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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: December 5, 2008 @ 10:50 am

    What to do if you’re 22?

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    Giving a talk to a class of journalism students yesterday brought home to me the difficulties facing young people starting out on a career in the present economic climate. The media depend heavily on advertising and that’s one of the first things companies cut back on when a recession takes effect. They are not hiring people, so recruitment advertising comes to a halt. The building and property sector is going through its own particular trauma at the moment, so house ad are way down.

    What to do if you’re 22? I was asked was there any point in seeking to carve out a niche in journalism when media organisations are looking so rocky? For what it was worth, I pointed out that in my own working life, stretching back to the mid-1970s, I had seen periods of economic difficulty, for the media and everyone else, and we had come out the other side of it.

     Nobody of any prominence foretold this economic crisis, as far as I could see, but now it seems the same people who failed to predict the recession are telling us it could go on for a very long time. Why should we believe them when they didn’t predict the downturn in the first place? A more likely proposition is that they Just Don’t Know.

     Could this be the last crisis of capitalism? Past experience shows that the system has considerable resilience. The property bubble, the obscene rise in house prices, the un-Christian greed of the CEO’s who paid themselves vast salaries and bonuses: it couldn’t last.

    Having gone through a period of excessive deregulation when the State backed away far too much from control of the market, we now see governments stepping-in big-time to prop up the system. It should be good for left-liberal politicians and parties, as seen in the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States.

    It should be good also for the unions who can demonstrate to workers that they need to protect themselves from rapacious and uncaring employers who will toss them on the scrap-heap without a thought.

    My advice to the aspiring journalists worried about their future was to stick with it, because although it’s not very well-paid it’s a very interesting and stimulating occupation. But, just in case, you should try to acquire an additional, fall-back qualification, maybe by taking a course in Legal Studies or Teacher-Training so that you’re not putting all your eggs in one basket. In other words, turn a negative into a positive by using the enforced leisure of the downturn to enhance your skills and qualifications.

    Quite apart from the unfavourable economic climate, the media industry itself is undergoing profound changes. Print newspapers are losing circulation as people turn more and more to the Web. But the problem is, it’s so much more difficult to make money from internet advertising. There are other changes, such as the increasing tendency to dispense with the services of in-house sub-editors. These are the people who edit, vet, check and, where necessary, rewrite copy from reporters. A good sub-editor is a gift from the gods but, regrettably, it seems that a decreasing number of employers would share that view.

    Deaglán de Bréadún, Political Correspondent, The Irish Times

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