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July 16, 2019updated 30 Sep 2022 8:04am

Young journalists demand better work-life balance and worry about poor pay, study shows

By James Walker

Young journalists are demanding a better work-life balance and are worried about insecure jobs and poor pay, according to new research led by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

The need for greater development opportunities for young newsroom applicants is a “challenge for 24-hour newsrooms with a work environment that doesn’t permit too much flexibility”, the study found.

But young journalists and media students are “particularly idealistic” about the news trade, highly motivated and “more technologically savvy than previous generations” editors and lecturers told the report.

Are Journalists Today’s Coal Miners? was based on interviews with 18 editor-in-chiefs from the UK, Germany and Sweden, and ten key figures from top journalism schools in those countries.

Researchers also surveyed 195 students on journalism courses in Germany.

Writing about the fears of young journalists around salaries and job security, the report’s authors said: “As assumed, the journalism students expressed high idealism but low expectations about financial gains.

“Several students said they did not expect to end up unemployed… They were, however, worried about salaries and unstable job [roles]. These aspects were also expressed as the top fears in the survey.”

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The report also said that young job seekers were “no longer that smitten with the old-style celebrity of reporters”, adding that many of those with tech talent were saying “thanks, but no thanks” to newsroom job offers in favour of better paid positions at the likes of Google and Facebook.

It added that “the willingness to put work ahead of one’s private life” in the hope of later reward was declining.

The Reuters Institute study suggested newsrooms adopt “innovative approaches” to role and job sharing to meet the demands of young people looking for flexible workplaces.

The report also touched on the issue of burnout and anxiety in newsrooms, saying they were “significant” issues that came up in conversations with media bosses “when the doors are closed and confidentiality is assured”.

The study said: “One can only speculate about the reasons. The relentless, 24-hour publishing pressure might be among them, along with the rapid pace of organisational change, the fragility of prospects, pressures to combine work and family life, discrimination in all its forms, or the disturbing effect of online harassment, particularly against female journalists.

“Other possibilities include the burden on middle managers when they have to manage resistance from above and below simultaneously while implementing change.”

The research added that sabbaticals were “in high demand” and went on to say that journalists “exhausted from downsizing” were moving into “industires with happier outlooks”.

Its findings on burnout come six months after the Reuters Institute Journalism, Media, and Technology Trends and Predictions 2019 report found that 61 per cent of 200 surveyed media leaders were “concerned or extremely concerned” about staff burnout.

Picture: Pixabay

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