Covering the pandenic locally when officials do not communicate, channels are cold. The ‘Mylapore Times’ experience.

How does a neighbourhood news organisation report on what is the biggest development in life without local official spokespeople? Without local information channel?

This is the big challenge that Mylapore Times has faced from late March.

This when the newspaper has a small team, only one staffer is on the ground and the ares is well spread out.

Much of the news and stories have thus far come from people, community heads, activists, and some government staff.

It has been an ardous journey when the best strategy for the state would have to act locally and communicate locally – it is starting to act locally by appointing a minister for some zones but neither ministers nor senior officers save for one communicate. The local communication channel has never been there.

On March 25, Mylapore Times started our reportage on the virus pandemic and the lockdown. Since then, Chennai Corporation’s zonal health officer (zone 9) and a Sanitary Inspector attached to San Thome zone were giving regular updates on the situation in the neighbourhood.

With the help of their inputs, MT could get confirmed information about the virus cases in Mylapore.
And MT could report on the following stories.
1. The virus containment activity at San Thome in detail.
2. The step by step process involved in the sample collection process in Mylapore.
3. Share the experience of a virus-positive person from VOC Street, Teynampet, after he recovered.
But since mid-April, MT staff were unable to get in touch with these staff as both the officers got busy. However, the zonal officer continued to share details of virus cases on WhatsApp. But soon, she said she would not be able to give details as she was working ‘ till 10 p.m.’. She was exhausted and this was understandable.

Later, two local area GCC ( civic body) engineers and two area police officers monitoring the containment zones and one woman animator provided information regarding the virus cases. 
The DCP responds when we need to seek details on sensitive / tricky issues.

Since June 1, only the animator responds to MT’s queries, that too very rarely. The mobile phones of other officers are either busy/not reachable or MT’s calls would not be attended.
The boss of the Teynampet Chennai Corporation zone ( zone 9) – called Regional Deputy Commissioner – RDC – in which almost all of Mylapore falls, based in his office in Lake Area, Nungambakkam, a IAS officer does not respond to messages. Two messages never got a reply. Nobody else at the Zone 9 office is contactable.
Only the RDC of Adyar zone, who looks after Ward 173, the hot zone in Mylapore south has responded to key queries. But has not issued messaging targetted at the Ward. All GCC seems very centralised, so local specific information is sparse.

3 Comments on “Covering the pandenic locally when officials do not communicate, channels are cold. The ‘Mylapore Times’ experience.”

  1. I understood that the Government administration must be transparent within the framework of the regulations proscribed.
    This kind of emergency situation like COVID 19 , the name and other personal details needn’t be disclosed or published. But people entitled to know the details of affected areas, numbers and other details disclosable as per law.
    This informations will be much useful for the local residents to be cautious and take self preventive measures.
    The Sate Govt released a state level bulletin daily. Greater Chennai Corporation, GCC App don’t have any updation. The local body should disclose the said details either in the App or disclose the details to local news papers like MT , otherwise it will be sin of the local authorities.
    Hope the local body authorities will realise the importance and benefit of disclosing the disclosable details about covid19.
    Through Mylapore Times many local residents aware about the spreading of virus and stay safe 🙏.

  2. I am extremely appreciative of Mylapore Times updates on the Corona Virus News. Without The suport of a local daily news , we would not be on alert. I’m surprised that there is no daily press release by the officials in charge of zones so as to confirm accurate information vis a vis assumptions.

  3. This is a saddening story. At a time when they should have used the paper to reach out to the residents they have looked the other way.

    This is the nth story by MT on this subject and yet there has been no improvement in communication.

    The MLA has been seen in a few launch photo events but havent heard anything from him otherwise in these two months.

    It surely wouldnt have been difficult to keep communication channels open locally. It should have been easier communicating locally, presenting do’s and don’t’s locally as well as alerting people on local issues…..do not crowd on South Mada street on the eve of the 4 day curfew lockdown and so on. But they have not and remained quiet throughout the entire period.

    And that has been disappointing.

    Happy to see MT bringing out this issue to the fore.

    Prabhu

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