5 indisputable facts about millennials

abortion in Ireland

Much and more has been written about the heretofore unfathomable generation that came in between Gen X and Gen Z, but for some reason couldn’t just be known as Gen Y. Here, we examine some self-evident truths about the millennial generation, generally thought of as beginning in the early to mid 1980s and ending in the late nineties.

Here are the facts:

Millennials just do not want to work

Reports suggest that millennials are likely to last just eight months in a job. When you’re thinking about that in relation to their parents who spent 20-30 years in a job, ignore all the societal changes that have happened in that time and just jump on the headline. I mean, millennials LOVE working on precarious zero-hour and short term contracts – they add a little spontaneity to life! Not to mention unpaid internships, which give young people the opportunity to work 40 hours a week for free and get sarcastic comments about still living of their parents at 23.

Never mind that the secure, permanent, pensionable jobs our parents had largely don’t exist any more and we’re constantly reminded that robots are coming to take our jobs – that’s all somehow millennials own fault even though the generation that came before obviously laid all the groundwork but own none of the responsibility.

mILLENNIALS ARE SPECIAL LITTLE SNOWFLAKES WHO TAKE OFFENCE AT EVERY LITTLE THING

Millennials are such social justice warriors that you can’t say anything to these days – I mean, you’re not even allowed make one little wildly racist, homophobic or sexist joke or comment and suddenly you’re trending on Twitter and people are calling for your resignation. For just one ‘hilarious’ rape joke or use of the N-word, careers are going down the drain. Couldn’t they just lighten up?

In this politically-correct-gone-mad climate, millennials have created a scenario where you’ve got to be respectful of all of the different minorities all the time. It’s obviously made life a lot easier for members of those minority groups, but it has also mildly inconvenienced some privileged middle class people, and millennials just never seem to worry about that.

MILLENNIALS ARE BANKRUPTING THEMSELVES WITH AVOCADO TOAST AND FLAT WHITES

Compounded by the abject laziness described above, millennials lead self-indulgent lifestyles, overspending on fancy coffees and hipster-ish snacks. Don’t they know that if they saved the €30-40 they’re spending on this stuff each week and made their own lunches like their frugal parents, they’d have a deposit saved up for a small three-bedroom home on the outskirts of Dublin in a mere 15-20 years.

Foolish millennials are choosing to actively enjoy their youth rather than scrimping and saving to participate in a rat race for a home in a completely avoidable and unnecessary housing crisis they did nothing to create but must also somehow accept most of the blame for. Don’t ask their parents why they continually voted in governments that abolished social and affordable housing scheme and axed the First Time Buyers Grant – millennials should have had the foresight to see that one coming and invested their Communion money more wisely.

Millennials are living out an extended ADOLESCENce – they don’t even drive

Dumb millennials can’t even get it together to have the thousands – or tens of thousands – of euro it costs to buy a car, and then insure it, tax it, repair it, fuel it and pay for somewhere to park it each year. Instead, these city slickers are choosing to walk, cycle or – get this – take public transport to work.

Despite the obvious benefits this has for their personal finances, the environment, and congestion in the cities they live in, this is really just more evidence of a generation that refuses to grow up.

Millennials can’t put their phones down and have a decent conversation

Let’s choose not to examine why perpetuating the cliches above might encourage millennials to find solace in a WhatsApp group conversation exchanging memes with 14 of their closest friends instead of engaging with you, the generation who raised them to be who they are and now constantly criticises them for being who they are. Older generations can never have any part of the blame for anything because respect your elders.

If iPhones had been around when your parents were young, they would have used them only to find useful, practical information and not for recreational purposes.

Millennials are to blame for all the things because they are the worst. Let’s ignore the fact that going back as far as the Ancient Greeks, every generation has had some version of “Young people these days don’t know how good they have it”, because millennials really are just the worst.

They’re just facts, sorry if it offends you, snowflake.

 

ABOUT KATIE

katie-harrington-ireland

I’m a 29-year-old travel and lifestyle blogger from Galway, Ireland. 

I’m passionate about seeing the world and meeting people from different countries. I love noticing the similarities and differences between people around the world. In a divided world, I genuinely believe that experiencing other cultures first hand is one of the best ways to combat prejudice.

In between travel, I write about Irish events, restaurants, and news, as well as opinion pieces on topical issues.

Dear Women: Want equal pay? Stop cosseting the men in your life

equal pay

Every time an article like Kevin Myers’ distasteful attack on women’s right to equal pay in the workplace appears, comments sections are rife with men claiming they earn more simply because they deserve to – because they are more capable, work harder, do longer hours and take fewer sick days.

Let’s take a second to smash the idea that women are less capable or less willing to pieces:

When it comes to academics, we’re killing it – and the same can be said for our early careers; employment rates in Ireland for female graduates are higher than those of their male classmates; most young doctors in Ireland are female, and the unemployment rate in March 2017 was 6.9% for men compared with 5.8% for women.

So let’s just dispense with the idea that women are incapable or unwilling to work.

