A blessing in disguise raised the Omani media performance to high levels. The corona pandemic brought several challenges on many fronts, including for the media.
The quick adjustment to new technical production styles and distribution had the mainstream media fully embracing online journalism, not without mistakes. Overnight, metaphorically, the media had a new face and dynamism. If not for the health crisis, probably the transition would drag on. Some outlets were quicker to grasp the opportunity. Sites that were previously barely visible, flourished. Well, it was a mechanical forceps deliverance, without damages!
The use of new technologies confirms that our media professionals are up to it when needed and allowed. The radio, television, and print media in both Arabic and English demonstrated that they could perform well and in real-time by informing, discussing, educating, and stimulating debates.
The media have been very effective and creative during the lockdown. Tightly structured, though. It functioned as a top-down conduit in awareness, education, and information. The discursive tone rested on cognitive persuasion and the use of related techniques such as celebrities, experts, humour, emotion, and fear to address basic hygiene practices, social distancing, and stay-home engagement. People want and need information they can trust – it doesn’t mean that facts are always told straightforward!
With a crispy media and journalism setting, enriched with the use of remote reporting, virtual interviews, visually attractive material, and remote collaboration, it is hard to imagine going back to the ‘normal’ reporting previous to the coronavirus situation.
Social media has proved highly engaging from the sender and the receiver perspectives. While the mainstream media made the effort to adjust to the unfamiliar needs, including fighting against fake news and rumours, individuals have shown that they choose from where they get information. People are out there ready to point out mistakes or to ask questions. Check and balance on information are a nuisance, particularly for gatekeepers. However, it is also a valuable indication that citizens are paying attention to the performance of journalists, specialists, and authorities.
The levels of professionalism suggest that people in the media, in Oman, are ready to leap into new horizons. Journalism has shown – once again – its relevance to society and government agencies. Education and training are essential – investment in human capital. I hope we do not need any other calamities to highlight this, but many times people forget how important journalism is. This comes with the need to realise the power of digital platforms and new models of the media business.