Providing information during an emergency: how does the work of the newsroom change?


Institutional Communication Service

13 April 2020

How is information provided today, during the coronavirus emergency? We asked Simone Previatello, 2004 USI graduate and current editor and editor-in-chief of Il Quotidiano, Radiotelevisione svizzera RSI.

Public service plays an essential role in constantly keeping the population informed and helping them understand such a complex situation. For the journalist who deals with regional news for public television, however, the routine in the newsroom has changed. "Now more than ever it is crucial to rely on official sources with regard to health data and recommendations to the population for the covid-19 emergency, filtering out reports that come from outside and are often the result of understandable fears. For this reason, a crisis team is consulted several times a day, for guidance on press conferences, releases and potential interviews" explains Previatello.

The day in the newsroom is marked by a new working routine dictated by a main theme. On the one hand it can limit the autonomy and critical approach that is at the basis of journalistic work, and on the other hand it influences all the most important sectors affected by the public service, such as the economy, politics, society, leading to tell the daily life of the region from new points of view. "It is an opportunity to enter the homes and tell about parents and children struggling with e-learning and other activities, to talk to companies and understand how they run for cover, to deal with politics, and it new priorities and agenda, or to see how the sports sector and those involved in events and tourism react" continues Previatello.

New content and new ways, within a professional field that encompasses a wide variety of professions: "We continue to tell stories of our region while maintaining social distance. We arrange interviews via skype or in person but at a safe distance. We also keep social distance with our collaborators, such as the cameraman, the technical staff, the editing staff". For the journalist it is also a challenge to adapt to the situation and understand it: "we start from scratch everyday, and tell the story of a disease that not even science and medicine know all the way through, and this must be taken into account when addressing the experts; no one hold the truth, every day there is new information to be considered," concludes Previatello.