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I was writing something about work life balance the other day and I realised that I am probably not the best person to do it. This was in part because I was writing it at circa 8pm with only son sat beside me in his dressing gown playing a computer game. He feels that if he sits beside me we are somehow colleagues. I have to say that he is one of the sweetest, most appreciative colleagues I have ever had.
“It is very important that mummy works because mummy gets us money,” he said very seriously. Only son is my biggest defender. He is the soul of understanding and forgives all my many faults. This should make me feel good about myself, but it tends to make me feel even worse.
Meanwhile daughter one says there is no way on Earth she is going to follow my example and go into journalism because it simply doesn’t pay enough and the whole profession is dying. I fear I have mentioned this on one too many occasions and most certainly in the last two weeks since the news about The Independent.
What do you do when your whole profession is disappearing up in smoke or in a cloud, given that the major problem is that no-one knows how to make online journalism work financially? I know so many journalists who are in PR, media training or teaching journalism or trying to get into these. Add to that the fact that many of them, particularly women, have gone freelance or struggled to get back to their jobs after having children and that most freelances don’t make enough money to live on so they have to do journalism on the side of something else.
Most journalists hate PR, but that is the obvious place to go. The problem is that there is nowhere to pitch any PR to because all the specialist pages are shrinking so you feel your job is absolutely pointless. Most of the job involves “managing expectations” because businesses tend not to understand that their new product/course/event is just not top news in a world of impending climate change doom, war, potential Brexit and Zika unless it is “quirky”. So on the one side you have the organisations who think you are just rubbish at your job because you can’t get a full page splash on their event in Time magazine and on the other a host of your overworked, overstretched former colleagues who think you are a pain in the neck and would dearly like to avoid you. It’s not a recipe for high morale.
So what can you do? Write a book? It would have to be amazing since the publishers are unlikely to take on anyone new and do you really have anything to say except how awful the world is? You could do it as a hobby, of course, like freelance journalism, or even for free. Why stop there, though? I read a while ago that a journalist was being asked to pay to be a speaker on a webinar.
Surely journalism will have a comeback moment? I’m not sure if The New Day is it, but at some point in time we will, fingers crossed, value it again for all its many flaws. Unfortunately, the crisis in journalism occurs at a time when good reporting is at its most needed – not just to cover all the global crises, but to thoroughly scrutinise the actions of those in power, whether in politics or business. That job gets harder when an overstretched reporting team are also under pressure to produce “clickbait”, articles that are provocative or sensationalist and therefore guaranteed to be clicked on.
In part the crisis in journalism is also linked to the major political upheaval of our times – a deep lack of trust in the establishment, something which a range of supposed outsiders aim to capitalise on. Often the media is at its most free and creative during periods of upheaval, though. If it feels like something is dying it could just be the harbinger of future rebirth. Here’s hoping.
*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.