"Journalism is the same; we have just changed the vehicle in which we communicate it," Pablo Herraiz, Investigative Journalism Reporter for EL Mundo.
The pandemic accelerated the digital era of journalism. Since the onset of COVID-19, people have consumed news 50% more than pre-pandemic and at all hours. In addition, the media bridges people in isolation or at home, living remotely from friends or family elsewhere, to the outside world.
I had the privilege of interviewing Pablo Herraiz, Investigative Journalism Reporter for El Mundo, Madrid, Spain's largest newspaper, and exploring how the pandemic has influenced the profession of journalism – from how we consume the news to how journalists deliver it.
Pablo Herraiz started working 20 years ago for El Mundo, one of the top newspapers in Madrid. According to him, one of the most significant challenges of being a reporter is generating new information every day. For example, after the pandemic hit, many people were told to stay at home and work from there. But for a journalist, working from home is not the most effective way to get a story - even if the workplace can present it as a benefit.
"Before the pandemic, I was always in the streets looking for stories, people to interview, or covering events, but now, that is lost."
While journalists adapted to working from home, anywhere in the world, they also adopted new methods to support getting the job done and delivered in the format that was now widely consumed. Journalists can now more easily access information about government, trials, speeches, etc., which would be harder to follow on foot because everything, absolutely everything, is now online. Instead of face-to-face interviews, platforms like Teams and Zoom became the next best thing. By using these platforms, journalists have free access to create good interviews that can be smoothly edited rather than telephone interviews or other mediums. However, there are also times when lousy internet connection or scheduling difficulties due to time changes can bring another host of issues.
Despite the sudden change from where the job was done, the pandemic benefited media outlets: news traffic, subscriptions, and readership went up. The pandemic also accelerated journalists' pace, from expectations to constantly post news online to the rate of discovery and storytelling.
For print media, sinking sales were also amplified by the pandemic. Within a few clicks, people can find a news source online and don't need to go out and find (and buy) a physical newspaper. The hyper-digitization of news and the rate we consume it may be convenient. Still, everything has a cost: the loss of human interaction and an overflow of information that isn't always vetted through all the necessary channels before its release.
"Human interaction has been lost as everything now relies on online platforms."
With the chaos of the pandemic, one of the biggest mistakes media outlets committed was abusing their power. News saturation through online platforms often doesn't give people enough time to process the information. Constantly bombarding the public with information, facts, details, discoveries, and more information can also lead to confusion. A clear example of this negligence is seen in the current pandemic status: No one holds information on the updated restrictions, daily infections, and strains. So naturally, people could no longer continue absorbing more data and the media, unprofessionally, kept giving them more. There is now an excess of information, and it gets lost in the 'vast internet of everything' that is uploaded – to read something is not the same as processing it.
"The media has failed us because it was not reported gradually. It was like a slap of information in the face of the public."
With the pandemic more controlled, journalism mediums are returning to more traditional approaches. Still, most media outlets have their offices empty since they've adopted working from home as mainstream.
Despite these drawbacks and the saturation of news on the internet, Herraiz believes that the media remains committed to standing up for the public and the world. All journalists and media outlets have worked together to keep people informed and safe. The power of journalism can impact millions, opening the eyes of those who a twisted truth has blindsided.
"Journalism, for me, has always been telling a story; in the end, it's a lifestyle," concluded Herraiz.