One of the most striking media effects during the corona crisis an increase of both interpersonal social media and mass media such as national broadcasting. In The Netherlands the news and talk shows on public television have not had as many viewers since decades. At the same time new hybrid forms emerge. While television crews are not or very little allowed into the ‘war zones’ of the corona crisis where the battles are taking place, one of the solutions is to invite nurses, doctors, and other people in the frontline to send their own video blogs about the situation. Public broadcaster BNN/VARA has created an interface to upload personal videos from those whose work is crucial in these extraordinary times. #FrontlineMessages (#Frontberichten) is broadcasted every night and offers unique documents of and insights into the effects of the crisis. While the streets are empty and the world seems to stay on hold because of Covid-19, the phone video messages show the impact of this invisible fiend.
The messages arrive from everywhere in the country and the diversity of people in the frontlines is striking. Ranging from lung specialists, general physicians, IC surgeons and ER nurses to hospital cleaners, ambulance and trauma helicopter personal, ex-patients, pharmacists and undertakers to people in other ‘battalions’: teachers in empty classes, military medics and logistic operators, home care assistants, supermarket personnel, distribution center managers, police, and politicians – they all have an perceptive gripping story and a pervasive message to share. We hear about the loneliness of patients who die alone, their hand held by a compassionate but unknown masked caretaker who talks about this with dignity and sadness at the end of a shift; the story send a shiver through the spine. The worried face of a teacher who has lost track of some of the pupils, fearing for those kids who have lost their safe space from an abusive home situation speaks volumes; his face speaks volumes. A general physician takes us on the night shift in a rural area. When morning arrives for almost half of the dozen of visits he had to sign a death certificate for his patient. An exhausted anethetist catches a ray of sun during a break and smiles; the image offers a ray of hope. A concert violinist plays in the entrance hall of a hospital for doctors and nurses who hold their pace and listen to the moving sounds of consolation. From a very different field of work we get a striking image: The grass master of a football stadium continues to cut the grass – he is all alone in a totally deserted stadium. At the end of the day he returns home without having seen anyone. Keeping the grass prepared for the day players and fans can get together again is another positive sign, even if his small figure in an empty sea of green also embodies the current situation of loneliness. A pulmonologist on the rooftop of his hospital shows the abandoned airport nearby and the quiet motorway. He invites us to think about the causes of the epidemic and the possible connection between the rapid spread of the virus and higher sensitivity related to pollution. He too is thinking about the end of this crisis but reminds us that we will have to change in order to reduce the high likeliness of this to happen more often in the future. When the #FrontlineMessages will be over at one point in the future, we will probably all have corona tracking apps in our pockets that deserve critical thoughts and adaptation before implementation.
Read the online version in FLOW.JOURNAL