The Challenges of Reporting in a Covid World
Image: Alex Crawford reports from Yemen, inside a children’s hospital, as hunger and coronavirus devastate the country, for Sky News.
Tim Singleton, just a few months into his new role as Head of International News at Sky, gives a personal view of the challenges of reporting in the era of Covid.
What an extraordinary time we are living through. As journalists, we are trained to observe and report. But the pandemic is something we are all experiencing too. Which isn’t to say we are exceptional as journalists, but it’s a reminder that we need to deal with what’s happening in our home lives as well as our professional lives.
In practical terms the pandemic has meant a sea change in how we operate as a TV news operation. We need to work responsibly in terms of protection and social distancing, and adapt to working from home as so many have. Yet for Sky News, we also feel a responsibility to still get to the heart of the story, despite the hurdles that stand in our way.
This was illustrated in a most vivid way by Stuart Ramsay’s reporting from Bergamo earlier in the year. We all knew that Italy was in lockdown and had a problem. But no one had seen evidence of what it meant until Stuart and his team brought a hellish perspective to our screens from the hospitals there, and a warning from Italian doctors to the UK – act before it’s too late.
Now, a personal perspective… I know that the NHS listened and learned from what happened in Italy. I joined Sky in June, after a three year absence from journalism working as Director of Comms for DFID. Just three weeks after starting, my appendix grumbled and then burst, meaning a short stay at Northwick Park hospital and a slightly longer absence from my new colleagues. Which was inconvenient to say the least! But one nurse there did tell me it was the Italian experience that opened the hospital authorities’ eyes to what was coming. If Sky News played some part in that, then we should be proud of what we achieved.
Sky remains committed to international coverage, despite the challenges of filming abroad in a world of Covid
One practical implication of the pandemic has been a closing of borders across the world, but that hasn’t stopped us telling the story. Our correspondent in India, Neville Lazarus, filed a series of telling despatches about what’s happening there; we have done the same from our bureau in South Africa. Sky News has been unerring in its commitment to reporting on Covid’s spread across North and South America. And just a few days ago, Alex Crawford sent a distressing, upsetting but necessary report from Yemen, where Covid is just one factor among many in the rarely told story of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
We’re also very pleased that we refused to take our eyes off the climate ball. While the world focuses on Covid, this summer has seen the second largest Arctic ice melt on record. Sky News sent Adam Parsons to Iceland to see the melting glaciers, and Stuart Ramsay to Brazil to see the devastating – and under-reported – fires in the Amazon and Pantanal regions. Travel may be tough in a Covid world, but it shouldn’t stop us revealing truth and witnessing reality.
Sky News is particularly grateful to all the journalists and fixers who live and work in the countries we operate in. None of what we’ve achieved this year would have been possible without their commitment. And for them too, as well as us, a Covid world is an often difficult world.