President Barack Obama’s 100 days in office were marked by diverse reactions in the media. A Sri Lankan journalist, Nalaka Gunawardene was impressed by Obama’s unusual step of using a prime-time televised news conference to deliver a public health message regarding swine flu on April 29, 2009.
He quoted “President of the New Media World” Obama: “Wash your hands when you shake hands, cover your mouth when you cough. It sounds trivial, but it makes a huge difference. If you are sick, stay home. If your child is sick, take them out of school. If you are feeling certain flu symptoms, don’t get on an airplane.”
Gunawardene added: “That’s the basic preventive message that needs amplification and repetition all over the world. While medical doctors and researchers spearhead the public health response, we need the mass media and all communications professionals to support the public awareness response.
“Flu shots and hospitals alone cannot win this battle. For the first time in history, we have the means of rapid access to most of humanity. What we now need is clarity of message, credible messengers and sustained delivery.
“I see this as an interesting – even if very risky – social experiment on the preventive powers of our 24/7 media and information devices. More than four billion mobile phones are in use, most of them in the developing world.
“Over one billion people connect to the web. We also have hundreds of radio and TV channels saturating the airwaves. Can these media peddle the right kind of awareness and inspire preventive action faster than the flu virus propagates itself?
Swaraaj Chauhan describes his two-decade-long stint as a full-time journalist as eventful, purposeful, and full of joy and excitement. In 1993 he could foresee a different work culture appearing on the horizon, and decided to devote full time to teaching journalism (also, partly, with a desire to give back to the community from where he had enriched himself so much.)
Alongside, he worked for about a year in 1993 for the US State Department’s SPAN magazine, a nearly five-decade-old art and culture monthly magazine promoting US-India relations. It gave him an excellent opportunity to learn about things American, plus the pleasure of playing tennis in the lavish American embassy compound in the heart of New Delhi.
In !995 he joined WWF-India as a full-time media and environment education consultant and worked there for five years travelling a great deal, including to Husum in Germany as a part of the international team to formulate WWF’s Eco-tourism policy.
He taught journalism to honors students in a college affiliated to the University of Delhi, as also at the prestigious Indian Institute of Mass Communication where he lectured on “Development Journalism” to mid-career journalists/Information officers from the SAARC, African, East European and Latin American countries, for eight years.
In 2004 the BBC World Service Trust (BBC WST) selected him as a Trainer/Mentor for India under a European Union project. In 2008/09 He completed another European Union-funded project for the BBC WST related to Disaster Management and media coverage in two eastern States in India — West Bengal and Orissa.
Last year, he spent a couple of months in Australia and enjoyed trekking, and also taught for a while at the University of South Australia.
Recently, he was appointed as a Member of the Board of Studies at Chitkara University in Chandigarh, a beautiful city in North India designed by the famous Swiss/French architect Le Corbusier. He also teaches undergraduate and postgraduate students there.
He loves trekking, especially in the hills, and never misses an opportunity to play a game of tennis. The Western and Indian classical music are always within his reach for instant relaxation.
And last, but not least, is his firm belief in the power of the positive thought to heal oneself and others.