Would I still recommend people to go into journalism?

In a week’s time, for the first time in 31 years and indeed my life, I won’t be employed by the media industry.

It’s a slightly scary thought.

But, as I move into a full-time role as a journalism lecturer, how much scarier are the prospects for the young people that I’ll be teaching?

Or, to tackle the $64 million question that my wife asked me the other day: Would I still recommend folk to go into journalism?

The short answer to that is of course, yes – why otherwise would I be embarking on a new career in a university journalism department?

But it’s a highly legitimate question at a time when many mainstream news organisations are preparing to take an axe to their newsrooms.

In the last few weeks, the BBC and the Guardian have announced cost-cutting programmes which are likely to lead to redundancies, while the Independent is ending print production this week.

And on a regular basis, Hold the Front Page charts a pattern of job losses, office sales and title closures, with the regional media that has been my world for the last three decades engaged in a constant battle to stay at the heart of Britain’s increasingly transient communities.

The pressures on the reporters and newsdesks of today are greater than they have ever been, with the extraordinary sources of information and the new publishing platforms that are now available being very much a double-edged sword.

One of the enduring themes to the two years I have spent as an industry trainer has been the difficulty – even against a tough financial background – of filling vacancies with the right people.

That background is not going to go away, certainly not for the mainstream media and particularly for any company which has either shareholders, debts to pay off or venture capitalists on board.

The challenge for all of us is to ensure that those harsh realities of life aren’t driving away the greatest talents – whether that be those already under the roofs that I currently work, or under the slightly more elegant ones beneath which I will be labouring from next month.

Saying goodbye in the newsrooms that have been my home for the last couple of years has reminded me just what a talented, imaginative, disruptive, charming, funny and genuinely interesting bunch journalists are.

Each of those qualities – teamed with my favourite combination of determination and empathy – will be vital in the years to come.

As times get harder, there will be an element of the survival of the fittest. And I want the journalism students that I will now be training to be among the very fittest.

But we’ve all met those ultra marathon athletes who have no conversation other than their monk-like diets and their latest lightweight bike frames.

This industry and the people it serves will be so much the poorer if eccentricity, instinct, guts and sheer bloodymindedness – as well as a sense of fun – are lost along the way.

If we keep people with those qualities, then journalism can always be the best job in the world.

 

 

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