And let’s take a second to really grasp how endemic this problem is; Brian Dobson gets paid tens of thousands more than Sharon Ni Bheolain at RTE for doing exactly the same job, Micheline Sheehy Skeffington was awarded €70,000 after being discriminated against in her role as a senior lecturer at NUIG, with four further cases pending, and women continue to be wildly underrepresented in the Oireachtas and Seanad.

There are a myriad of historical, cultural and socio-economic factors at play. possibly the most significant of which is the arrival of little ones on to the scene. Let’s examine a few of the reasons why women who compete so strongly with men in their teens and early 20s drop off the radar as they get older.

INTRODUCING YOUR INVISIBLE, UNPAID PERSONAL ASSISTANT

Almost from the moment they enter a relationship, men outsource the management of their social lives, travel plans, and familial obligations to the women in their lives (“Did you pick up a birthday present for my Mam? Is there a card to go with it? No, you write it”). Unfortunately I can’t offer any hard evidence in this regard – there’s no data available – but the mountain of anecdotal evidence is undeniable.

As the relationship gets more serious, the list of things women hold primary responsibility for expands; cooking, childcare, groceries, making sure the bills get paid, booking dentist appointments, laundry and housekeeping, to name but a few.

Men can afford to spend those extra few hours in the office because women are picking up the slack in every single other aspect of their lives – as well as working full-time in many cases.

This status quo suits men down to the ground, and they’re not going to change it unless we as women decide to stop doing these things for them.

“I can’t remember the last time I booked a flight” a successful male friend told me recently. “At work the PA does it, and at home my personal PA does it”, he said, with a cheeky wink at his wife, who has a successful career herself.

Another male friend recently asked if I wanted to go to a football match, and when I said yes he replied: “Are there tickets available for it?” He and I have access to the same information online, but the implication was clear; I should take over the organisation and planning. “Google it” I replied to his text, resisting the urge to add “I’m not your secretary.” Even in platonic situations – a meal with friends, a weekend away, the responsibility for organising, planning and booking most often falls to the ladies – and like eejits, we do it.

The much vaunted Irish Mammy must take a certain share of the blame for this, for that’s where the cycle of indulging young men and burdening young women with this type of invisible, unpaid life admin starts.

BUT WOMEN TAKE MORE SICK DAYS THAN MEN…

It is a fact that women take more sick days than men, but the evidence suggests that’s because men take too few rather than because women take too many.

Women are more in touch with their own health than men are, so they take time off when they need to – unlike men who are more likely to ignore health problems, choosing not to take care of their physical and mental health, which can have terrible repercussions, including an epidemic of suicide among young men. Seen in this context, fewer sick days is not necessarily something to be lauded.

In most cases, when a parent has to care for a sick child, they need to take time off work themselves – and in most cases, it’s Mam is left holding the baby while Dad goes into the office as normal. In order for mothers to succeed at work, fathers need to take on more of that burden.

TIME TO MAN UP?

The bottom line is that for women to thrive, men need to take more responsibility – for themselves and for their children.

All that life admin that your wife/ girlfriend/ mother/ female friends are taking care of for you right now adds up and it takes a toll. It adds hours to a woman’s day and impacts her stress levels.

And women, let’s stop underestimating men’s ability to look after themselves and to fully play their part in friendships, relationships and family life.

Agree or disagree? Leave me a comment.

 

Flirting with frugality: My attempt to become less consumed by consumerism

Let’s dive right into this guys. There are three things I know to be true about my financial situation:

  1. I am a fully grown adult
  2. I make a decent living – I earn more than a lot of people my age (29)
  3. I am consistently broke

It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it’s true. The ‘why’ isn’t hard to figure out – the short version is that I have been living beyond my means for the last couple of years. During the five years when I was living as an expat in Dubai and Doha, I got a little bit spoilt. I was young and single, earning good money in countries where I paid no income tax.

Why wouldn’t I treat myself to manicures and massages? Prior to giving up drinking, bottomfrugalityless champagne brunches were the norm. Expensive holidays happened multiple times per year (No regrets on that front to be honest – Kenya and Morocco were worth every penny). And why would I bother cleaning my own apartment, cooking or washing my own clothes when I could afford to hire people to take care of all of that? I was profligate.

Shouldn’t I have been saving some of that money? Well, I kind of sort of saved a little bit along the way, and that was good enough at the time for responsibility-free me.

At the end of 2015, I moved back to Ireland. While I made some adjustments to reflect the fact the double whammy that had hit my income – I was earning a lower salary and paying taxes now,  I never really got out of the bad habits I picked up in the Middle East – eating out all the time, spending my money carelessly and paying people to take care of things I could easily do myself.

