COVID-19: A crisis period is always an opportunity for journalists to perform better, but this time it’s very different

A month ago, in mid-March, as reports of Coronavirus positive cases from Kerala, Delhi, Mumbai and other cities across the country were pouring in, I knew it was only a matter of time that cases would be reported from Kolkata too.

The West Bengal Assembly session was on at that point and I was busy covering the political drama around a possible nomination in Rajya Sabha for a fifth candidate by the ruling party in the state, Trinamool Congress. That day – March 13 – the Speaker of West Bengal Assembly, called a press conference and the number of reporters who could attend it, was restricted as a precaution from Coronavirus. From sources, I learnt that very soon the state Assembly would be adjourned for the time being.

There was sudden panic and stories on sanitizers and people buying masks were being done by the media. And then, the first confirmed case from Kolkata was reported. As the information came in an office WhatsApp group, it was an immediate signal that the war is on.

Immediate precautionary measures were taken by my office for the entire crew – since then, masks, gloves, sanitizers have become a part of my daily life.

I have been a television journalist for the past 15 years – covering everything from riots to political unrest and natural calamity. I was caught in a crossfire in Darjeeling in 2017 during a political unrest, and I stayed there for a month with great difficulty – and yet I know that I never felt then what I feel now. A crisis period is always an opportunity for journalists to perform better but this time it’s very different.


We don’t know where our enemy is lurking around – and it is indeed a war now and we are the frontline soldiers.

A lot of people ask me why I am risking my life and working and reporting from the ground. For them, my answer is that I am a passionate journalist like a soldier and when a war is on soldiers fight it out. Today, right information is needed by people and we have to give them that.

As I go out everyday for my assignments, it’s a war-like preparation that I take – wearing a mask and gloves, using sanitizer – all these are now part of a television journalist’s necessary equipment. Moreover, now the stick is attached with the microphone to maintain social distance.

We don’t go to office these days – we directly go in our office car to the place from where we are going to report. Throughout the day, I use sanitizer for a hundred times, but even then I am never sure whether or not I am safe. I am not sure whether the driver or my colleague – the video-journalist accompanying me to the assignment or people I am meeting to interview, are carriers of the virus. How can we have 100 per cent protection?

I am a political journalist and our city which was always vibrant and abuzz with political activities like rallies, political meetings, is now in the lockdown mode. The West Bengal Assembly in Kolkata is a place where political journalists assemble everyday as most of the politicians visit the place, and we get our stories from there. But the Legislative Assembly building is locked, Mayo Road, Metro Channel (where political meetings and rallies takes place) are eerily silent and vacant. This haunts me everyday.

It’s Bengali New Year today and the markets and shops are crowded with shoppers doing their annual “Chaitra Sale” shopping. The crowds, the shopping are covered every time, every year by reporters. A couple of days ago, as I was crossing New Market (one of the busiest markets in town) I saw the eerily silent market. Losses to the tune of a thousand crore rupees has taken place and as I stepped out of the car to shoot, there was an uncanny feeling.


I am here to inform people – those who are working from home are glued to the TV for information, and for that it’s important for us to stay on the road and report. I do feel scared when I see people not following strictures. The police and administration are trying so hard to make them aware, but people still refuse to maintain a reasonable distance while shopping.

A journalist’s duty is to report, but now wherever I go I try to make people aware in my own way, asking them to stay home and stay safe. When a COVID-19 patient is treated and discharged, I feel good and circulate that information among people, in order to spread positive news.

Over the past few weeks during lockdown, I have also seen people coming forward selflessly to feed the poor. They don’t want their efforts to be covered by the media, they are just working like heroes. I see young people buying medicine for senior citizens living alone and it gives me strength and hope to do stories on them because they are also the Corona heroes apart from doctors and police.

Every day, when I go back home, I keep my bag, mobile phone near the door, rush to the washroom and sanitize myself, and then I sanitize everything I took outside with me including the bag and phone.

My father is a dialysis patient and my mother is ill too, and while they live in south Kolkata, my house is in Newtown, quite a distance from them. I used to visit them every two days earlier, but due to the COVID-19 outbreak, I haven’t met them since March 20. All I can do is to be in touch through video chats, and have promised them I will meet them only when this war ends.



I know that we will overcome this, and very soon we will report that the curve is flattening. I know Kolkata will again be full of rallies, political meetings and we will gear up for the West Bengal Assembly elections 2021. Things will change, and I truly believe that every dark cloud has a silver lining.

[Photographs by Kamalika Sen Gupta]

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