So Jenni’s article last week on having the right attitude to make it in journalism got me thinking. What attitude do I take to working in journalism? Of course, my confidence frequently oscillates between extreme arrogance and extreme self doubt but I’d probably describe my ‘attitude’ as more ‘difficult’.
Well not so much difficult as contrarian.
What always bothered me most about getting in journalism was the way in which young wannabes seem to go through a product line.
Go to university, do work experience, write for the student newspaper, do an expensive training course, work for free, get a trainee/content job. Never question. Never make waves. Never challenge the system. Whether you do an undergrad, postgrad or an unpaid internship it is all variations on the same theme.
And although this approach may be effective, let’s face it, it’s a little boring. The problem is the market is so saturated with desperate wannabes who feel they have to conform to every expectation.
But how far can being cookie cutter get you? Sure you may make a few contacts and you may get your first job but what happens after that? Wannabes forget they still have a whole life of striving; instead of inching onto the career ladder maybe it’s better to take a running jump?
The media, like most ‘fashionable industries’, eats its own young.
The reason we work for free and the reason we spend thousands on training is because we think we have to do what we’re told. We think if we play by the rules, the grownups will notice and reward us. But this is a lie.
Playing by the rules is getting us nowhere. So why bother? While I know freelancing from my parents’ house until I get a job I like is hardly ground breaking, I’m free to do what I like, when I like. I could do an unpaid media internship but I can’t help thinking it would hold me back and take time away from the projects that get me noticed (and paid).
If I’d spent the last few months constantly playing by the rules, doing a postgrad or an unpaid internship in London I’d be even more broke and merely treading water. I’m a far better journalist and far more successful for having gone my own way.
Sure another internship will add another line but will it really develop you as a journalist and make you interesting enough to talk to in interviews? Ultimately you’ll be stuck in one place for months on end, getting more and more in debt with only a handful bylines and contacts to show for it.
I’m not saying don’t do a postgraduate course or don’t do an internship (don’t do an unpaid one though) but you have to think for yourself. Make up your own rules. Don’t believe you ‘have to’ do anything.
We’re young; this is the only time in our lives when being obstinate and selfish is seen as part of the deal.
Don’t get bratty or get ideas above your station. You’re still at the bottom and still have to work your way up the ladder but how you do it is up to you.
As I’ve said before I’m making this up as I go along and it’s terrifying. While no-one is bossing me around or taking advantage of my good nature, no-one is holding my hand. When I screw up there is no-one to say ‘it’s OK, you’re only an intern’. I’ve been forced to act like a professional and with it has come increased respect from the industry.
I’m not saying I never will do a paid internship or a training course but I won’t do one just because I feel it’s expected of me.
The number one rule of getting into journalism is there are no rules.
Do what you like, say what you like, think what you like. Being individual will get you further faster than being an obedient sheep ever could.
It’s a myth that if you play the game you will reap the rewards. All the journalistic product line does is produce acceptable, cheap labour. To be special or stand out you have to set yourself apart.
Image courtesy of cripplegate.org
- Why a class action lawsuit against unpaid internships in the US is overdue You may or may not have seen the news yesterday...
- Jobs in journalism: We all need to change our attitude to unpaid work One of the major issues facing us wannabes is the...
- REVIEW: News Associates training workshop Over here at Wannabe Hacks we talk a lot about...
- Moving to London to get a job in journalism Unless you follow my Twitter feed, you probably don’t know...
- How far will your attitude get you in journalism? We spend a lot of time talking about how to...
After finishing my stint in student media, I couldn’t help but look