Imagine, for a moment, if you were responsible for covering a worldwide threat now regularly compared with World War II in its devastation and future deadly impact?
As The Hill correspondent Reid Wilson reports: “The pandemic spreading across the globe has been slow to spread throughout Africa, a continent of 49 countries. But public health experts are worried that what appears to be an inevitable outbreak on the world’s poorest continent could become a catastrophe of unprecedented proportions.”
In Asia, Eurasia.net reports that Azerbaijanis need police permission to leave home. They also will be required to wear masks, under what is set to be one of the region’s strictest control measures. In the Armenian protectorate of Nagorno-Karabakh, voters went to the polls on March 31 to elect a new de facto president and parliament, despite many calls by citizens to postpone the vote because of the coronavirus.
In the Far East, according to VOA, Malaysia has arrested more than 4,000 people for violating virus lockdown orders, marking the toughest law enforcement action after the Philippines, where the president encourages police to shoot offenders.
In Latin America, coronavirus was first confirmed in Brazil on February 25. But President Jair Bolsonaro opposes restrictive measures such as voluntary home confinement, despite his Health Ministry’s open advocacy for it. The Brazilian chief of state would be the last in the Western hemisphere to take such a stand, but that could change at any time. The COVID-19 death toll last weekend was 486, 275 in Sao Paulo and 64 in Rio de Janeiro.
How the Voice of America is Meeting the Challenge
John Eggerton of Broadcasting and Cable on April 3 summed it up this way:
“As the COVID-19 virus continues to spread and sheltering at home becomes the new workplace, VOA, our country’s largest international broadcaster, has vacated its newsrooms and is conducting its broadcasts remotely, from the homes of its journalists — hundreds of them — across the globe.”
VOA provides news in 47 languages to a weekly audience of 280 million. These days, Mr. Eggerton reported “it usually does so out of almost 50 newsrooms or studios worldwide. Many are now makeshift home studios to report from China, Russia, Korea, and many more countries to help produce more than 1,800 hours of programming each week.”
Mr. Eggerton interviewed VOA Director Amanda Bennett, who explained: “COVID-19 has created enormous challenges to our global newsroom operations, which has been met by a blossoming level of innovation by our now even more reporters, producers, and editors to adopt news reporting during this global pandemic.”
As Eggerton put it: “The newly appointed ‘home studios’ include:
—an ironing board anchor desk in a living room studio by a member of VOA’s Bosnia Service
—a coat closet radio studio with clothes doubling as soundproofing to muffle background noise for VOA’s Korean Service
—a bathroom, with a shower curtain as a cityscape backdrop for live remotes from Celia Mendosa of VOA’s Spanish Service to Latin America, and
—a plastic tablecloth ‘greenscreen’ as a background for VOA’s Armenian Service, (Dind Jahic shown on video broadcasting a report for his service).
To the extent possible, VOA still provides, in addition, to live and pre-recorded radio reports, those on many media formats (video, audio, text and online). I took a look at the Voice’s most recent weekly summary of the most significant offerings listed by senior newsroom editor David Jones.
In this summary of highlights, 17 countries were reached by VOA with COVID-19 updates between March 28 and April 3 including Afghanistan, Britain, China, Haiti, Iran, Lebanon, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Somaliland, South Sudan, and Vietnam, as well as the turbulent border between Colombia and Venezuela.
As a 36-year veteran of the Voice of America (VOA), Alan Heil traveled to more than 40 countries a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, and later as director of News and Current Affairs, deputy director of programs, and deputy director of the nation’s largest publicly-funded overseas multimedia network. Today, VOA reaches more than 275 million people around the world each week via radio, television and online media. Read More