—By Lubna Khalid
Wherever you go, whatever you do; you cannot escape it… it’s here to stay, and play havoc with our lives. Life in the Age of Covid 19 is fraught with danger for people all over the globe, but live we must and fight the virus till a safe vaccine comes up. Despite being under lockdowns and quarantine and self-isolation, the wheels have never really stopped turning since the world woke up to the horror that is Covid 19.
‘Work from home’ is the new mantra we all learned, and discovered that it’s not an option to be scoffed at. Who could have predicted online classes for school children or tele medicine as a substitute for actual clinical sessions? So now we have three types of workers: people who can work from home, people in the essential services group who must venture out in the line of duty, and those who are intermittently working from home and going out to work. Those who can work from home are safe from contracting the virus to some extent, but those going out to work are the ones who are more at risk.
The journo community falls under all the three categories mentioned above.So, this scribe interviewed female journalists from the print and broadcast media to find out how they are faring in the current situation.
Sanovia Chaudhry, Reporter, Geo News
Sanovia Chaudhry has been working for Geo News as reporter since 2015. Before joining Geo, she had brief stints with Jaag and ARY. Sanovia has been working in the field and says that as a reporter, her work remains the same.
“As journalists, we have to work regardless of the situation in the city, and working with novel Corona virus, popularly known as Covid 19, raging unchecked in Karachi, was not different. I would say that my work was not affected by the pandemic; all of us working in the field now have to exercise caution. Before Covid 19 struck, we used to visit bustling markets, public places, and cover political assignments, and we still do it. However, now we observe social distancing, wear face masks and gloves, and use hand sanitizers. The good thing is that few (not all) political parties have taken the initiative of ensuring that social distancing is observed at their press conferences. Even photographers are not allowed inside! So, being a reporter, I can say my work has not been affected and that goes for all reporters.
“I believe the safety of a journalist depends upon the organization they works for and how responsible the organization is. Geo News has taken measures to ensure our health is not compromised. Tests were conducted at workplace, fully covered by Geo. In addition, only necessary personnel are called to office.
“A reporter has to venture out to places not very safe, and I used to go to areas where Covid 19 was rampant to report the situation, with proper safety measures. The best thing is to maintain distance even when you are in the car with your photographer and driver. As working professionals, we can cope by maintaining distance even if travelling in the same vehicle, and should use sanitizer frequently, especially after touching anything, even if it is a mic. I think the situation has improved somewhat, as the curve has flattened, but we are not out of the woods yet, and wearing face masks should now be a part of our lives,” emphasizes Sanovia.
Faiza Shah, Senior sub-editor, In-paper Magazines,Dawn
Faiza Shah has worked with Dawn newspaper for almost 12 years, off and on.
Speaking about working under lockdown, Faiza delineates the problems she faced personally. “The primary problem is that of communication with staff. Communicating with the pagemaker can be time consuming and frustrating. Pagemakers work from office, and explaining to them design layouts on cell phone is complicated. Getting the pagemaker to change the layout and check proofing errors can be problematic. When I myself am at the office, I can tackle these things more independently.
“Another issue is the Internet and power outages at home; it can cause delays.On the flipside, working from home has also proved that if we have up to date technology, it is not necessary to go to office everyday. But to go digital, a lot of mental blocks will have to be broken down, and mindsets changed.
“The virus itself affected me personally as two of my family members tested positive and isolated at home. I was the primary caregiver for one of them. It was a stressful time, and juggling my work and taking care of the patient took its toll on me. I decided not to take leave; I felt it was not justified as I am already working from home.I should have put my work aside for that month. It created a lot of stress for me, but with the support from my section head and co-workers, I managed to pull through. However,they still did need me to deliver work on time. That’s why I think I should have taken some time off. The thing is that when you work from home, you tend to feel time off is not required. You think that after you do this chore and that errand, you can get back to the computer and finish work, but id does not work that way.”
Yasmeen Taha, Magazine Editor, Daily Ausaf
Yasmeen joined daily Jang in 1997 as sub-editor and for the next 13 years worked in its magazines section, taking out Baladi page, among others. After that, she joined Daily Dunya as senior sub-editor, magazine. For the past four years, she has been working as Magazine Editor, daily Ausaf, Karachi.
“I cannot work from home,” says Yasmin empathically.“All those fellow journalists who are working from home will bear me out when I say that when you are home, your chores are never finished, it’s difficult to set a work schedule.So, throughout the lockdown period, I have been going to my office. I don’t go daily; it’s one day off and one day on pattern that I have been following. This pattern was set by myself, no oneforced me to do so. In fact, I was asked to work from home, but I decided against it. It was a little difficult to convince my husband that I would be safe, but when I explained to him my reasons, he supported my decision. My son lives abroad and he also had concerns about my going to work place, but it has worked well for me.
