Wednesday, January 27, 2010...8:53 am

Prospective journalism students: the question I may not be able to ask…

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Why on earth do you want to spend three years and £20,000 learning the ropes of what appears to be a dying industry?
Well – dying in the sense of “very, very difficult to make a living in”.
Yes, it’s student intake assessment today, and I get to play my part in deciding the fate of the dozens of eager potential journalism undergraduates – all shiny faced and wide-eyed at the prospect of treading the hallowed halls of learning to study, well, shorthand.
It’ll be very interesting – not least because I get to ask that all-important question (though slightly more tactfully phrased), and also get to see how media savvy the young folks are.
Do they read newspapers? Do they just read Heat magazine? Do they read anything at all? What are their hopes and dreams?
And, I suppose, what right do I have to crush them by suggesting they spend three years learning accounting and finance instead.
[UPDATE: Key advice for prospective interviewees: prepare some intelligent-sounding questions to ask. That really does work.]


  • My checklist:
    • Show me some evidence that you can spell and write proper English. And that you care about it. Evidence to the contrary triggers rejection
    • Show your business plan for living on £10k pa (if lucky), not only at the start of your career but plausibly throughout it
    • Convince me that being a journalist (in the modern sense) is better than being an accountant (in any sense)
    • Explain, with timing breakdowns in every 24-hour period, your plans for learning and staying up to date with 50 different softwares as well as reporting/investigating/writing/filming/editing. Oh, and show your fully costed business plans for being an ‘entrepreneurial’ journalist
    A tick in these boxes earns a place on the course. And a trip to the funny farm with a nervous breakdown in about 3 years.

  • Last year I graduated from an NCTJ course.Do I feel any closer to landing that first job?No, not really. Why? – because, largely, I can’t work for free for months and months, and I am 28 with a mortgage to pay. All the people who landed jobs – some excellent jobs, as it happens – worked for free for months. I will keep trying though. I have pretty much given up on the 15 grand a year max world of locals, and am concentrating on getting into the business-to-business side of things. But I am sure not going to hold my breath.

  • It’s a tough media world right now – and I can’t see it returning to the way things were – the web and digital content has just been too disruptive.
    But that doesn’t mean you’re not in with a shot. Keep learning as much as you can; think of yourself as a business and be as creative as possible. Above all, be good at what you do – and network, network, network.
    The media still needs good people: you just have to get noticed (even if that means running your own website after you get home from your “real” job).

  • I read your chiding post about journalism students, and I think I can answer your question. New media has created new opportunities for j-students. Companies like are filling the void left by legacy media. is the only online video news site that combines and analyses news coverage from different sources to highlight bias and differences in reporting. Newsy videos use new media and traditional media sources to show readers a story through an array of perspectives. Newsy is partnered with the University of Missouri School of Journalism and functions as a learning lab for journalism and advertising students. I hope you will check us out.

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