Irish media has not been spared the recent Corona-induced downturn as the economy enters a prolonged viral hiatus.
From the temporary lay-offs and streamlining of hacks at ‘Independent’ News and Media (INM), to a plethora of local titles hitting the wall, the industry is rapidly haemorrhaging.
A sign of the times is that the ghastly topic of state subsidies for media has reemerged with strength.
Irish journalism is seeking an economic life raft at the moment. Whether this consists of being put on the leash of cynical state subsidies is yet to be seen.
In truth the outbreak has merely accelerated previously existing trends within the industry, throwing hacks into a greater degree of working precarity as the media consolidates.
For this reason, the hack community on Twitter are unusually jumpy, as exemplified by the fallout this week over a workplace fiasco at the Phoenix magazine.
The premier gossip column of the huddled politicised masses, the Phoenix is a veteran on dishing the dirt on the closed nexus of power that rules the roost in Ireland.
For that reason alone, they are entitled to partial absolution in my eyes despite being an avowedly left of centre title.
While imperfect, it has at least been a forum to air the dirty laundry of our jaded system of grift and clientelism. Without a doubt, the publication is head and shoulders above the humdrum of Tara Street and co.
The fiasco emerged over the termination of resident hack Eva Short, allegedly while she was self-isolating with a suspected case of coronavirus.
Short claimed that, after attaining a medical certificate denoting her illness, she received word first that she was temporarily laid off before hearing that it was to be permanent, with her workplace belongings lovingly sent to her by post.
While so far being a bogstandard case of slimey employer practices, the story took a turn when Short claimed that the magazine was seeking to replace her role with an unpaid intern. What’s more, this intern was to be required to have no less than 5 years experience within the industry.
Irish hacks, despite it all, stick together and the debacle garnered the venom of journalists across the spectrum, likely with one eye over their shoulder on their own employment contracts.
As the story picked up steam, Peinfied Enterprises. the proprietor of the publication clarified that they were indeed looking for an unpaid intern, but mention of 5 years experience had been ehhh **glances at notes** an “inputting error”.
With or without the typo, the alleged actions of Phoenix is by any measure poorshow. The magazine has taken peculiar interest in the Burkean the past few years, but solidarity extends beyond the ideological chasm in this instance to Ms Short.
One expects recent actions towards Short from chestnut brained gombeens, not from an established publication like the Phoenix.
This is not even the first time in two months that Irish media has witnessed shoddy workplace relations airing itself publicly.
In tandem Irish hacks are also witnessing the slow motion immolation of the clickbait site Joe.ie. Formerly the next big thing in Irish media, the site began laying off its journalistic staff in waves after clickfarm scandals and apparent overextension financially.
Surprising amounts of my childhood were spent reading Goldhawk and devouring the bumper Annual Christmas edition of Phoenix, heightening the sense of disappointment in this fiasco.
If recent actions are a bellwether, it would appear that Goldhawk is in a moribund financial state and much the pity for the industry.
Nevertheless, rightists should be fearful of what emerges in the new economically cratered media landscape.
While The Phoenix wore its ideological credentials on its sleeve, the publication’s work was at least solid and never sloppy.
The business model that may very well replace the Phoenixs of this world will be more clickbaity and more ideologically in line with Buzzfeed and Joe.ie before it entered choppy water.
Be wary of what fills the vacuum is what I’d caution readers. Our new media could already be slouching towards Carl Kinsella waiting to be born.
Phoenix may be a left-wing muckraking magazine, but at least it is the gold standard in left-wing muckraking magazines. Be sceptical of the inevitable, soulless model that seeks to fill its boots,better the journalistic devil you know.
Picture from thephoenix.ie used for reporting purposes.