New media dynamic does not serve young journalists or their readers

There is no substitute for experience, and many are simply not being given a fair opportunity to acquire it

Irish publishers have so far eschewed the pay-per-view model of paying or retaining journalists based on how many clicks their articles get which has gained increasing popularity in England

Irish publishers have so far eschewed the pay-per-view model of paying or retaining journalists based on how many clicks their articles get which has gained increasing popularity in England

 

A life in journalism is not an attractive prospect for young graduates or school-leavers, and the industry must change or risk haemorrhaging talent in the coming years.

Recent research carried out by a group led by Kevin Rafter of DCU found that older Irish journalists were leaving the industry due to growing demands imposed on them in the contemporary media environment.

As a young journalist who has worked in a newspaper for almost two years, I can say the results of the study accurately reflect the reality of the situation in newsrooms.

Mature journalists deserting the profession is symptomatic of changes in our collective workplace and helps to expose the fallacy peddled by some media commentators that young writers are not fit to tie the shoelaces of their predecessors.

More intensive working patterns and the demands imposed by 24-hour online news coverage have developed over a relatively short period. Many veteran reporters have elected to change career path rather than adapt to these increasingly onerous requirements, but spare a thought for new entrants to the industry who must contemplate an entire career in this new era.

Diminished standard

The new dynamic is neither beneficial to young journalists who, in depleted establishments, are expected to carry the slack of departed colleagues who take with them years of graft and experience, nor to readers who are subjected to a diminished standard of reportage produced by less experienced staff.

These neophytes lack the capacity to contextualise news with a historical element compared with older colleagues who may have extensively covered the often lengthy prelude to such stories.

This experience deficit is exacerbated by the fact that young reporters tend to be confined to the office. They are shorn of the opportunity to go out and glean a deeper understanding of the events they are being asked to cover and are, in many instances, expected to simply regurgitate content produced by competitors as per the nauseating mantra of “aggregation” being employed by certain media brands.

The experience of modern journalism is that many young graduates or would-be graduates are offered internships in major titles and broadcasters that are unpaid or offer derisory remuneration.

Revolving-door system

Where these enthusiastic interns expect it will be the start of a long career in the writing game, the culpable companies in effect operate a revolving-door system whereby young professionals are taken in for a short period of time to fill a gap before being dropped.

Casualisation of work and irregular shift patterns are commonplace, and I can recount one instance where a respected Irish media company hired a raft of college graduates on year-long contracts, and after six months told the majority of them that their contracts would not be renewed and that the very same recruitment drive would be run again to fill their vacancies.

Whatever about the qualities the new generation of writers possess, there is no substitute for experience, and many are simply not being given a fair opportunity to acquire it.

Irish publishers have so far eschewed the pay-per-view model of paying or retaining journalists based on how many clicks their articles get, which has gained popularity in England, but that is not to say the model will not eventually spread to here.

More focus on the testimony of disaffected would-be reporters may provide the jolt needed for those in the upper echelons of the industry to address these issues.

Ciarán D’Arcy is an Irish Times journalist

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