How the coronavirus has impacted journalism

Sally Madden

Journalism is expected to take a big hit following the pandemic.

While many of us have been feeling overwhelmed by the news in recent weeks, journalism itself has been overcome by the impacts of Coronavirus.

Advertising revenue for newspapers has dropped as companies brace themselves for economic downturn. While the Guardian has reported that UK news organisations risk losing £50 million in ad revenue as a result of companies using “blacklist technology,” which blocks ads from appearing next to stories about coronavirus. The pandemic it seems, has put journalism’s already fragile economic model, to the test.

While national and regional publications are gaining a record number of readers seeking to stay informed during the pandemic, publishers are still struggling to make ends meet. As a result, publications across the country have had to cut salaries and lay-off staff.

Journal Media is to close its business site Fora.ie, scale back its sports website the42.ie and cut staff pay by between 5-20 per cent to combat a fall in advertising revenue due to the coronavirus crisis.

Susan Daly, managing editor of Journal Media, said the publisher has seen “a dramatic and unprecedented drop in advertising revenue as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.”

“We had to put measures in place to protect this important service and the future of our company. These include pay cuts across the company and most unfortunately ceasing to publish our business news site Fora.ie,” she said.

Communicorp, the owner of radio stations such as Newstalk and Today FM, is to cut staff wages by up to 25 per cent as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.

Newsbrands Ireland, who represents the newspaper industry, has said that the financial hit will be felt most significantly by local and regional newspapers.

David Lynch, Editor at the Dundalk Democrat says that everyone in the sector is worried right now.

“I think it’s safe to say anyone in the local newspaper industry is concerned about the future of titles right now,” he said

“The fallout from Covid-19 has hit the double revenue streams of copy sales and advertising. This is a major worry. Some newspapers have had to cut back on staff, temporarily and permanently, to try and stabilise the situation. The longer this goes on for, the more worrying it all gets,” he added.

“There’s no doubt revenue will/has taken a hit in the short term. Maintaining revenue is so important now. Simply getting through this tough period is the most important thing right now,” he said.

Meanwhile, the news publishing industry, as well as television and radio broadcasting, have been listed as essential services during the public health crisis.

Cáit Caden, a journalist working for The Currency, says that it can be hard to wrap your head around the idea of being an essential worker.

“When you watch the news, people see journalists being called essential. What we do is absolutely matters and it’s important that people realise that,” she said.

“Yet, the reality for many in the media is being essential while remote working. It’s strange. The word essential feels like you should be on the frontline. So, it’s odd to share the same status with all the health care workers that are putting their lives on the line, in my personal opinion,” she added.

Caden also expressed her admiration for those just finishing their journalism degrees, who are entering the sector at an uncertain time.

“Between the election and now, it certainly feels like a baptism of fire. I admire all of those who still want to pursue a career in the media,” she said.

This feeling is shared by final-year journalism student and former Editor in Chief of The College View, Brendan Fernando Kelly Palenque.

Palenque was planning on completing a placement with RTE over the summer, and then hoped to secure a job as a journalist afterwards.

“I had all of these options. I would have had so much choice. Now I just feel like this is the worst possible time to graduate. I’m stuck back in Kilkenny and I have no motivation. I feel robbed,” he said.

“I don’t think my plans for after graduation are impossible, but right now I can’t do anything but wait,” he added.

This is a feeling shared by many final year journalism student, with former Images Editor of The College View, Sonja Tutty saying: “So many people have been laid off, there have been so many pay cuts. There will be a lack of jobs and therefore a lot of competition for any jobs that do open up. So it’s not great, the idea of graduating into a recession.”

Arts and Media Correspondent for RTÉ, Sinéad Crowley says that journalism is more important now than ever.

“Covid 19 is the biggest crisis many of us will face and getting accurate information out to the public is vitally important, the news we are broadcasting relates directly to people’s health and safety,” she said.

“We all saw in the early days of the pandemic that “fake news” was being widely circulated so it’s very important that audiences feel they have somewhere they can go to get accurate information,” she added.

For this reason, she is proud that the journalists at RTÉ have maintained a full service on both radio and television.

“It’s a tough time for journalism as advertising revenues are falling just at a time when people need accurate news more than ever,” she said.

“I think it’s very important to make the link between the journalists who produce the news and the public that consume it. Accurate news doesn’t just arrive on your screen, it is researched and written by journalists who put it there,” she continued.

“This is a story that none of us covering it will ever forget. But it’s not just a story, because we are journalists are also living the story, we have children at home, elderly relatives, our own health concerns. That’s something I haven’t experienced before, covering a massive story while also being part of the story,” she finished.

Sally Madden
Image Credit: Andrew Conway