Coronavirus deepens rural reporting crisis in India

Several newspaper and digital media reporters said that their news outflow had reduced in the past two months | Image - Immayabharathi

Hit by the sudden lockdown and loss of business, several media organisations, both English and vernacular papers, shut either entire print editions or some regional bureaus. Some have deftly reduced pages.

Dwindling ad revenues and disruption in circulation have forced media houses to look at cost-cutting measures that include layoffs and pay cuts to journalists in order to curb operational losses. Misinformation about the spread of coronavirus through newspapers and other such rumours have added to their woes.

News magazines like Manipal’s weekly Taranga, Outlook, sports magazine Sportstar of The Hindu, Forbes, The Urdu Nai Duniya, Hindi daily Mahanagar suspended print publications. The Telegraph, The Times of India, Deccan Chronicle, Sakaal Times and Gomantak Times among others are shutting down multiple editions across the country. Kolkata-based The Telegraph is closing its Jharkhand and Guwahati bureaus by May 31 and nearly 40 employees have been laid off with a notice over phone call. Besides full timers, even freelancers and stringers (grassroots reporters) are set to lose jobs. Most national newspapers have only one bureau for the eight northeastern states and mostly rely on the services of poorly paid stringers. Several news outlets like The Hindu and Business Standard which had put their content behind paywall, have now begun offering their news for free.

Not just the big players, even smaller ones, which acted as change makers at the district and taluk levels, are facing financial difficulties and are struggling to keep businesses afloat.

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