Tuesday, 8 June 2010
What will our children be when they grow up?
What? Happy dance vanishes. The wicked godmother is a barrister and I can still remember the years upon years of (hugely expensive) training.
‘They’re the ones who stand up and argue in court, right?’
‘Indeed. Though solicitors can do that too now.’
‘But barristers are the ones who earn all the money, aren’t they?’
‘Depends what type of work you do,’ I said sagely. ‘If you end up doing a lot of legal aid or pro bono work, you don’t necessarily make that much.’
‘So what does make the money?’
‘Commercial stuff probably.’
‘Okay, that’s settled. I’ll do that.’
He’ll probably change his mind again in a few months but one thing is certain: he will never ever be a journalist. Mainly because he would rather walk over hot coals than do what his parents do but also because I seriously wonder if there will even be such a profession by the time he leaves school.
Nowadays we're all journalists. People get their news, their reviews, their op-ed pieces on blogs and in 140 character sound bites from Twitter. The election showed it all too clearly. The papers were out of date before they were even printed. Even rolling news couldn’t keep up with the Twitter stream. Newspapers are struggling – rates on many are up to 50 percent less than they were twenty years ago. Some don’t even pay at all. The Times paywall experiment will be watched eagerly – if it works, and other papers can follow suit, then maybe there will be a stay of execution for journalism for a few years at least (particularly as people take up e-readers). But I am not wildly optimistic.
Part of me thinks that’s okay. Information should be free, shouldn't it? Plus I’ve always been of the belief that most people can write, if they put their minds to it, and I welcome the broadening of opinion that online media brings. But, in the flurry, I do think that experience and deep investigation will be swept aside. First we saw it with the cult of celebrity. Any TV presenter who’d been on a diet could write a health column. Any model or pop star could become an instant expert. Now it’s gone further and absolutely anyone can dole out advice on absolutely anything. That’s fine but can you really trust the advice of someone who woke up one morning and thought, ‘hey, I’ve had gallstones/diabetes/a headache – I think I’ll become a health writer’? What will happen when no-one will be able to pay the investigative journalists to, well, investigate? Are we going to end up with a media in which only those who can afford to write for little or nothing will write? Or is it pure democratization?
I dunno, I really don’t. Maybe it’s sour grapes. What do you think? I also wonder if other professions feel equally beleaguered?
Will your children be able to follow your profession (should they so desire)?