In the last month, I’ve put myself in considerable financial difficulty with a couple of poor decisions:

  • I bought tickets to see Ed Sheeran in both Dublin and Galway because I didn’t know which gig most of my friends would be going to
  • I didn’t like the crappy Samsung phone my new job was going to give me so instead of taking it (for free), I put €450 of my own money toward it and got a new iPhone 7 instead

The result? I have a huge credit card bill on top of the two small loans I had previously. It’s not a massive amount of debt, but there is absolutely no way I should be in debt at all. My savings are about 3-4 times what I owe, but for good reason they are locked away in a 7-day withdrawal account.

The buck stops here.

I’m almost 30. I have a decent career and good opportunities. I don’t have to live like this – knowing that as soon as my salary comes in most of it is accounted for already. A few months of frugality would clear my debts and leave me with the ‘fiscal space’ to really start saving for a mortgage. I want to buy a place in a nice part of Dublin, and if that’s ever going to be possible, I have to start planning now.

If you relate, you might want to follow my adventures over the course of August as I dip my toe into the world of frugality – cooking my own meals, doing my own chores (I know, #firstworldproblems) and finding free or almost free ways to have fun.

I’ve been reading the Frugalwoods blog for the last few weeks, and while I don’t plan to take it to their extremes, I’m hoping to put some of their tips into action.

My goal for this month? I’d like to still have some money in my account coming into my next payday. That might seem like a modest start, but it’s more than I’ve achieved in quite a while!

Have you ever tried to cut down dramatically on your outgoings? Let me know how it went in the comments. Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and Facebook!

 

Dating in Dublin: An intro to Intro.ie

Here’s the background guys: I’m 28, single and getting tired of meeting men through Bumble and Tinder. Having heard lots of ads on the radio for Intro.ie – Ireland’s leading matchmaking site, I decided to give it a go.

I submitted my details to the site, and got a call from one of the owners very soon after. The co-owner, F talked me through the process and gave me some dodgy statistics suggesting that there are three women for every man in Dublin (Bullshit – I actually checked). He told me that to be introduced to five men over five dates, it would cost a not insubstantial €895. Still, I wanted to give it a go, and agreed to give a €100 deposit over the phone.

intro-ie-dating-in-dublin

With just a few minutes to spare over lunch, I had asked if we could do the necessary face-to-face stuff (I.D., payment, photo) there and then, and do the rest of the consultation over the phone. F happily agrees.

The consultation itself is pretty generic, with questions on what music, films and sports you’re interested in, whether you have or want kids, and a few questions on the type of person you would like to meet. In itself, this is more detailed than what you would get on most dating apps, but no more detailed than an e-harmony or OKCupid.

So far, myself and F are getting on beautifully.

Then, we start to talk about travelling for dates.

Intro.ie says no one will ever have to travel more than 90 minutes, that’s their policy, so in theory you could be matched with someone who lives up to three hours away. I tell F my preference would be to be matched with people who are based in Dublin, Galway or anywhere around or in between those two cities (Kildare, Wicklow, Westmeath, Offally, Roscommon, Mayo).

I tell him that since I go back to Galway quite frequently, that’s what would make sense for me. Some far-flung county like Cork or Kerry would be pretty difficult logistically, not to mention the fact that long-distance relationships are hard, especially when you’re just getting to know someone.

F’s face hardens. His posture changes. The tone of his voice develops a stern edge and he arranges his hands in an arch. “That’s exactly what we can’t do” he says. He goes over their 90 minute rule again. I say that’s fine, but given that 40% of the country’s population gives in the Greater Dublin Area, the parameters I’m hoping for should be quite workable.

Now F is mad.

Did I not understand the rules? Did I need his wife to come in and explain it? Was I even taking this seriously? F points out that I rescheduled the original appointment, and that I say I’m pushed for time (I am – they only open from 9-5.30, you know, the hours when people are usually at work.)

“Most people put time into this” he says snippily.

READ: You can’t even have morning sex

I feel under attack now.

All I’ve said is I’d like to meet someone I’d be able to see more than once a week? It’s not like I’m asking to be set up with someone from my hometown of 800 people – I’ve given a pretty broad range.

F is having none of it. I tell him I feel like he’s being a bit overly aggressive. He goes off on a rant about the fact that he’s the expert at this, and about all the clients they turn away.

I tell F that I would rather go forward with a different consultant. F tells me he thinks it’s better I don’t work with them at all. I’m fine with that – at this point I wouldn’t take his advice about where I should get my dry cleaning done, never mind a relationship. I tell him that’s okay, but that since it didn’t work out, I’d expect my €100 deposit back.

READ: 5 reasons girls don’t reply to you on Tinder

“Absolutely not” says F.

I tell F I’d like to speak to his wife, the co-owner of the company. He storms out, and in a room nearby I can hear him shouting. This guy is going to help me find a relationship? He’s flipping out over a really minor disagreement – to say I don’t trust his judgement would be a massive understatement. He and his wife come back into the room.

I tell her that if they find me a great match in Cork or Kerry I’m in – I’m not ruling anything out – but that it’s not my first preference (duh?) More importantly, I tell her that the chemistry isn’t right with F and that if we’re going to go forward it would have to be with a different consultant.

