Friday, September 30, 2011

I want to be a journalist

Mr Westbrook's right. His post on 10 ways to make the most of your journalism course hits the right buttons.

Adam also gives a reality check for aspiring journalists. 14k a year- that's if you can find a job at the end. These are indeed tough times. In the UK it's 2000 new applicants for roughly 200 media jobs - a piece of stats quoted from newsbeat about four years ago.

It does beg the question. Why you want to be a journalist in the first place, really?  But the world needs nosey parkers. I mean those who are bothered by things and can see how journalism can be used to scratch that itch.

As Marr writing in My Trade says in the UK we've not quite mastered journalism as a profession. It's something you kind of fall into and then haphazardly make your way. Well, you can't even rely on that any more.

I tend not to speak directly about what goes on campus. Even in the digital open world, some things must remain safe for students and participants to engage in without feeling exposed. That's what are classes are "safe environments' to make mistakes - an artistic practice, which journalists might call Chatham House Rules.

Hopefully within are safe system we can harness a spirit too of reciprocity. However speaking in general terms, hopefully class of 2011 have already had a taste of journalism 101.

In other words a simulation of the real world in the lecture environment. Broadly and it's one that many students share, journalism can still come across as a light switch which is a given. Quite literally you grab the switch of the wall and et voila' you're now qualified to do societies' bidding.

Adam draws your attention to the pros and conversely cons. If there is a wider observation about trainee journalists it's what academics would refer to as what constitutes  a "comfortable epistemology".

Fortunately, and if it were the case I wouldn't say - at least this year, but everyone knew about 9/11. Last year that wasn't the case with one student, who needed prompting several times before making the connection.

9/11 just wasn't something the student was familiar with. But 9/11 is just a wider reality and expression for journalism knowledge.

The journalism curve that shot up so exponentially in 2005 has stabilised, with my mother even knowing what a tweet is - and she is most definately non-techie. This plateauing is a source of jubilation and trepidation.

We're moving storytelling on - (sigh!) finally, but now everyone can do what you do. However, employers as a matter of employment evolution, need a fresh crop of youngsters to fill in the yearly musical chairs of retirements, resignations and those moving on.

So there's still hope for the job, but the suits now can't be hoodwinked. "Er Yes really get a twitter account and you'll save your paper".  Quite! At a conference with now Guardian Journalist Jemima Kiss years back, I remember someone from the floor saying all managers needed to "hire a youngtser, and not just for Christmas".

Then tweeter was an insult to be confused with twit.

The Today Journalist
Today then young aspiring journalists might need a little bit more, which combines academic rigour, technical saviness and a maturity that allows them to oscillate from team work, to isolated periods of being alone, either as entrepreneurial journalists or freelancers. Yes, it goes on, but each year, requires a new confidence to cope with the world.

It boils down to using the year to learn something often not taught, but by default made available - human behaviour in a digital age. Why will one person read your blog, as opposed to a lot more? How do you make your presentations attractive, while being caustic with your keys? What is it that sets us off?

One student who wasn't on our course wrote "journalism sucks". Already? Whilst another lamented what was a facile exercise in monitoring and deconstructing media?  Deference aside, a sought after commodity within any discipline, sometimes its difficult to ascertain cause and effect- unless you're in the army and you don't question that.

No, I'm not suggesting you don't question. In fact question some more and some, but at the point where your lecturer tells you "it's time for a death march", you could trust them.

As Dorothy Byrne says in results from my Phd enquiry; '"Those doing news now could trust us TV lost a bit more, we have been doing it much longer than them". Yep and I can hear the counter argument too, but there is a case to had here.

 And if you don't know what a death march is....

So here's my two bits to bolt on to Adam's. Journalism doesn't stop outside the lecture room, in fact that's when its intensified. Become voracious at everything - including steep lessons in contemporary and classical media histories.  Social networks for instance did not start with facebook. grrr! Thomas Hobbs Intelligent Commonwealth more than 400 years ago

"Commonwealths ( woops, sorry Hobbs) Social Networks can be formed in two ways: through institution, or agreement; and through acquisition, or force. Although the group of people taken by force under a sovereign’s rule may resist the acquisition and depose the sovereign before he takes control"

Discuss and Share, not just tweets, but that round table drinks session at the pub. If you can squeeze in the EU bail out and what the heck it means, in between Desperate Housewives, you're morphing into the journalist.

We're entering a pernicious time in world politics, the economies doing its impression of a shark with tonic immobility. Money men meanwhile are lining their pockets with the fear that if the world collapses, they'll find a new home on Mars.

Oh yes - all of a sudden it will make no sense.

A labour party is in stasis, with a leader who looks like he's taking lessons from Thatcher, while the incumbent rulers are about to go to their conference and tell us we've never had it so good. By this time next year, the UK and a number of countries will not be what they were. The US elections looks like being the mother of all ding dongs.

All this is grist for the clever journalist, but it won't come looking for you. It's who dares wins. Truer back then, ever more so, now.