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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Tags: Italy, future, job, journalism

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Comment by claudia costa on May 25, 2012 at 9:56

Hi Francesca, I like your article but I am not 100% sure that the problem lies in the rise of non-professional journalists. I'd rather think that maybe the industry needs new ideas not just about the content they provide but the format this happens in. I think this kind of innovation can bring to new business models and rescue a part of the sector. Maybe it is time we start thinking that journalism as we knew it no longer exists and that it is increasingly becoming technology and web linked, therefore needing to undergo a format change too.

Comment by Jason Brown on May 25, 2012 at 8:39

...

Reporting back, can I follow up on what Ioannis said? Just started to read this thesis and it proposes a business model that bridges the gap between public and private ownership. Via a trustee structure, built around codes of conduct, ethics etc. From a NZ academic, but global outlook.

 

https://researchspace.auckland.ac.nz/handle/2292/7875

 

For the longer term, obv, but also capable of immediate application!

...

Comment by jason brown on October 5, 2011 at 2:31

. . .

 

Excellent atmosphere to this report. It ably describes the reality facing more and more journalists, as days turn to weeks, months and years.

 

Unfortunately it is this preoccupation with "business models" that is the problem, not the solution. A quarter century or more of far-right, neo-liberal brainwashing has convinced us all that to succeed, journalism "must" be profitable.

 

This is not in itself a negative, but does become so when it becomes the main and only goal of journalism, witness the witless growth of infotainment, with celebrity news fast replacing community news, foreign relations and economic cause-and-effect. Neither is celebrity news, alone, the problem. In fact it can be argued that a focus on celebrity news is a 'gateway' subject to other discussions about ethics and morals.

 

What the Global Journalism Crisis needs as a solution is not a "business model" but funding, by the public, for the public and as a public good. Some will fear undue influence from governments-of-the-day, but far worse is happening right now under businesses-of-the-century, as "free" market forces reduce a once plural media scene to duopolies and, a la Murdoch, toxic monopolies.

 

If we must have a "business" model for news, then I suggest that it be a user-pays, pay-per-click option that is funded through central governments. Such an option would only be available to news organisation that actually produce news to generally and professionally accepted standards, with, for example, a code of ethics, an Ombudsman and other forms of accountability.

 

Obviously this would leave media magnates like Rupert Murdoch out in the cold. Yay! 

Comment by Ioannis Andritsopoulos on May 2, 2011 at 21:38

Yes, Francesca. Unfortunately this is where we're going. Journalism is being devalued day by day. Journalists as well.

The business model is no longer sustainable. And that is pretty obvious, especially when you look at the "empty seats", the "switched-off computers", the closed newspapers, the low salaries and so on.

When (and how) will this decline end? Time will tell. I hope we'll both (and all) be there and report on it!

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