The return of newspapers in Oman, the printing of which had been suspended for over four months, has brought on mixed reactions from people in the sultanate, many of whom have been habituated to reading newspapers every morning for decades. While some prefer to continue reading online editions, others said they have been looking forward to grabbing their copies, hot off the press, even in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. The debate on safety in handling printed publications continues while the need for sanitisation in every task, even reading newspapers, is strongly felt. Here’s what some readers said:
I much prefer to read a real newspaper
Jane Bickmore Jaffer, MBE
Reading the Muscat Daily newspaper each morning has been an important part of my regular routine for years. Over the past few months we have all been glued to our screens, observing charts and other horrifying details about the coronavirus. Having regular updates on local and international issues from Muscat Daily online has been absolutely essential. But I much prefer to read a real newspaper rather than read on my smart phone, so I am looking forward to daily newspaper deliveries again and really hope we can all get back to some form of normalcy again soon.
From recent studies, I understand the risk of catching COVID-19 from newspapers is very low. However, it’s best to err of the side of caution. It’s important not to touch one’s eyes, nose or mouth after touching various surfaces. I will wash my hands after reading it.
Transition from print to online was smooth
Maggie Jeans, OBE
Surprisingly, I never really missed newspapers when they disappeared because the void was so well filled by online versions. The decision to halt the presses was probably very sound economically, particularly with lockdowns and curfews. However, as we move towards the new normal, and all the things we miss, it will be good to again pick up a newspaper hot off the press!
I personally hope that online editions of newspapers continue beyond the pandemic in Oman. They are easy to access and read, and items can be easily shared far and wide via WhatsApp or other methods. News updates during the day are also useful.
We’ve all had to make so many adjustments since the advent of the coronavirus, working remotely with virtual meetings and some of these innovations are probably here to stay. But, there was a very smooth transition to virtual newspapers in Oman.
Online editions have the potential for global readership. Stories can be copied and reused with or without permission and archived for future reference endlessly, all of which results in increased readership. This must, in turn, be good for generating advertising revenue. Also, virtual newspapers do save trees, so we should never let a crisis go to waste.
Online editions cannot provide the magical feel of a newspaper Dr Ahmed Hassan al Bulushi, dean, National University of Science and Technology
In the world of technology and online options its hard to miss the actual newspaper. Thanks to the online version of the papers, readers got what they needed. Most of visual media, social media and online news agencies have provided the essential, local as well as international, news around the clock, so there has not been a feeling of missing newspapers.
It was certainly a wise idea to stop newspaper distribution during the lockdown/pandemic time as the entire public became health conscious and no one would wish to take risks as hardcopy of any material, not only newspapers, became potential sources of spreading the virus. However, it must be noted that reading newspapers is a culture and habit. People read newspapers for many different reasons, not only for the information. Many people are addicted to newspapers and reading one’s favourite newspaper over a coffee brings more pleasure, besides getting updated with news. So, such people have definitely missed them and have been looking forward to receiving their papers once again.
It has also been a change for the newspaper distributors to reassure readers about the health and safety aspect of newspapers during the pandemic, especially after a lot has been said about possible ways of transferring the coronavirus.
As newspapers are back now, may be, newspapers covered with a layer of plastic or enclosed in a bag can reassure readers about their safety.
The public need to be re-educated and shown how newspapers are handled and distributed with care and how they are safely delivered to readers.
I would say, online newspapers provide essential news but they do not give readers all the cultural and habitual emotional feelings that a traditional reader gets when reading his/her favourite newspaper or looking at their favourite columns/pages. Online editions, no matter how much they compensate for actual newspapers, they cannot give all the information that hard copies provide.
The very touch of a newspaper hard copy, and the feel of flipping from page to page, has its own magical sensation and emotion that cannot be compensated by online material.
Truly missed the paper editions of newspapers Tariq al Barwani, founder, Knowledge Oman
Despite being and living as a technologist, yet one thing has never changed for me, and that is reading books, magazines and newspapers, as opposed to electronic versions; we truly missed reading Muscat Daily, in the paper format!
Over the past four months, I have compensated for the absence of newspapers by reading electronic editions and subscribing to social media networks wherein some delivered the news directly to my email and phone. Yes, the decision to stop printing was to help reduce the spread of the virus, and, yes, it is good to start now after learning about what works and what doesn’t. Nothing beats awareness, especially in the first few weeks of the circulation, to ensure people read, follow, share and abide by the precautions shared by the necessary authorities and Ministry of Health officials.
As for online editions, they score on the reach, locally and internationally. Yet printed newspapers are more welcome. It is the feel of newsprint that makes it real, especially to the norms we have all been used to. I feel, much effort is put into the paper edition, as opposed to online editions, from the design, content and layout of the information shared.
Online editions are more current
Azra Aleem, social worker
I cannot say that I missed the hard copies of newspapers much as I had stopped getting them due to excess paper wastage. During the last four months, I read all the news online on my phone via social media and by subscribing to various news media outlets. I was always up to date with events happening around the world, as well as in Oman, every second of the day. Due to this pandemic, if the hard copies of newspapers are now made available, people will think twice about touching them as everyone has got used to sanitising their hands every few minutes. By avoiding the printing of newspapers, we are not only saving the environment but also helping in healing ‘mother nature’.
Now that newspapers have started printing and are being delivered again, those delivering them should take precautions like wearing masks/gloves and leaving the newspapers in proper places.
The benefit of online editions is that you get news immediately whereas in a newspaper you get to know the previous day’s news and events. We also save paper and ink which often creates waste. The only advantage of print newspapers is that you get a hard copy in your hands. In the current scenario, it would also be better to have just one weekly edition, rather than everyday.
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