We need media industry overhaul, and fast

It has been another week of unremitting negativity on the airwaves and newspapers that supposedly serve Irish society.

This four-year trek into the darkness has developed momentum. Sub-editors compete with each other to concoct the most damaging and alarming headlines possible in the pursuit of circulation figures. It is a corrosive and unbalanced agenda that should be challenged at every turn.

I’m a glass half-full type. My life has been full of the ups and downs that most people in Irish society experience. It started with very mixed education results. Then lots of my friends had to emigrate.

Deaths, promotion, job loss plus employment changes, a good marriage, and plenty of business and personal mistakes followed. A fairly average 50 years.

All of this has been absorbed while maintaining a positive life view derived from growing up in Ireland.

Last week, I jumped into Dublin Bay for a swim. It was crystal clear, clean, and free. You could not guarantee that 20 years ago, before a major water treatment system was installed. I drive down the superb motorway connecting Dublin and Cork in two and a half hours in comfort and safety. It regularly took my father four hours.

An elderly relative was recently treated with care and kindness in Cork University Hospital using technology and medicines unavailable 20 years ago. She is now at home, independent, and looking forward to Christmas.

The point here is not to present a rose-tinted prism through which to view modern Ireland. Hugely difficult economic and social challenges face us but we tackle them equipped with resources and skills that never existed in the past.

It probably means we all have to work harder for less. It probably means some of the easy loans accessible during the crazy years are extinguished. It may even force us to give up things that have become a given in recent years, such as smartphones, subscription TV, more than one overseas holiday a year, and so on.

It means take home pay for those fortunate to have work is declining. The pension pot is being levied, insurance costs are rising, and times are generally tougher.

So, where does that leave us? You and I are one generation away from people who fought a war in Europe. That was not a Hollywood film but a nightmare of death, deprivation, and proper economic devastation. We are one generation away from Irish men and women who had no electricity in their homes and walked to school without shoes. We are one generation away from a large slice of Irish society that emigrated on ships with no easy means of returning or even communicating with those left behind, distraught.

I have not seen much of this contextualised in the shouting match that now dresses up as journalism in Ireland. Anyone in their 20s must think they live in some form of hell hole which will forever destroy their futures and condemn them to endless misery.

A reminder: (1) Education standards in this country, at national and secondary levels, remain high; (2) healthcare and survival rates are at all-time highs; (3) we live longer than ever before; (4) house prices in Ireland have collapsed and are approaching levels that allow a family to buy one and pay for it during their career; (5) travel to and from Ireland is more accessible and affordable than before, while phone and internet connectivity is multi-faceted.

Things like this are not, apparently, legitimate issues for the front page of newspapers or radio and TV discussions. Irish media is, in aggregate, under dire financial pressure. Perhaps some of the histrionics we have to absorb from these outlets are related to the sector-specific difficulties they find themselves in. If so, we need to overhaul the size and structure of that industry fast.


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