The coronavirus pandemic has affected numerous industries over the globe, and print media is not an exception, regrettably. Starting from ensuring authentic news to securing the health and safety of journalists, COVID-19 has undoubtedly made it onerous for the industry to remain resilient. The Daily Star, being the leading English daily in Bangladesh, has attempted to address the circumstances through a philanthropic approach.
As Bangladesh copes with the coronavirus outbreak with a shutdown, a large number of daily wage earners have lost their sources of income. These marginalised and underserved groups are barely getting by -- rickshaw pullers, technicians, plumbers, street vendors, and street food sellers, among others, are in vulnerable positions at the moment.
Just before the announcement of the shutdown, I was thinking of donating for the underprivileged communities, as their survival is a major concern. With the situation turning worse, I approached my friend, who is the CEO of a company named Sheba.xyz, and asked whether he can help me donate this money as he runs an online marketplace consisting of 50,000 registered SMEs. While having that informal conversation, we decided to create a platform to serve a large number of marginalised families. We thought of leveraging the distribution network of Sheba.xyz to make the mission of serving the countrymen who are in jeopardy due to Covid-19. The Daily Samakal, one of the most reputed Bangla newspapers that also has a nationwide influential group that works in their respective communities related to social activities, came on board as well.
Thus, Sheba.xyz, The Daily Star and Samakal joined hands to serve society and we named the platform "Mission Save Bangladesh". The activities of the platform began on March 23, 2020.
The Daily Star Editor and Publisher Mahfuz Anam suggested focusing on the transparency factor of this initiative. Hence we included Ernst & Young to audit this project, to ensure utmost transparency and authenticity.
The Daily Star not only set the standard on publishing authentic news, especially because of how pivotal it is to make readers aware of the accurate numbers related to Covid-19, but also in constructing a model that would encourage partners and advertisers to move forward. Renowned organisations and individuals stepped forward to be a part of this initiative.
"Mission Save Bangladesh" consisted of providing groceries to underprivileged communities, financial support for small businesses, and doing community-based activities, such as disinfecting common public places and houses.
The Daily Star is unceasingly publishing news regarding which brands are coming forward to support the initiative strategically and financially. This inspired other brands to come forward to support the initiative. Star cricketer Shakib Al Hasan also supported and promoted the initiative further, so that a broader audience can be a part of this. Within the span of three weeks, over 2,000 families were supported as they received the necessary groceries required to sustain their livelihood.
Because of constantly publishing news on people of specific areas who were served with the support, fellow publishers from the industry were also inspired to publish news on the areas which were unserved and required support. To add up, the entire ecosystem was motivated to move forward with initiatives of their own, meanwhile following the example initiated by The Daily Star to publish authentic news.
In conclusion, this initiative manifested how amplified the role of print media can be. During such trying times, every publisher should ensure authentic news, as well as encourage brands and partners to support each other to sustain the industry, and to help the society.
The writer is Head of Marketing at The Daily Star and a US State Department Alumnus.