Do you need a degree to be a journalist?

As the father of a 16-year-old awaiting her GCSE results and a 21-year-old who’s just started his first job, there was one story which caught my eye this morning.

It’s a bit of a middle-class dinner party cliche, but a report confirming that most graduates end up in non-graduate jobs echoed a reality that I could already see in some of my own friends’ families.

But where does journalism fit in to that picture?

One of the things on my to-do list today is the completion of a report on the potential of an apprenticeships scheme in my neck of the woods.

Appropriately enough, one of the editors who might benefit went straight into the industry from school.

Of the 80-odd journalists I’ve given jobs to over the last couple of decades, almost all have had degrees.

But it’s never been something I’ve insisted on.

From a practical point of view, the three years of standing on your own two feet offer a great chance to showcase latent writing and newsgathering skills.

They’re also a time to reflect on what you really want to do, and to get some genuinely useful work experience.

But as I’ve said before, our reliance on what tend to be white, middle-class graduates can if we’re not careful skew our world view, and distance us from our audience.

The joy of apprenticeships – apart from the Government incentives – is that we can tap into a different demograph, and one which is already on our doorstep.

For papers in less salubrious parts of our empire, selling a trainee job to graduates used to cosmopolitan culture and stunning cityscapes can be a challenge.

This way, we don’t have to sell the town or area – the would-be journalist is already living there, with all the local knowledge and contacts that that brings.

If someone asks me whether they should go to university to get the best chance of becoming a journalist, I’d probably still say yes.

Call me an old romantic, but I am still inspired whenever I enter the world of higher education.

Universities at their best remain among this country’s finest assets.

But they can’t be our only source of recruits.


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