DAMA Lab symposium looks at media and technology in a post-pandemic world

February 01, 2021

International media experts speaking at a Northwestern Qatar symposium hosted by the DAMA Lab agreed that empathy, collaboration, and a focus on digitization helped them respond to the changing landscape of media and technology that resulted from the pandemic. 

The Media Innovation Symposium: Responses to the Pandemic featured academics, journalists, communications specialists, and entrepreneurs in conversations about sports media, entrepreneurship, marketing, journalism, and creative writing in the post-pandemic world.

Marwan M. Kraidy, dean and CEO of Northwestern Qatar noted that the symposium came at an important time during the pandemic as the industry has adapted to the disruption and is now planning on a different future. “The symposium,” he said, “served as a platform for intellectual debates and positive exchanges among experts in media and communication on the outcomes and future challenges of an unprecedented year that has redefined the future of media.”

A session on COVID-19’s effect on sports and sports media was moderated by Northwestern Professor Craig LaMay and featured sports journalist Mike Rowbottom and sports media expert Gerard Akindes, who addressed the slowdown in the growth of the industry during the pandemic as well as the acceleration of digitization in sports.

The panelists discussed how the cancelations of major international sports tournaments, such as the EURO 2020, promoted a global rise in the popularity of e-sports and resulted in many athletes losing their primary sources of income, adding that women sports were the worst hit by the pandemic due to lower media attention and fewer opportunities to participate in competitions.

A second panel, moderated by Professor S. Venus Jin, featuring the managing director of Qatar SportsTech, Heba Al Masri; and the co-founder and COO of Bonocle, Inc., Ramy Abdulzaher, looked at the future of entrepreneurship and innovation in media in the years following the pandemic. 

To navigate the pandemic's impact on their operations, the panelists said that start-ups and small businesses around the world were forced to be innovative in their solutions, employ online services, and reinvent their business models. In some ways, Al Masri said, the shift to virtual operations and meetings made work more efficient and focused. 


In a conversation moderated by Professor Marcela Pizarro, journalist Emmanuel Dogbevi, and video producer Luiza Drable highlighted the challenges journalists face while reporting on the COVID-19 outbreak in countries across the Global South, including Brazil, Ghana, and India. 

According to Dogbevi, fears of being penalized and losing their jobs discouraged journalists in West Africa from pursuing investigative reporting and challenging government officials, which resulted in narratives about the pandemic echoing governmental agendas. Drable pointed out that the media coverage in Brazil often overlooked the experiences of the most vulnerable and marginalized communities.

In a session on different strategies brands and organizations worldwide adopted to engage and expand their consumers during and beyond the pandemic Professor George Anghelcev discussed with communications experts Marcia DiStaso, Hemant Gaule, and Patrick Forbes how organizations and executives worldwide need to employ empathy, lead with purpose, be genuine in their communications, and align their actions with declared values. 

DiStaso also noted that there is a new focus on internal communications as the uncertainty of the pandemic has prompted employees to expect higher transparency and more frequent communications from their leaders. 

The creation, production, and influence of literature during the pandemic was the topic of a panel moderated by Professor Aaron LaDuke with authors Hala Alyan and Khaled Khalifa. Despite publishing delays and caution publishers developed during the pandemic, “new online journaling and publishing opportunities have emerged for young writers,” said Alyan. Similarly, Khalifa pointed to the connection between literary works during the COVID-19 pandemic and similar historical wars and pandemics, suggesting that “future generations will live people’s experiences with the current pandemic through the literature currently being produced.”