How the pandemic has modified different ways of working for journalists in Madrid
Spain, one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to the health and economic administration of the coronavirus pandemic. It has been one of the countries in the world with the most deaths per million inhabitants, and its fall in GDP has been the largest of all. In the coronavirus crisis, governments are managing a difficult balance between safeguarding the health of their citizens and fully maintaining economic activity possible to avoid ruin. All countries are leaving behind a great number of lives and shreds of their wealth, although none is coming off as badly as Spain.
Spain has not only suffered from the pandemic in a unique way, but also approaches the reconstruction phase with significant specific weaknesses. Its dependence on tourism (one of the most affected sectors) is combined with the scarce technological base of its production model, the fragility of the labor market, entrenched inequality after the previous crisis and a previous level of public debt that conditions the plans of encouragement. In addition, the internal political climate is characterized by government-opposition polarization, little harmony between the territorial authorities and a high level of distrust of citizens towards politicians.
However, the country also has significant strengths. It has shown social resilience and high compliance with confinement, public services have not collapsed during the state of alarm and even its economy shows signs of greater solidity than in the Great Recession of 2008-2013, this had a huge impact in terms of greater export power, a more solid financial system and, above all, a more balanced European approach to the crisis than at the time.
Beyond the impact on the lives of millions of people in Spain, the new coronavirus pandemic has also dealt a severe blow on the evolution of the economy at the national level. The government of Spain has been shaken by the COVID-19 crisis and has had to promote measures to alleviate the economic slowdown caused by this virus, it is envisioned that its spread could have a triple effect on the world economy. In this regard, there are many examples, such as disruptions to supply and distribution chains, and financial impact on companies and different businesses around the country, big and small. This last point is one of the most important for the citizens.
How has the pandemic affected different job occupations? In this case, journalism, which is in charge of communicating the different events caused by the pandemic to the rest of the population, has been affected.
Valentín Fernández Arias, editor in Expansión, the leader economic newspaper in Spain has shared his experienced when the COVID – 19 pandemic hit Spain. ‘‘At the moment that we were sent home and the lockdown began. In Spain, the lockdown was different than other countries. We weren’t allowed to go outside even to go to work. This took three months to go back to normality. The first aspect I remembered is that telecommuting began. Not only for the newspapers but for the whole world. When this happened, the way of working changed, but not only because they worked from home, that implied a change that was for the better in some things and not for the worse, but in a strange way for others.’’
In 2020 and even today, the 90% of pieces of news where COVID themed. This had a great impact on newspapers and journalist. ‘‘From March 2020 to the summer of 2020, the topics that were discussed and current issues are highly conditioned by the pandemic in every way. Obviously in an economic newspaper all the news was mediated because of coronavirus’’.
In his personal experience, the journalist now can access the whole work of the redactional staff and take it home, but not only that, he can now have access to all the data from home. He shares, ‘‘From that day on, those of us who were able to work remotely have access to technology that allows us to do everything from home. I could close pages and sections, update my sections on the internet from home at any time. This was unimaginable three years ago. I had to stay even on Sundays at work until eleven at night to close all the internet and physical sections of the newspaper and now, I have a business laptop at home that does it all’’
Of course, telecommuting has affected our lives to a level that we can’t imagine even now, two years after the pandemic started. It has been a good change in terms of workload for some businesses and negative for others. ‘‘Technology allowed us to do things that we could not do when we worked in person. Until that moment, technically we did not have the possibility of accessing the tools that allowed us to enter both the internet editor and the paper version editor from home. Most of the things we did we had to do from the writing physically from the job’’, conveys Valentín.
‘Access to sources and contacts, the ability to do interviews or talk to people completely changed and all of that had to be done from home. Another important aspect that was affected because of the pandemic is the relationship between journalists and contacts or sources’’. When the crisis started, how did the journalists contacted their sources when they needed to work on a topic? Valentín shares how. ‘There were no press conferences. There were no forums or the possibility of meeting anyone and everything was done in an increasingly personal way. In the end you worked with your contacts and talked to them from your home and your personal mobile. If someone wanted to talk to you, they had to get your personal contact because there was no other way. This was a new way to engage with sources and contacts that had never happened before.’’