Currently, the entire world isimpacted by the Novel Coronavirus 2019 and,so far,more than 2,200,000 people are infected, and more than 1,50,000 people have died due to this pandemic disease. In order to inform people in India and elsewhere aboutthe COVID 2019, Dr. Ramesh Kumar Rawat, a media educator in India, has conducted the following interview with a world renowned Media and Communication Professor and Founding President of Global Communication Association, Dr. Yahya Kamalipour of the North Carolina A&T State University Greensboro, North Carolina, USA. In this interview he expresses his views about the changes and challenges due to COVID-19 and teaching online.
According to Prof. Kamalipour, we can only overcome the COVID-19 if we work together regionally, nationally, and globally. He also suggests that “One of the reasons that the US has the highest number of people infected or demised by the COVID-19 is that the government officials, including President Trump, did not take it seriously at its outset”. He has also sharedsome safety tips for preventing infection or spreading the COVID-19 disease.
“An internationally noted media scholar, Yahya R. Kamalipour (PhD, University of Missouri) is a professor of communications and former chair of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, North Carolina A&T State University. Previously, for 28 years, he served as professor and head of the Department of Communication and Creative Arts, Purdue University Northwest. His areas of interest and research include globalization, media impact, international communication, Middle East media, and new communication technologies. Profiled in the Contemporary Authors and Who’s Who in the World, he has published 18 books, including Global Communication, 3rd edition, Digital Transformation in Journalism and News Media, and Communicating through the Universe.
Kamalipour has served as an international academic consultant for several colleges and universities and on advisory/editorial boards of a dozen prominent communication journals. He is the founding manager of the Global Media Journals network and founding president of the Global Communication Association. Kamalipour has visited sixty-five countries and has been interviewed by major newspapers and broadcast media, including BBC, Reuters, ABC, VOA, RFL/RL, National Public Radio, Radio France International, Chinese TV, Turkish TV, Indian TV, Iranian TV, Egyptian TV, The Indianapolis Star, Quill, and The Washington Post. Kamalipour earned his PhD in communication at the University of Missouri-Columbia, his MA in mass media at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, and his BA in mass communication—public relations at the Minnesota State University.
Q.1. What kind of changes has come to your life due to stay at home mandate and to keep safe from COVID-19?
Ans: Well, like most people around the world, my daily routines have significantly changed. I have been confined to home for the past 5 weeks and have been teaching my media and communication classes virtually via Zoom, Blackboard, Skype, and email. Since students and faculties at most universities were not prepared for this unprecedented and unanticipated disruptions caused by COVID-19, the online teaching has proven to be challenging for teachers and students alike, particularly those who did not teach via internet. Moreover, the unusually high volume of demand on the computer infrastructures, software, and Wi-Fi have resulted in additional challenges, including computer crashes, system overload, and hacking.
During the past 5 weeks, I went for grocery shopping only twice and have been confined to home. I often think “What would we do without the internet, smartphones, and online shopping?” Life without these communication technologies would be indeed unimaginable, boring, and emotionally troublesome, especially for the young children and students who are often called the “digital natives.” They are undoubtedly dependent on their smartphones and new communication technologies; hence, cannot relate to the pre-internet, pre-smartphone, and pre-WiFi era.The COVID-19 pandemic has forced academic institutions around the world to quickly change their traditional modes of instructions by adapting to online or virtual teaching and learning.
Q.2. Which kind of work are you doing during your stay at homeperiod?
Ans: As I mentioned before, most of my daily life is spent on class preparation and teleteaching, which are labor-intensive and time-consuming. In addition, I must advise about 35 journalism and communication majors virtually to assist them in selecting their courses and registering for fall semester 2020.
Beyond the above activities, I am in the process of finalizing a new book titled “Global Perceptions of the United States: The Trump Effect,” which should be published later this summer. The project was initiated over a year ago and since then I have been working with 28 media and communication scholars, representing 19 countries, to research and assess the media coverage of the US and Trump.
Q.3. How do you keep busy regarding your academic activities,collecting necessary things (Food and other daily usable things) during the stay at home period?
Ans: When it comes to food, my wife is quite resourceful and an expert in planning, preparing, cooking, and freezing meals to be used for several days. So, we are okay and won’t go hungry during this pandemic!