She says the company is too small, and that I’d need to be okay with dealing with F as well. I’m not. He’s standing in the corner, visibly seething. R professionally suggests that we part ways and offers to refund my deposit. She is definitely the saner of the two.

I agree, and I walk back to my office feeling absolutely bewildered.

I find myself wondering how many other women and men F has spoken to like that, how many walked away without saying anything because they’re not the type to cause a fuss when someone makes them feel uncomfortable. Intro claim they turn away 15 people a day, but the place looked pretty quiet when I was there.

I can only assume the success they have had to date is down to a combination of being first-to-market with the idea and advertising heavily. After all, if any of us set a friend up on five different dates, the chances are that at least one would be successful, no?

That night, I logged back into Bumble, updated my profile and got back in the game. I had a date set up within the hour. Then I called Two’s Company, one of Intro’s competitors; I got a much better vibe off them, and their starter package is €200 cheaper. So if I go with them, there’ll be a follow-up post on that.

Have any of you had experiences with match making? Did you go to a professional or leave it up to your friends (or your mother?) Leave me a comment 

 

On the Bus Eireann drivers currently holding Ireland’s most vulnerable to ransom

For more than two weeks now, elderly people in Galway have had no public transport, parents in the city – especially single parents – have struggled to get their kids to school, and ordinary working people like me who don’t drive have been spending hundreds of euro we don’t have to get to work and back.

Galway’s traffic, famously bad at the best of times, has worsened considerably.

Why?

Well, you’d have to be hiding under a rock not to know that Bus Eireann have been on an all-out strike for more than a fortnight.

I support the right to strike. Collective bargaining is a powerful tool for the workforce. When employees are being taken advantage of and treated unjustly, I actively support their right to withdraw their labour as a demonstration of the importance of the jobs they do.

Abusing the right to strike, on the other hand, is simply a case of holding the Irish people to ransom. So the question is, is the Bus Eireann strike just?

We know that the organisation made a loss last year, and we know that it’s making a bigger loss this year. We know that their wage bill is the single biggest factor in this loss, and we know that despite this, Bus Eireann is not making any redundancies or even suggesting a cut to basic wages. The organisation seems to be taking the actions it needs to in order to stay alive.

Bus Eireann proposed restructuring the companies overtime to save 12 million euro or 9% off their wage bill. Bus Eireann drivers rejected this, would agree to only 0.5 million euro in savings and declared an all out strike. Already in financial difficulty, the drivers have created a further multi-million euro black hole for the organisation through the strike as lame-duck Minister for Transport Shane Ross has steadfastly refused to get involved.

In any organisation, when losses are being felt, cuts have to be made. It’s a matter of logic. Refusing to talk about cuts to overtime is unreasonable. If the drivers were facing cuts to their basic pay, the public might feel more sympathy toward them, but their basic pay will be left untouched. Naturally, as a semi-state body, Bus Eireann drivers are among the most well-paid driving jobs in Ireland.

For the taxi drivers and other bus drivers in Galway who have been working overtime to help people get around, the salaries and entitlements Bus Eireann drivers have can only be dreamed of. This isn’t about preventing a race to the bottom – it’s about a sense of entitlement that pervades the public sector, a refusal to engage meaningfully in talks, a selfish disregard for the people they serve.

Asking the Irish people to bail the organisation out seems deeply unfair. I already pay twice over for every Bus Eireann trip I take – once by paying the fare and a second time through my taxes, which subsidise these driver’s salaries. I’m okay with that – but if the organisation needs to restructure their overtime to make the company feasible, maybe you just need to deal with that (or spend a week or two working in the private sector and decide which you prefer)

This strike has cost me about €400 so far, just in essential trips to work and to visit family in hospital. I’m deeply grateful that I can take a private service to visit my parents in Dunmore, and to get to Dublin, but I’m conscious that not everyone is so lucky.

The worst thing about it is that this strike isn’t sticking it to the man – it’s trampling on the most vulnerable in society. Pensioners are being deprived of their independence, Leaving Cert and Junior Cert students are facing disruption through their oral exams when they have more than enough to be stressed about, parents scrambling to put arrangements in place for their kids, and genuinely low-paid workers walking miles every day because they have no alternative. Tourists who bought tickets in advance are getting screwed over.

Put down the pickets and get back to work lads. Or stay out there, wait for Bus Eireann to go bankrupt, and throw in a CV to GoBus – you’ll have to up your customer service standards to get in with them though, they’re a really decent bunch of lads.

About Katie

katie-harrington-ireland

Katie Harrington is a 28-year-old travel and lifestyle blogger from Galway, Ireland. 

“I’m passionate about seeing the world and meeting people from different countries. I love noticing the similarities and differences between people around the world. In a divided world, I genuinely believe that experiencing other cultures first hand is one of the best ways to combat prejudice.

“In between travel, I write about Irish events, restaurants, and news, as well as opinion pieces on topical issues.”

