jewin' the fat


It’s a long way to the top
April 11, 2010, 9:55 PM
Filed under: Comment, media | Tags: , , , , , ,

Reading this story on Gawker got me thinking about university and the nasty game of graduate journalism. It’s been three years since I graduated, and lo and behold, while I am still in the media field, I have gone over to the dark side. Not because I lost the spark of independence, or my sense of the power and justice of the fourth estate. Nope. I needed the money, and this job was not only looking to hire, pay, and respect me for my time and efforts accordingly, but they hired, paid and respected me a helluva lot more than most graduate journalism jobs. 

It starts with the fight to get the marks to get into the degree, and the smarts to keep up with the fast paced course, unforgiving markers, and the burning hole in your pocket kept smouldering with hundreds of dollars of investment in chasing stories. 

If that doesn’t kill the fire to tell Australia and the world something worth sharing, when you finally land that (unpaid) job at a regional/local/suburban paper (because the other 70 applications bounced right back atcha) the painstaking hours spent pitching, preparing, driving, meeting, interviewing, transcribing, writing, typing, editing, re-editing, re-working, photographing, captioning, editing – It’s little wonder Journalists are known for their drinking habits. I’d be driven to the bottle too. 

We can't all be Hunter S Thompson ... but we all learn to drink like him (Photo: aquariumdrunkard.com)

Given that even seasoned journalists everywhere are fighting to keep their jobs in the wake of one of the greatest revolutions of modern news media, it is a bleak future ahead for those who are looking to make it big as a reporter. A boom in blogging, online media start-ups (drudge report, huffington post – even our very own JC), and a shift to Public Relations has saved some, but far too many are being convince that the only way is the hardest way. 

Call me crazy, but the second a graduate lawyer or physician or accountant has to work for free, I’ll just right on the bandwagon and enjoy the ride.  Hell, it might even get my parents off my back for choosing Journalism over Law. Maybe.  

But in Australia, you can’t get a job unless you’ve been working for that paper/news organisation for free all the way through university, and then someone managed to convince someone up high that you are worthy of taking that maternity leave gig, or fortnightly column, or that you don’t mind going under the pen-name “News Desk Staff”. 

With that being said, there are plenty of smart, talented, ambitious students who have worked hard, learned fast, and put in the networking hours to get a great job as a radio/tv/print/online journalist. But there are far more who are working nights, steadfast in their belief that a television captioning gig, media monitor/summaries job, or working for by-lines (and little else) is the way to the top. 

Sadly for the time being, it may not be right, but it’s true. It’s a long, long way, and if you don’t know the right people, have the right timing, or got the endurance, it can be a bumpy ride.

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