In terms of entertainment, thanks to the internet, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, and cable television networks, we have started watching movies, nature documentaries, and series (I normally don’t have the time or interest in watching continuing television series that run for weeks or months).Other activities include reading, writing, and listening to music.To keep physically active, weather permitting, we usually walk for about an hour or so around the neighborhood. Appropriately enough, most people keep a healthy distance and some wear mask while walking or shopping.
Q.4. Any Project, Conference, Meetings and any other academic and social activities have been cancelled by you due to staying at home?
Ans: Unfortunately, I had to cancel all of my future conferences, trips, and seminars, including the 16th Global Communication Association conference, which was scheduled in Durban, South Africa, June 10-12, 2020. As you know, I am the founding president of GCA and since 2007 we have been organizing academic conferences around the world. Furthermore, unlike the pre-Coronavirus era, there are no social gatherings, parities, or in-person meetings. To contain this aggressive, contagious, and disruptive virus such group engagements should not take place anywhere.
Q.5. What is happing outside of the home?
Ans: To learn about events in the community, region, nation, and the world, we rely on the traditional as well as social media (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Telegram, etc.). Likewise, to keep in touch with family and friends, in addition to the telephone, we maintain our connections via the internet and social media.
Q.6. What steps do your take and your Government has recommended to stop the spread of COVID-19?
In view of the increasing number of people infected, hospitalized, and perished by this vicious virus, most of the States in America have recommended the following preventive measurements: (1) Stay-at-home (2) Avoid close contact with others, (3) Avoid unnecessary shopping or travel, (4) Wash hands often, (5) Use masks or cloth face covering, (6) Clean and sanitize places touched often, (7) Avoid touching face, (8) Avoid group gatherings or parties, (9) Avoid crowded places, (10) Cover coughing or sneezing, (11) If feeling sick, self-isolate, and (12) consult with your physician.
Q.7. Please give tips to prevent COVID-19 during the Stay at home.
Ans: Clearly, we are all in this pandemic together and regardless ofrace, nationality, religion, economic status, social status, and political standing, we are all impacted by this virus similarly. In other words, COVID-19 does not discriminate, nor does it recognize the physical boundaries of nation-states. Therefore, by following the steps prescribed by the health organizations, medical experts, World Health Organization (WHO), and governmental health agencies not only we can avoid contracting the virus but will prevent spreadingit to other people. Again, we are all in this pandemic together and can defeat it together.
It goes without saying that combatting the COVID-19 pandemic is a collective global effort and must be taken seriously by all people around the world. In other words, each person is socially, morally, and ethically responsible in this endeavor.
Q.8. What is the role of the media in creating awareness among the public about the COVID-19 in yourcountry?
Ans: The role and impact of media in informing and educating the public is extremely crucial in any given country. In response to the coronavirus, many companies and government agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) air public service announcements on the national television networks in which they provide preventive guideline to the viewers. All traditional and new media are taking the necessary steps toward enhancing public awareness in combatting the pandemic.
Q.9. Which kind of TV and Radiobroadcast programs address thisissue in yourcountry?
Ans: In the United States, there are hundreds of broadcast and cable television channels. Of these, most are privately owned and rely on advertising for their survival. In addition to the commercial networks, there are non-commercial or public broadcast networks, including National Public Radio and Public Broadcasting System.
Of the commercial broadcast networks, CNN, NBC, CBS, FOX, ABC are more prevalent than others. Nonetheless, most of their time is devoted to interviews, reports, and issues related to the Coronavirus.
Q.10. Which kind of news content is delivered by newspapers to create awareness among the public to keep them safe from COVID-19?
Ans: Compared to the radio and television broadcast networks and social media, newspapers seem to play a minor role in bringing about public awareness. However, since newspapers are now available in digital formats online, they inform their subscribers via texts and emails of the breaking news.
Furthermore, the younger generation, including students, do not subscribe or read the print versions of newspapers. Their mainly rely on the internet and social media for their daily news and information.
Q.11. Are there any fake news or negative things spread by people about the COVID-19?
Ans: Unfortunately, some unethical and unscrupulous people have exploited this pandemic to spread roamers and hoax, selling certain unknown and unproven products as cures for the COVID-19. Hence, desperate and scared people may fall for these false promises by not only endangering their own lives but losing money. People around the world must avoid falling into these marketing traps and always double-check their sources of information, consult with physicians, and health agencies.
These fake message and promises are normally spread through social media and then reposted by others without checking their sources, truthfulness, or reliability.