 

 

 

 

How the Catholic Church can prevent abortion in Ireland

abortion in Ireland

Whether pro-choice or pro-life, I think we can all agree that generally speaking, the fewer abortions the better. When a woman becomes pregnant, the ideal situation is that she feels sufficiently supported – emotionally, financially and practically – that she wants to and feels totally capable of raising a child. But that’s not always the case.

We also know that banning abortion in Ireland isn’t working. Women who can afford it have the option of travelling to the UK or various different parts of Europe, while women who can’t afford that option are increasingly choosing to order abortion pills online. I’m sure we can also agree that getting an abortion is not a pleasant experience, so forcing women to take an international flight to get one, or to take abortion pills without medical supervision, is simply making the process of having an abortion more traumatic.

Given that the Catholic Church’s influence has waned dramatically in the last 30 years, and that with the plague of scandals the church is facing around their treatment of women (the Magdalene Laundries, the abusive environments and unexplained deaths in Mother and Baby Homes, the trafficking of women’s babies without their knowledge to the US for profit, denouncing unmarried mothers from the pulpit) the church might choose to stay silent on the issue of the Eighth Amendment.

Out of respect for the women they failed again and again over the course of generations, the church could choose to sit out of this debate.

But as they won’t, let me offer some practical tips to the Catholic Church on preventing abortion in Ireland.

READ: Dating in Dublin – An intro to Intro.ie

1. Subsidise childcare for single parents

One reason why women choose abortion is that they simply cannot afford to have a child. With no Dad on the scene to help out with childcare, going back to work can be problematic. The Bon Secours Health Systems has a very healthy balance sheet, with accumulated profits of €70 million. If they would like to simultaneously make amends for the wrongs done in the Mother and Baby Homes and contribute to the prevention of abortion, they should immediately establish a multi-million euro childcare bursary for single mothers who want to go back to work or education.

These bursaries should be open to women of any religion or none, and should be independently run with no religious ideology promoted among them.

2. Offer financial support at Catholic-run schools

Around 90% of primary schools in Ireland are run by the Catholic Church. Single mothers often come from low-income backgrounds and are at risk of poverty. A pregnant women, who may already be struggling with the cost of putting children through school, might feel that she simply cannot afford to have another child.

The Catholic Church can make an impact here. Each parish should have a budget to support single parents with buying school books, uniforms, paying for school buses, providing free places in homework clubs and taking part in extracurricular activities. As well as contributing to a reduction in abortions, this will serve as an act of contrition from a church that for so long ostracised the children of unmarried parents.

NSFW: “I mean… You can’t even have morning sex”

3. Support the criminal prosecution of any member of clergy guilty of sexual assault

A small proportion of Irish women who choose to have abortions do so because they became pregnant as a result of rape. How can the church make an impact there?

The Catholic Church has, in the recent past, actively colluded in the cover up of sexual assault of boys and girls. This makes the church’s position on rape and sexual assault ambiguous. As recently as 2016, the Vatican has told newly ordained bishops that they are not obligated to report sexual abuse cases. Instead, they claimed, that should be left to the victims.

That leaves victims of sexual assault by perpetrators outside of the clergy in no uncertain terms about the level of support the church has to offer them. As part of this roadmap to fewer abortions, the church should make it clear that it will report all suspected cases of abuse to the authorities and support the criminal prosecution and jailing of anyone found guilty of sexual assault.

To be clear – I’m not saying the Catholic Church is responsible for the pregnancies as a result of rape. I’m saying that they need to act as the moral leaders they so desperately want to be again and treat rape as the horrific crime that it is rather than covering it up.

Preventing abortion

If the Catholic Church’s aim is to prevent as many abortions as possible, I’m 100% onboard. I’m just calling for a change in strategy. Instead of trying to control women’s bodies through societal pressure and the rule of law, simply convince pregnant women that they have the support they need.

The Catholic Church has deep pockets, and instead of funding anti-abortion campaigns, that money can be used in any number of ways to prove to pregnant women that the support is out there for them.

Oh, and if after all of that is done, some women choose to have abortions anyway, don’t stand in their way. The Catholic Church’s approach to unwanted pregnancies resulted in a living hell for both the mothers and children involved; you have no moral high ground here.

All you’ve got is the opportunity to make amends.

Over to you…

Should the Catholic Church have a voice in the Repeal the 8th debate, given its past failures in supporting unmarried women? Would you back the ideas above, or do you have others to add? Leave a comment.

Fake news: You are responsible for your media consumption

fake-news-journalism

It’s been a pretty incredible couple of weeks (scratch that – months) for the world of journalism. In an increasingly polarised world where emotion trumps truth (pun intended), it’s just too easy to silo yourself away in a social media bubble surrounded only by people who share your views, reading only the articles they share, and reading opinion pieces as though they were matters of fact.

Who’s to blame? The “dishonest media”? Trolls? Petty liberals and conservatives more concerned with advancing their own world views than creating a more inclusive and fair society?

Or is it you?

Are you taking responsibility for how you read, share and shape the news? Let’s take a look at how consumers could do a better job of fighting fake news.

