Coronavirus is the “greatest challenge journalists have faced in 100 years”

Posted on: March 31, 2020 by Claire Meadows

The coronavirus is the greatest challenge that publishers and journalists have faced in 100 years, the President of Spanish media house Henneo and the President of WAN-IFRA has said.

Writing in an article widely published by newspapers in Spain, Fernando de Yarza López-Madrazo said that journalists worldwide were aware of the responsibility on their shoulders and that “never before has our desire to do the best journalism been so great”.

Alongside this, the media had now found itself in a “perverse paradox” he said where by the necessity of the media to provide news and updates was critical but its means of subsistence had all but disappeared in days with advertising revenues plummeting.

He said: “Our responsibility as publishers and journalists is more important than ever. It is probably the greatest challenge we have faced in the past 100 years. The citizens of all countries now have a greater need for our journalistic work. We are facing a new contingency, unknown to all. The media has already shown its capacity to respond to such unfamiliar and complex circumstances with augmented competence and enhanced rigour.  

“Journalism is, above all, a vital public service of first necessity. Like doctors, nurses, manufacturers of medical equipment, policemen or soldiers, delivery men… we are on the front line of this common battle, even at the cost of our health, aware that we have an inexcusable duty to guarantee the citizens’ right to know the truth. Nothing else. Truth and clarity about what is happening.

Fernando de Yarza said that despite many sectors of the media finding themselves in financial difficulty during the pandemic, it was essential to communities that newspapers found a way through the crisis.

He added: “All of a sudden, we found ourselves in an unprecedented deadlock at the speed of light. It draws us, once again, into a perverse paradox: journalism becomes more necessary than ever, but our means of subsistence evaporate in days, and with them our likelihood to survive. Advertising has all but disappeared. Buying newspapers is becoming more and more complicated. The global economic downturn, which is unprecedented in our lifetime, has affected us in a brutal way.

“It is precisely now, despite this precariousness of resources, that we are going to demand more of ourselves than ever to fulfil our duties. We cannot and must not cease our activity. We cannot close down or take a few weeks’ rest until all this is over. We would betray the society that needs us so badly right now. We will find solutions to our problems in order to cross that bridge and reach the other side of the river without drowning in the attempt.

Fernando de Yarza’s statement come as the coronavirus situation in Spain has claimed 8,139 deaths as of Tuesday 31 March. Confirmed Covid-19 cases in Spain are now 94,417 in the latest figures, a 10.8 per cent increase which puts an end to several days of falling infection rates.

On the spread of disinformation during the pandemic, Madrazo said that the best antidote to disinformation was journalism.

He added: “Newsrooms at the heart of trusted media organisations are the error correction of manipulation vested by groups of interest that undermine the balance of institutions and society. These interests are multiplying just as fast as the coronavirus itself, generating a serious and confusing situation that is harmful to all of us who are suffering from it.

“Therefore, never have we been so necessary. Never has our role of social cohesion, of defending the democratic values, of stimulating solidarity and public awareness been so obvious. Never before has our desire to do the best journalism been so great. Never has our commitment to the truth been so laudable. It is an indispensable social and ethical duty.”

Read the article in full here.