Q.12. Please state your opinionabout President Trump and India PM Narendra Modiand their approach in tackling the COVID-19.
Ans: Obviously, what political leaders do or don’t do has the potential of devastating or saving the lives of thousands of people in their respective countries. To combat this disease, they must act swiftly by providing the necessary funding, resources, equipment, and preventive measurements through a well-organized national crisis control strategy.
One of the reasons that the US has the highest number of people infected or demised by the COVID-19 is that the government officials, including President Trump, did not take it seriously at its outset.
Leaders in nations who took aggressive preventive strategies saved the lives their citizens. Generally, small countries with limited international travelers, such as the Caribbean Islands and African and South American, have the least number of infections.
Q.13. What is your opinion about the steps taken by your country’s government to save lives and spread of the COVD-19?
Ans: The United States, like most countries around the world, did not anticipate or realized the danger and destructive power of the coronavirus; therefore, the official response was slow and insufficient. Consequently, the disease rapidly spread throughout the country causing thousands of people to die and many thousands to contract it. At this time 96% of the US citizens are quarantined and confined in homes. Most businesses, including schools, retails stores, companies, and organizations are closed.Moreover, the US has now over 500,000 infected cases and nearly 20,000 death (most of them in the congested major cities such as New York).
Q.14. What kind of changes has become common during the stay at home in your country?
Ans: The coronavirus has greatly and negatively impacted human interaction and has resulted in people fearing one another based on the possibility of contracting this silent enemy and debilitating disease. This is a global issue and must be taken seriously by all people around the world.
Q.15. Any comment about the COVD-19 affected countries?
Ans: According to the reports, people in most countries (about 200) around the world have been impacted by the virus, some more and some less. At this time, the United States has the highest number of confirmed cases followed by Spain, Italy, Germany, United Kingdom, France, China, and Iran. Unfortunately, the reported cases continue to rise daily. According to the Guardian, as of April 11, 2020, globally there are over 1,700,000 confirmed cases and over 100,000 deaths.
Q.16 Any comment about China?
Ans: In retrospect, if the Chinese officials had acted more swiftly, at the outset of the coronavirus in Wuhan, not only to combat its spread but also to inform the world, the situation may have been different. My guess is that they either did not realize the potential danger of the virus or they did but tried to keep it quiet. This is illustrative of the fact that, indeed, the action or inaction one nation in combatting contagious diseases can impact the entire global population.
Q.17. Are your country’s citizens following or not following yourgovernment’s guidelines for containing the COVID-19?
Ans: Most of the US citizens do follow the recommended safety guidelines provided by the medical experts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Also, to keep citizens abreast of the latest news, strategies, and developments, the White House’s coronavirus task force delivers its daily briefings live, via national television networks.
Q.18. What kind of crime is happening at present in your country?
Ans: Well, as it is the case during any given crisis, people who are desperate to survive—and not so desperate—tend to engage in robbery and stealing. As of this date, no reliable national statistics are reported besides the occasional reports in the media.Another troublesome issue is cybercrime, including hacking and defrauding vulnerable people via the internet, telephone, and social media.
Q.19. What do you think of the impact COVID-19 on Economy, Jobs, Business in your country? When do you think things will return to normal in your country?
Ans: The virus has impacted everyone in every respect. The unemployment rate in the US has skyrocketed and is the highest in the history of the country. The stock market has plummeted; hence, millions of individuals have lost a good portion of their investments, including their retirement’s savings.It’s very difficult to anticipate when the United States and other countries around the world will be able to return to their pre-virus status. But it is safe to say, that it may take several years to regain normalcy in the political, economic, and social sectors. Nonetheless, chances are good that people may not resume interacting with one another face-to-face and freely for a while.
Q.20. Any comment about the public places in your country.
Ans: All public places, including parks and recreations areas are closed.
Q21. Any final comments?
Ans: The COVID-19 virus has proven that all of us regardless of our geographic location, nationality, religion, political affiliation, economic status, or social status are globally interconnected and interrelated. What happens in one part of the world can impact all of us sooner or later. One of the positive outcomes of this virus will be, hopefully, to force us to reexamine our discriminatory and counterproductive actions and attitudes toward one another. Let’s be kinder and gentler toward of fellow human beings than before CIVID-19. Often, difficult time teach us new lessons and tend to positively change our counterproductive perspectives and behaviors.