Understand the value of journalism

If you are truly concerned about fake news and the decline of the independent media, but you are unwilling to pay a few dollars a month for quality journalism, you’re part of the problem. Since the election of Donald Trump in the US, highly respected news sites like the New York Times have seen a phenomenal increase of more than 100,000 paid subscriptions. Meanwhile, the Washington Post plans to add 60 journalists after seeing a 75% increase in paying subscribers in 2016.

This may represent a turning point in digital journalism. In the last decade, the widespread availability of wifi and the mobile revolution have led to an abundance of websites worldwide claiming to offer free news. In fact, very few of these hire trained and qualified journalists to carry out investigative journalism. Instead, they wait for real journalists to break the news and then use their platforms to disseminate in at a fraction of the cost. The result is a market swamped with websites offering news for free, and very little public desire to pay for true journalism.

But now – finally – people are coming to realise that just like most things in life, you pay for what you get. You want well researched, vetted and edited news articles based on facts? Shell out a few dollars a month. For less than the cost of your Netflix subscription, you could get access to not one but two quality news outlets (one local and one international, maybe?)

READ: Trump, Farage, and post-truth Public Relations

Use common sense to scrutinise the news you read

Social media has democratised communication; once I post this article on Facebook, it will appear in newsfeeds alongside viral videos of animals being hilarious, updates from family and friends, articles from highly respected media institutions and, of course, fake news. The implications of this are both exciting and dangerous.

Most people don’t read the whole article, which can make it difficult to apply the level of scrutiny required, but here are some basic things to think about when making a judgement:

  • Is this a registered media outlet with trained journalists and an established editorial process?
  • Who is the writer, and what are his are her known biases? Does the channel have a liberal or conservative bias?
  • Is this a news article, which has gone through a rigorous fact-checking process, or is it mainly an opinion or comment piece?
  • Who is quoted in the article? Has comment been sought from a variety of different stakeholders?
  • What are the article’s sources? Does it reference government statistics, academic research or independently verified data?
  • Are straw man arguments or ad hominem attacks being presented instead of facts?
  • Do the ‘facts’ being presented contradict video, photographic and witness evidence?

Fake news isn’t going away any time soon, and try as journalists may to get the facts out there, it’s our responsibility as consumers to make sure we’re not blindly consuming ‘alternative facts’.

READ: 11 free PR resources every campaign needs

If you hate click bait, stop clicking on it

Media organisations have difficult choices to make as they walk the line between holding institutions accountable for their actions and giving media consumers what they want.

Much as people outwardly complain about clickbait articles on what one of the Kardashians did next or Brangelina’s divorce, these are the articles that immediately fly to the top of ‘Most read’ lists.

Articles on complicated new government policies may seem boring and difficult to read; reports on the latest drone attacks in Iraq and Syria may prompt empathy-fatigue, but ultimately we must understand that the media choices we make every day will ultimately provoke a change in what is offered to us.

It’s too easy to make lazy attacks on the media without looking at ourselves, and how we’re providing the catalyst for the decline of the first estate.

So let’s make a deal: Let’s pay for news organisations for good journalism because we know good journalism isn’t free to produce; let’s go beyond our Facebook feeds to find out what the real stories are and let’s scrutinise the facts closely. And let’s stop claiming we hate clickbait and behaving in a way that suggest the opposite.

Katie Harrington is a Public Relations professional based in Dublin. Her book, Strategic Communications: The Science Behind the Art launched in November 2016. Katie has worked with global brands including Emirates Airline and Allianz, as well as the Irish parliament and Qatar’s semi-government oil and gas company Nakilat. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

 

‘Millennial’ is not a dirty word

Millennial views: A few weeks ago, I was asked to join the audience of Pat Kenny Tonight, to talk about the impact emigration had on my generation. On the panel were former Fianna Fail Minister Mary O’Rourke, who receives an annual pension of €97,000 and Dragon’s Den star Peter Casey whose lifetime earnings exceed €14 million.

Pat Kenny himself left RTE after pay cuts there left him with a measly few hundred thousand per annum in earnings, to take up a $2 million package with Newstalk.

katie-harrington-irish-bloggerThe show that followed comprised forty-five minutes of “Ye don’t know how good ye have it”. Generation Snowflake was castigated for asking for too much by a bunch of middle-aged people who have led extremely comfortable existences.

Through the show, none of the older panelists noted that it was their generation, and not the young who squandered the boom and created the circumstances for the recession. There will be no juicy SSIA accounts for Generation Snowflake.

Anecdotes about having to save up to carpet the house missed the point that most of our generation can’t afford to buy a house in the first place, and if we could, there are no houses to buy. Remind me, which generation is responsible for the housing crisis?

The charge that young people in Ireland want something for nothing is unfounded. There is no evidence of it. We want decent jobs and homes to live in, that’s it – no different to our parents’ generation or their parents before them. Are these expectations now considered ludicrous?

Young people today are aspirational, not entitled. Of course we want nice lifestyles, but where did the perception that we are unwilling to work for them come from? It’s not justified.

