of COVID-19.

Palawan News’ own success story in confronting the pandemic is in being able to help contain it in the limited confines of our newsroom where it first struck, instead of being unresponsive and careless so as to allow the virus to spread further beyond and deeper into the community.  Precious, these lessons were indeed.

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