“In my office, I don’t face the power outages problem, which is very common in Karachi. At workplace, one’s concentration is totally on work and at home the environment is different, and one can easily get distracted. I must say that my management has facilitated us in every way, and with their support we will get through this period, too.In these tough times when media houses have been withholding salaries, we are being paid regularly.”
Ghazala Fasih, Fellowship Editor, Pakistan Press Foundation
Ghazala Fasih, formerly in-charge women’s edition and writer at Nawa-i-Waqt group has worked as reporter and feature writer forhealth pages ofNawa-i-Waqt, and has been plying this trade for 30 years.
Sharing her thoughts on life during lockdown Ghazala says, “We were not ready to fight the novel Corona virus, Covid 19, that has taken the country by storm. Most people thought we would not be hit, and I know many people who think Corona virus is nothing! In fact, even educated people I have spoken to believe that it’s our government’s gambit to secure money from WHO to fight against Covid 19. So when the government imposed the lockdown, we had not devised a system to work from home. Coordination and gathering information are basically two of the most important things we that we do, and that is exactly what has become very difficult. People do not take or return calls, which is very frustrating.Since the lockdown started, I have been working from home. From the time I started working as a journalist, I have always worked from office. But, changing situations demand changes in work style and routine, too.
“The main problem that I face is long, scheduled and unscheduled power outages. Devices are not even charged fully before KE strikes again! Of course, the Internet problem is also related to power outages. We all have connectivity issues, and, to top it all, devices like Char Ji’s rates have increased. Despite all this, we have to meet deadlines and work has to be submitted on time.And I am proud to say that in spite of added pressures, I have been managing well.”
Nusrat Wasi, Desk editor, Dawn TV
Nusrat is an experienced campaigner. Starting her career from Television News Network (TNN) she has worked for at least half a dozen TV channels including ARY, Samaa, Waqt and Metro.
Nusrat asserts, “I am a desk editor and look after entertainment news and women issues, so I don’t have to work in the field. Since the lockdown started, we have been following the SOPs: wearing mask and sanitizing hands frequently. So, no, I haven’t faced any problems as such.”
Iram Noor Muzaffar, Editor You! Magazine, The News, Jang Group
Iram Noor Muzaffar has been a working in the magazines section of The News for 25 years. She started her career as sub-editor with You! Magazine, and also worked for Instep for a while. Presently, she is Editor, You! magazine.
Iram is all for working from office. Explaining her point of view, she states, “Working from home is a necessity and even a blessing nowadays, because of the Covid 19 situation, but it has its own sets of problems. At workplace, we don’t have the internet problem; at home, thanks to our most efficient service providers, we have to face connectivity issues. Besides, we have to use our own resources as well. Co-ordination with contributors and co-workers is another problem. At workplace, it is easy to speak to my sub-editors and supervise their work. But from home, it’s problematic as I have to call them for everything. Talking with your co-workers face to face and exchanging ideas is a lot easier than by communicating via cell phone, text messages and emails.”
Shehla Hasan Rizvi, Senior Assignment Editor, ARY
Shehla Hasan Rizvi joined GEO TV as a trainee in the election cell in 2007. After that, she covered by-election, general elections, us and also Bangladesh elections. I also write articles for ARY website and for newspaper Jahan Pakistan, Akhbar-e-Jahan and Jang Sunday Magazine. After elections,she worked as news analyst in GEO, then switched to ARY News in 2011. Currently, she is working as a Senior Assignment Editor.
Speaking about her work, Shehlaprofesses, “I am in the news department, and as such can’t work from home. All of us who work from studios are brave people. There are sanitizer dispensers everywhere. Even though we follow SOPs at ARY, about 80 workers tested positive for Covid, myself included. I got two weeks off when I was diagnosed with Covid 19.During that time, I only assigned work to make packages for bulletins, as I was not very sick. I just had fever and body ache.
“I have to praise ARY management; I wouldn’t have gone for PSR and antibodies test, as they are expensive. But all of us attending office regularly were screened for Covid, paid by ARY. After I tested negative, I started going to my workplace. I feel there is a lot of negativity in the air. At workplace we have a healthy environment and are supportive of each other, but I have noticed that people in general, were afraid to talk to me even on cell phone! They probably thought they would catch the virus just by talking to me. People should encourage and motivate each other to dispel negativity in the air.”