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dcu study

More than one third of Irish journalists have faced legal action in last five years

The DCU study also found more than half of Irish journalists have experienced demeaning or hateful speech.

MORE THAN ONE third of Irish journalists have faced legal action in the last five years, according to new research.

A new report from the School of Communications at DCU shows that 34% of Irish journalists surveyed have faced legal action arising from their work over the past five years.

Six per cent of respondents said legal action has been taken against them “often or very often”. 

The research findings also highlight other challenges faced by journalists in their work.

More than half (55%) of Irish journalists have experienced demeaning or hateful speech directed towards them, with 21% saying that this happens “often or very often”. 

A quarter had experienced surveillance over the previous five years, while 11% had experienced stalking.

Close to six in ten respondents (58%) said they have felt stressed in their work in the previous six months, with 71% of women ‘often/very often’ feeling stressed compared with 49% of men, while journalists aged under 30 are more stressed than those over 50.

Elsewhere, 47% reported feeling “concerned” about their emotional and mental health well-being, while 26% are concerned about their physical well-being.

‘Irish Journalists at Work – Values, roles and influences’ is co-authored by Prof Kevin Rafter and Dr Dawn Wheatley from the School of Communications at DCU.

The DCU study also finds that Irish journalists hold a clear ‘left-of-centre’ position, with 61.5% identifying themselves as left-leaning while 8.5% identified as right-leaning, while 55% do not affiliate themselves with any particular religion. 

Overall, the mean position across all Irish journalists indicates a clear left-of-centre position that has actually moved further left since a similar report in 2016.

Comparing Irish journalists to the general population, the report suggests left-leaning views are over-represented among journalists, while right-leaning ones are under-represented.

However, the survey also shows that journalists remain committed to being a “detached” observer to governmental structures, with 71% saying this is very/extremely important to their work.

But younger journalists are more attached to the idea of their work “shining a light on society’s problems”, with almost 60% of those under 30 considering this role as extremely important, whereas the figure for those in the 30-49 and 50+ age categories is just below 50% respectively.

Elsewhere, the results show that ethnic minorities, as well as those with disabilities, are underrepresented in Irish journalism relative to the general population, indicating that the sector may be somewhat “out of step” with the public they serve.

The study also reveals several significant gender disparities among Irish journalists, including in wages and in management positions.

While the survey found that 56% of journalists were men and 44% were women, only 25% of those in ‘top management’ roles are female.

The survey also found that 49% of women journalists earn below the average wage, compared to 33% of men, while 43% of respondents earned between the €44,000-€55,000 salary bracket.

The report is part of a wider international Worlds of Journalism research project, founded to assess the state of journalism across the globe.

The Irish findings are based on data from a sample of 364 national and local journalists working in various media outlets including broadcast, print and digital in the Republic of Ireland.

The report authors Professor Kevin Rafter and Dr Dawn Wheatley – said: “The results in our report show many positives in terms of journalists’ autonomy, independence, and physical safety, but there are worrying findings, too.”

They said the “gender pay gap remains a problem, especially at the higher levels”.

They also expressed concerns around the “composition of the workforce, particularly the middle-class profile”.

“Journalists’ own experiences and values inevitably shape to some extent what they prioritise and how they cover certain topics, so it is very important that the sector does not reflect only the priorities and interests of a narrow group in the Irish population,” said the report’s authors.

They added that structural constraints, such as media laws in Ireland, commercial pressure, and social media guidelines within news organisations can also put huge pressure on journalists.

-With additional reporting from Diarmuid Pepper

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