As any good freelancer knows, it is a good habit to go and visit your editors personally whenever you have a chance to be in your home country. So I am just back from a tour of the newsrooms I work/have worked with in Milan, Italy, and the mood is rather gloomy. Empty seats and switched-off computers, dramatic cuts in working time, forced retirements, those who still cling on to their seats working desperately to achieve at least the same quality as before.
Even the editor in chief of a new, online magazine which appears to be full of enthusiasm and young journalists, over lunch pronounced a sentence which was hard to digest: "It's a good idea to find a different job and do journalism on the side. Unfortunately, this market is practically impenetrable nowadays...". Another editor in chief, from a top class newswire, told me: "Well, if you can afford to sustain yourself for a couple of years, maybe thanks to your family, you can certainly afford to be a freelancer. Otherwise, I guess you will fall out of love with the job pretty fast".
Freelancer friends, on the other hand, were equally dismal. "I work six months on an investigative report which is paid no more than 500 euro", one of them told me. Several others, I discovered, still live with their parents because they cannot afford to live on their own.
Conclusions: An alternative business model for media is urgently needed. Until then, if you want to be a journalist, you'd better first get another job.
Wondering: is this really where we are going? Is it possible that no one sees the disastrous effects of being an "amateur" journalist, quality-wise? When will this dangerous (for democracy) decline end?
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