SINGAPORE – The Covid-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of public communication, as well as the need for institutions such as the media to build trust with their audiences, panelists said during a discussion on the Day world of information, Monday, September 28.
Public communication is often overlooked as a mainstay of epidemic response, the panel said, and having credible news outlets is essential for such communication.
The three panelists were the National University Health System’s medicine group leader, Professor Dale Fisher; the director of the digital media program at the University of Social Sciences of Singapore, Dr June Tay; and Mr. Warren Fernandez, editor-in-chief of Singapore Press Holdings of its English / Malay / Tamil media group and editor of the Straits Times.
The session, titled Tackling Covid-19: Getting It Right and How You Can Contribute, was held in the Straits Times newsroom and was broadcast virtually. The session was moderated by the Managing Director of Strategic Moves and former NMP Viswa Sadasivan.
Professor Fisher, an infectious disease expert, said a lack of good risk communication and community engagement could lead people not to do their part to curb the spread of disease.
“People always think about case management, infection prevention and control, testing, epidemiology and the epidemic curves that we need to flatten… but the last pillar is always risk communication, engagement. community.
“And if you get it wrong, it leads to response failure,” said Professor Fisher, who is also chair of the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network steering committee for the World Health Organization.
Fernandez said World Information Day is an opportunity to make the case that having credible media organizations is important to the public communication process.
“You need good public information, you need experts. But to close this circle you also need good credible journalism,” said Fernandez, who is also president of the World Editors Forum. .
During this period of Covid-19, there has been an increase in the number of people accessing information from sources like ST, he said.
This thirst for information raises the question of trust and credibility.
What the newsroom has done is invest in correspondents, building their authority and credibility over the years so that they can step in when such a crisis erupts, he said.
Mr Fernandez said a decision has been made by the broadsheet newspaper to put all content related to Covid-19 outside the paywall as a public service.
“We did it with some trepidation because it has business implications, but what we found is that our subscriptions have actually gone up, and that tells me that people appreciate the information and have decided.” I need to know, and I’m ready to pay, ‘”he added.
Asked about the strength of trust between various institutions and the public in Singapore and around the world, Professor Fisher said, “You’ll notice you don’t have it.”
This may not be a problem in Singapore, but other countries are struggling because of this lack of confidence, he said.
Since this is a community epidemic, the community must be part of the solution.
“This will not be resolved by politicians and healthcare workers. It is the community that needs to hear the messages … and be part of the response,” added Professor Fisher.
In his opening statement, Dr Tay of the SUSS ‘School of Science and Technology said that Covid-19 has brought not only risks and challenges, but also opportunities in the digital space.
For example, some real estate agents have started making virtual reality videos to showcase their clients’ homes. The pandemic has also accelerated the use of remote meeting tools like Zoom, she said.
Responding to a question from the audience on how people can adapt as some jobs are cut with the advent of the digital economy, Dr Tay said it was important to harness creativity and ” human touch ”, or emotional intelligence, to create products and services.
“If you see durian vendors broadcasting live it’s actually very exciting. They are able to engage the audience and show their personality. So we have to really think about how we are doing different things. ways, ”she said.