Multitasking in a 24-hour rush, selling articles for five or ten euros and the increase of burnouts is a reality for too many journalists nowadays. This decline in working conditions is also the main topic of the latest issue of HesaMag, titled "Journalism, an increasingly precarious profession".
The publication was launched by the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) in collaboration with the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) at the Press Club Brussels Europe, on 26 June.
The launch was part of a discussion on freelance journalism, safety and journalists’ job satisfaction, moderated by Willy De Backer, Head of Communication and Publications at the ETUI.
The two organisations highlighted the role of education and training for young journalists as key issues for the future of journalism in Europe and in order to face the major crisis hitting the mainstream media.
Renate Schroeder, EFJ Director, expressed concern that already this year 6 journalists had been killed just in Europe, turning 2017 in to a very deadly year for journalists on the continent. She said it is crucial that journalists get proper safety training, especially freelancers who are more often "locals with no training, no preparation."
She welcomed a recent initiative of the European Commission to provide independent workers with proper social protection and guarantee their representation by the unions.
Antonis Repanas, journalist and member of the Journalists’ Union of Macedonia and Thrace (ESIEMTH – Greece), shared his own experience as a freelance journalist at ‘Humanstories’ writing stories on refugees and sharing them on social networks. After he was laid off from one of the biggest Greek newspapers TA NEA where he worked as a sports journalist, he decided to write "human stories", which he believes are the future of journalism.
"I think that the real problem with all the journalists going unemployed in Greece is that they don't believe in journalism", he added.
According to him, the major problem that all the mainstream media are facing today is that they "are not being directed by journalists but by marketing and communications specialists" who try to "sell" instead of doing quality journalism.
The third speaker Florence Le Cam, lecturer at Université Libre de Bruxelles, tackled the issue of education of young journalists, agreeing with Antonis Repanas that there is a lack of journalists in the top management hierarchy of the media outlets. She stressed that journalism students face a lot of competition in the labour market, despite having great profiles as multitasking and multi-skilled potential workers.
Renate Schroeder drew the debate's attention to the unions' role to offer courses about entrepreneurship and work more with universities to show journalists how to resist the situation. “We have to be optimistic, but also need to prepare them for what’s ahead,” she concluded. According to her, journalists will have to work with their own funding in the future, but she also stressed the importance of public media funding.