It’s May. And, tough as the journalism market is right now, it’s about to get tougher. Journalism schools around the UK are about to spit out their latest crop of hopefuls.
Last year, I was among them. This year, with an added year of experience and cynicism, I’m feeling cautiously optimistic. And, no doubt, there will be many worried students out there, wondering if their three years (or more) of study were worth it.
Here’s my advice: stick around and clear up the mess.
In an interview for Journalism.co.uk recently, I described how the job market has changed in the past year. In 2008, we were well aware that competition was tough. Reporters jobs were extremely thin on the ground. One position I applied for — on a smallish London newspaper — had, the editor told me, nearly 1000 applicants.
But now there isn’t any competition. There isn’t anything to compete over. Newspapers are getting rid, chopping down and slicing up. The reporter that left last week isn’t being replaced.
So what do journalism students do? Give up? Get a job in PR? Get a job in Sainsbury’s?
Maybe — if that’s what it takes. But here’s the crucial tip: whatever you do, stay close to journalism.
So what if there aren’t any full-time reporting roles on newspapers. Are the pages empty? No! They’re still full of words, pictures, stories. All of which are — until Murdoch invents some sort of Churnobot — written by humans. You’ll struggle with local newspapers, they don’t have much of a budget, but you could have better luck elsewhere. On the web, in the nationals — they all need writers.
So if you need to work at Sainsbury’s — do it. Work lates. Get a job in a pub.
Just spend your day being a journalist. Get shifts, even if it’s one day a week. Apply for anything that’s remotely near to a newsroom. Work on the reception if you have to.
You need to make sure you’re in the industry when it’s back on the way up.