Lazy commentators have picked up on a problem that has presented itself in other parts of the world and never bothered to find out if it was really the case here too. It’s not.

Perhaps the best point made by a Gen Xer on the night was by journalist Fiona Looney, who pointed out that there has never been a better time to be a woman. She spoke about the social circumstances of the 1980s, when divorce wasn’t an option, access to contraception was severely limited and homosexual activity was still illegal.

Fiona is absolutely right in saying that things are a lot better now, but had she looked a little deeper, she would have realised that all of those changes were driven by young people. Today, social change is still being driven by the younger generation, as seen in the marriage equality referendum last year, and the Repeal the 8th campaign.

The “ye don’t know how good ye have it” attitude hinders progress. Perhaps things are better now than they were in the 1980s, but I walk past at least 15 homeless people every day. Rent in the capital is astronomical. A good friend’s dad lies on a trolley for days in A and E, while a toilet nearby overflows. He’s a pre-lung transplant patient.

The government appears to have no clear plan for the challenges that lie ahead, the most obvious being the economic risks that will come with President Trump and Brexit (both of those votes were carried by the older generation, if anyone is keeping score) and climate change.

Is it entitled of my generation to say we can and must do better? Almost exactly one-third of my salary goes to direct taxation, not to mention indirect taxes. Shouldn’t this be enough to provide basic housing and healthcare in the country? Perhaps I am entitled, but I refuse to accept this is as good as it gets.

Generation Snowflake is an insulting and unfair label. Shelve it. Young people are busy trying to solve the problems their parents’ generation created. We are not interested in being patronised by hurlers on the ditch who have already had their turn.

katie-harrington-ireland

Katie Harrington is a 28-year-old travel and lifestyle blogger from Galway, Ireland. 

“I’m passionate about seeing the world and meeting people from different countries. I love noticing the similarities and differences between people around the world. In a divided world, I genuinely believe that experiencing other cultures first hand is one of the best ways to combat prejudice.

“In between travel, I write about Irish events, restaurants, and news, as well as opinion pieces on topical issues.”

Trump, Farage and post-truth Public Relations

Strategic Communications: The Science Behind the Art is a practical guide to creating integrated communications campaigns. It’s all about achieving optimum PR outcomes using the PESO model. Check it out.

Today, a man who has never held public office became President of the United States of America. He has been declared bankrupt on a number of occasions. He is the first President of the United States in recent history who refused to release his tax returns. Recordings of him have showed him up unequivocally as a misogynist, and more than a dozen women accused him of sexual assault or inappropriate sexual conduct.

And now we call him President Trump.

Experts say the policies he’s been elected on are all but impossible to put in place. Mexico will not pay for a wall to be built. There will be no ban on Muslims entering the US. Hillary Clinton will not be prosecuted over her email server.

But for now, none of that matters. Welcome to the post-truth, post-trust crisis, heralded by Brexit and reinforced by the US election. The average person with a smart phone has access to more technological power and information than NASA did when they put a man on the moon, but instead of creating a more knowledgeable society, this abundance of information has led us to create silos; each man and women finding the media outlets and social groupings that reinforce their beliefs and surrounding themselves with them.

It’s a worrying time for those who believe important decisions should be made based on evidence; that facts still matter.

Public Relations has had a part to play in creating this mess. While admirable steps have been taken in the recent past to distance the industry from our spin-doctor forefathers and embody the spirit of transparency, it’s undeniable that communications plays a part in the problem.

In a recent essay titled Post Truth, Post Trust, Post PR: The crisis of trust is a crisis of leadership, Robert Phillips, former EMEA CEO of Edelman argues that in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, institutions didn’t change. Rather than adapt to a climate that demanded fairness for the 99%, an ethical approach to business and true leadership, orgranisations relied on clever messaging to continue masking problems that lay at their core.

He said: “Clever communications was being used to prop-up bad leadership in business and politics – thereby fuelling the crisis of leadership and, in turn, the crisis of trust. We thought we could spin our way out of everything, even if that spin was only lightly or innocently applied.”

In other words, successive governments and business leaders have ignored the needs of the people who prop them up for too long. They have reneged on the social contract we were raised to believe in that says “If you work hard, you can have a better life than your parents did.” There is an unprecedented level of mistrust in institutional power, and a palpable sense of anger among working class and lower middle class people. This is as true in the old industrial towns in England as it is in America’s rust belt, where once any man willing to work a long day in a mine or on a factory floor could be sure to feed his family.

Politicians, rather than taking responsibility for their role in declining economies, from poor governance of financial institutions to failures in adapting to globalisation have instead chosen classic misdirection. Those who hold power in the world’s largest public and private sector organisations continue to evade accountability by distracting us with an endless series of straw men: Syrian terrorists, Mexican rapists, Sharia Law.

