Alumni from the Thomson Reuters Foundation offer their suggestions on how to best support them and their work

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For many people, the global impact of COVID-19 — and the uncertainty it has unleashed — makes it perhaps the most significant life-changing event in living memory.

That context underpins this research report and is the reason why hearing directly from journalists about their experiences — as we do throughout this report — is so valuable.

In this final section, we summarise the key recommendations provided by 25 Thomson Reuters Foundation (TRF) alumni in the emerging economies and the Global South, specifically related to strengthening journalism and supporting journalists during the pandemic.

These suggestions are primarily pragmatic and focused on…

Partnerships, new formats and traditional reporting techniques helped to shine a light on the impact of the pandemic

Image via Council of Europe

Through their work, the news media has attempted to hold governments to account and translate public health information into a format that audiences can make sense of and apply to their daily lives.

As further waves take hold around much of the world, this presents an opportunity to take stock of earlier reporting and showcase some of the fresh approaches newsrooms have used in covering COVID-19.

With the pandemic moving into its next phase, I hope that these examples offer inspiration and affirmation for journalists, as they continue to explore new ways to cover this crisis.

New products and approaches

Many news media outlets saw record levels of traffic and engagement in the early stages of the outbreak. Large audiences were hungry for information about this rapidly-changing situation.

As the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers…

The ability to hear stories is essential for visually impaired audiences — and anyone who wants to consume content on the move

Photo: Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash | https://unsplash.com/@kellysikkema

In 2021, the media platform with the highest weekly reach in the United States is audio. Data published last month by Nielsen revealed that radio — just one component of this medium — reaches 88% of U.S. adults each week, ahead of smartphone apps (85%) and TV (80%).

And our national love of audio isn’t just confined to traditional radio consumption. The growth of podcasts, and emergence of audio in other places, like social networks, means that the time we spend with this type of content continues to grow and evolve.

This creates opportunities for newsrooms of all shapes and…

A global crisis galvanised teachers and students to embrace digital. Making the transformation permanent is the next challenge.

At the peak of the coronavirus pandemic in April 2020, 84.8% of the world’s students — the equivalent of some 1.48 billion children and young people — were dealing with school closures. One year on, nearly half the world’s students remain affected by schools that are partially or fully closed, UNESCO reports, leaving a question mark dangling over the prospects of more than a billion children who’ve lost vital learning to COVID-19.

Technology has played a pivotal role in keeping education afloat over the past year as well as helping students, teachers and parents adjust to these new, pandemic-induced realities.

An overnight advertising downturn impacted publishers and journalists worldwide. Would anyone step up to help?

Photography by Andrew Mwai

“It’s a paradox that, as more and more people realise they need high-quality factual information to navigate the crisis, the business models that sustain that information are collapsing,” the non-profit International Media Support (IMS), explains.

“The global economic shutdown has severely reduced the advertising revenues that many media outlets depend on.”

As a result, “worldwide, countless independent news providers are being forced to scale down, lay off reporters or close altogether”.

This financial backdrop is just one factor shaping the response of news organisations and journalists to the pandemic, alongside issues such as navigating the ‘infodemic’ and frequent encouragements on…

COVID-19 has encouraged encroachments on media freedom

Image via the Council of Europe

Writing in Foreign Policy at the end of June 2020, Sushma Raman, executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, reflected on “the global deterioration of press freedom”, adding that “an increasing number of attacks on the media have come in places where press freedom was once enshrined”.

One of the primary reasons for attacking, or threatening, journalists is to try and influence their reporting. As Gavin Rees, director of Dart Centre Europe, has explained:

“The basic headline is that if somebody is threatening you, they are trying to get into your head…

Navigating misinformation has been a key challenge for journalists during the COVID era

The picture painted by Kathy Katella, a senior clinical writer for Yale School of Medicine, will be familiar to almost everyone.

“You read about COVID-19. Then, you read some more. Then, you read things that contradict other things… COVID-19 is worrisome enough, so when you add in the tsunami of information surrounding it — and whiplash accompanying it — it can wear you down. If you’re overwhelmed, you’re not alone.”

This dynamic led to the WHO acknowledging that the outbreak, and response to it, has resulted in “an over-abundance of information — some accurate and some not — that makes…

In 2011, Facebook and Twitter were key players in political uprisings across the region. What’s changed since then?

Protesters in Aden, Al Mansoora during the Arab Spring 2011 calling for the secession of South Yemen from the North. Credit: AlMahra via Wikimedia

It is now a decade since the Arab Spring, a period of upheaval and turmoil that continues to have repercussions across the region.

Although its importance has arguably been overstated, social media played an important role in contributing to the organisation of protests and enabling outside journalists to get a sense of what was happening on the ground.

As someone who has been tracking this scene in a series of annual reports since 2012, here are ten ways that social media has changed in the Middle East in the decade since the Arab Spring.

1. Facebook falls out of fashion (but not everywhere)

At the time, the biggest social…

New markets, investment and collaboration are just some of the potential prospects that closer links are already beginning to unlock.

The Abraham Accords, a series of normalisation deals signed last year between Israel and Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), offer the chance to galvanise the technology sector across the region.

The deals signed last year established diplomatic relations between the countries and also opened the way for more business opportunities between the long-estranged states.

The Accords were “a historical and timely breakthrough, and a turning point for the Middle East region,” says Abdulla Al Hamed, managing partner at digital transformation and consultancy company INTERMID and chairman of the Bahrain Internet Society. …

How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect social media use in the Middle East and North Africa?

I’ve been mapping social media trends in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), producing an annual report every year since 2012, in order to highlight evolving social media habits in the region.

The latest study dropped in March, looking at social media usage during the pandemic, as well as longer-term trends.

Here are five main takeaways from the report.

1. The Middle East loves social media

Although usage varies, research from GlobalWebIndex indicates that social media users in the wider Middle East and Africa (MEA) region spend over three and a half hours a day on social networks.

In doing this, time is split across a…

Damian Radcliffe

Chambers Professor in Journalism @uoregon | Fellow @TowCenter @CardiffJomec @theRSAorg | Write @wnip @ZDNet | Host Demystifying Media podcast https://itunes.app

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