Kim Fletcher, writing the On the press column in Media Guardian today asks the question: “Would you let your daughter be a journalist?” The eventual answer is the “yes” that could be expected:
What if papers are dying? Surely no responsible parent would promote a moribund industry to his child? The two consistent messages of hope are that papers have years in them yet and that no one believes the new digital world can do without journalism. The medium changes but the craft continues. Worryingly, though, papers do not need such big staff and the internet will not match the wage bills of traditional media.
But do we still want news and analysis and comment and entertainment? Will we still read reports from the Lebanon? Are there still questions to ask politicians? Does our interest in sport continue? Emphatically yes. Indeed, the more information that is around, the more we will prize the information that we can trust, or that is more intelligent, or original. Who can give us that but journalists? So to return to the original question: can we recommend a career in journalism? Yes. For the bright, inquisitive, mischievous show-off with a short attention-span, it is still a good choice.
Rightly, Fletcher points to the poor pay for most journalists and the profiteering (my word) of regional newspaper groups. I have a quibble with him though when he says:
Most journalists still join local newspapers, which now take on more graduates than school leavers.
My experience tells me that is not true. Students go into a wide range of jobs in papers, magazines and, increasingly, in the web. One of my recent students from the University of Westminster print journalism post grad diploma, emailed excitedly a few weeks ago about her new work. She had beaten more than 500 applicants for a job writing mobile phone entertainment news content.
At an awards ceremony a couple of weeks back I met four earlier students who were there to pick up a prize. Two now work for the BBC online, one was at Reuters and one working for a legal magazine. While I have not done a count of former students, the numbers going into local newspapers seems to be relatively small.