Donald Trump and Nigel Farage have taught us that in an era of shortening attention spans, emotion trumps facts, logic and rationality. Who has the time to fact-check? If it feels true, believe it with all your heart. After too many years of spin, authenticity is intoxicating to resist; Hillary Clinton was undeniably the more qualified candidate, but Donald “tells it like it is”. His Twitter wars may be inane, but they’re real, and we would rather hear ugly, true-held opinions than pretty lies.

Canny Public Relations professionals will have learned a lot from this election. We now know with greater certainty than ever before just how powerful the tools of emotion and nostalgia are, and that simplicity combined with repetition garners results. Repeat “Hillary Clinton is evil” often enough and over time it becomes ingrained in people’s psyche, even if they can’t answer the question “Why do you think that?”

This leaves the industry with a choice to make.

We can lean in to spin. In the post-truth era, it is unquestionable that there will be money to be made by doing so. Unless governments and business leaders change their ways, we will have greater freedom than ever to stretch or simply ignore the truth.

On the other end of the spectrum, Robert Phillips proposes a radical post-Public Relations model of leadership.

He says: “The corporation of the future should look less like a traditional hierarchy and more like a social movement, within which the CEO needs to think and behave like a social activist… This means being citizen-centric and society-first, re-setting the consumption fetish of the late 20th and early 21st century. The activist Public Leader negotiates and enables – and does not impose. Aristotelian values of Truth, Wisdom, Justice and, above all, Courage prevail.

“I have long argued for the ascendancy of profit optimisation over profit maximisation and for a longer-term focus on purpose and not just profit – challenging Milton Friedman and his Thatcher/ Reagan disciples, where the only responsibility of business is to maximise profit for a small group of shareholders. We need to mutualise more. Achieving this also demands activist business leadership.”

On a morning like this, Phillips proposal looks hopelessly optimistic. Governments, organisations and Public Relations companies, whose very survival seem to depend on resisting this call, will be slow to pick up the gauntlet he has thrown down.

But that is not the end of the story.

The people of middle America and Little England turned to Donald Trump and Nigel Farage as a desperate protest against years of empty promises. When our new anti-heroes are found wanting, perhaps we will have truly hit rock bottom, the post-truth philosophy will become less attractive and Phillips’ model will look less radical.

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A ‘millennial’ moves back to Ireland and asks, is this it?

Settle down. Work hard. Save up. Get a car. Buy a house. Why? Because it’s normal?

Born in 1988, I’m a bona fide member of that most overanalysed and undervalued generation: the millennials.

I am a member of the first generation in modern history that is likely to be poorer and less healthy and to die younger than its parents’ generation.

Our future was mortgaged by generations that went before. We cope with that fact as best we can, but we are so consistently stereotyped as infantilised brats that “millennial” may as well be a synonym for “entitled”.

We are seen as fickle because we job hop, when the truth is that the traditional model of earning promotions and pay rises in return for loyalty and hard work no longer exists. We move from job to job because our contracts are running out, because we can’t afford the rent on what we make, and because our employers remind us constantly that we are replaceable (apparently failing to grasp the point that they are as well).

We don’t see employment through a pre-Industrial Revolution master-slave lens; rather, to us it is a reciprocal arrangement. I need money to buy things, and companies will pay me a certain amount of money in exchange for my time and skills. It is not a parent-child relationship.

A portion of that money is taken as taxes by the Government. That is fine with me – although I would prefer it were spent more wisely, because I need to live in a country that has public transport and education and a functioning health service.

Eight months ago I moved home from the Middle East after six years abroad as an expat. I quickly found a good job and settled back into life in Ireland. It was a 12-month maternity contract, mind you, meaning no chance of a mortgage, no security and an uncertain future.

Despite its precarious nature it’s the kind of work that my father, who is a taxi driver, thinks I would be mad to walk away from, with health insurance and a pension on offer.

Each morning I wait at the bus stop by O’Connell Bridge in Dublin and ask myself: “Is this it?”

I’m a millennial cliche, unsatisfied with the path my parents’ generation would have me follow. Settle down. Work hard. Save up. Get a car. Buy a house. Why? Because it’s normal? Because that’s “what adults do”? Who decides this stuff anyway?

If this is being an adult I want my old job back.

I’m 28. With the retirement age soon set to go up to 68, and perhaps further, I refuse to accept that this is it for the next 40 years. A dreary commute to a 9-5.30 job, 21 days of annual leave, and a portion of my salary saved each month, building at a glacial rate towards a mortgage I’m not sure I even want.

By my bus stop a sign offers me an out. For a very reasonable €1,800, an around-the-world ticket and the promise of an adventure. From Buenos Aires to Santiago, and then Auckland and Sydney, with a stop-off in my old stomping ground of Dubai on the way home. The chance to write and maybe even make a living out of it. It’s the gig economy, baby, and anyone can be an entrepreneur. To learn to speak Spanish and salsa dance and scuba dive.

“I thought you got all that travelling out of your system,” my dad will say. “It’s time to cop on.”

This article originally appeared in the print edition of the Irish Times on 3rd September 2016.

What are your thoughts on millennial life?

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