Katharina Finke
"journalism with a human touch"

Covid-19 has exposed the cracks in the media that existed before the pandemic. The need for good journalism is more relevant than ever now.

By Chaitanya Marpakwar

Journalist and author Katharina Finke has reported from across the world, including India. She writes on environment, women, and travel, and life issues, and has authored two books. Her book ‘With the heart of a tigress’ about violence against women in India was hugely popular in Germany and was also translated into Polish. Katharina, who is now based in Berlin and preparing for the launch of her third book, says that while there has been an overload of information in Covid-19, people still don’t trust the media. Katharina says that despite massive political and social developments, countries like India are underreported in Germany. Katharina says that the need for good quality journalism becomes even more critical now and says that journalism with a human touch has become more relevant than ever before. Even though the pandemic makes it difficult to spend time with subjects and people in remote areas, their stories need to be told.

Excerpts from a conversation

How did the Covid-19 pandemic impact you and your work? How did you use your time in 2020?
It was uncommon for me to be stuck up in one place because I’m usually travelling across the world to report. But it was good in a way since I could use the time to work on my third book. I planned to do it based in Berlin, so I was lucky since I didn’t have to cancel research trips. My last chapter of the book is also about lifestyles and balancing personal and professional life. So I used the reports about the pandemic for the book. I’m used to writing from home and remotely. But I had days when I was outdoors to meet people. Now that is no longer possible. It was important for me to go out and observe things, but this exchange is not happening, which is important for the creative process. This was what I was missing and it’s hurting my work.
What was the biggest change in the way you did journalism?
The biggest change has been that we can’t interview people. I do a lot of reportage, we have to be with the people and be close to them. And not only doing an interview online but really getting the spirit and the tension of the story. This is what I always do, to go deeper and try to understand people by spending time with people in a close environment, and this can’t be done now, so this was a challenge. 
Will journalism change in the long run after the pandemic? Will the pandemic have a lasting impact on the way we do journalism?
A. It’s still a question for me. I think it depends on how long the pandemic will continue. Even if it is for two years, people will miss these stories. But there will be no major change in journalism. But if it goes on for longer, then things will change. A sense of physical contact has changed. I’m quite sure that we will have to live with it and there are other ways of doing this. Some stuff can be done wearing mask-like TV interviews. So not everything is impossible. And this will improve. I don’t think there will be a major change in journalism.
Since you write books and long-form stories, how relevant will feature journalism be?
A. It will always be relevant. But unfortunately, there is not much space for this kind of journalism. Depends on which country you are in. In Germany, the amount of foreign reporting is decreasing. Even for me, there are fewer and fewer opportunities to place my stories here. For instance, in South America, there are so many issues that can be reported, but no one is interested. The responsibility of the media is probably higher than ever before. The media is shaping opinion and creating awareness. Many say that there is too much reporting on Covid and that issues like the refugee crisis are not being reported, and I kind of agree with them.
What is your take on reporting about India in Germany?
There is very little reporting from India. There’s so much reporting about Trump but not so much about Modi and what is happening in India. There is positive stuff like Ayurveda and Yoga, but there are other issues that are important and should be reported.
What about the international reporting on Covid-19? Did it kind of expose the cracks in the media?
Yes. The pandemic really brought out the problems in journalism. International journalism became more relevant now. Covid reporting has gone overboard, and other issues are slipping out of the cracks. Take the weather, for example, it is important, but you can’t just report the weather in the media all the time. So it’s time now that other issues are also reported, and not just Covid alone.

Did you see anything positive in the media reporting through 2020?
For journalism, I didn’t really see anything too positive. There are people who don’t watch the news. For them, this has strengthened their position even more and they think they don’t need media at all. There is a much bigger challenge for journalism. We are not handling it in the right way. There is a need to shift strategy. More collaborations are more needed now. This has always been important and it will be. We need more collaborations in the real sense, and not just by hiring fixers. It’s important to engage local journalists and have actual knowledge sharing. It is essential internationally and even nationally. Only with collaboration can you get diversity in media. There must be collaboration at multiple levels. We can of course use technology to connect and collaborate, but it still can’t replace face-to-face meetings.