The glamorous professions No.6 - journalism: Sheer tyranny

This piece was written at the peak of the newspaper industry – in 1952. Found in the Essex Chronicle archive by Steve Clow, it reveals that some things never change in journalism. The headline is taken from the original piece, which is intended as a guide to journalism for women readers.

Journalism is the square peg of the glamorous professions. It really has no business to be included in such a series.

It is there only because it is thought glamorous by those who seek to enter it.

Why do you want to be a journalist? Oh, you want to write? You want to meet people, to travel the world at your newspaper’s expense, to report on the dress collections in London and Paris, and one day you think you might like to write books?

Incidentally, you have heard that journalists are highly paid. Oh, what a shock there is in store for you!

In the first place, if you are lucky enough to persuade some unfortunate newspaper to give you a chance, you are in for a good five years of solid grind which will wear the bloom from your complexion, the soles from your shoes, and rob you of your trusting nature for life.

You will cover mother’s meetings, council meetings, school speech days, inquests, police courts, Royal visits, weddings and funerals. Towards the end of those five years you may learn how to write a story, quickly, accurately, and without landing your newspaper in a highly expensive libel action.

All this time your earnings will be little more than a pound or two a week. For remember, you are being trained at no cost to yourself for the toughest, most exhausting and demanding job a woman can tackle.

If you don’t believe it is quite like that, hang on to your girlish illusions and quit journalism. But you can’t leave it – it has taken hold of you ? What a mutt you are!

Well about this time you will probably decide to make a move to a bigger paper, leaving behind the small town where you knew everybody, the friends and colleagues who have helped you, the office where you have been nursed in cotton wool.

You will either be rushed off your feet or know maddening periods of inactivity when you expect to be fired any minute. You will learn to smile nicely at the news editor when he comes along with a fatal slip of paper five minutes before you are due off.

This may send you anywhere within five hours’ train or flying time from your office. And you will go
uncomplainingly. At midnight you will ring through with your story which you consider complete and one of your best.

You wait expectantly to be told you can return. The night news editor’s voice purrs over the phone, “Go back and watch it for a bit longer”. It is raining. You have no transport and you have already walked two miles to the phone box.

The people didn’t want to talk to you in the first place and by now they have gone thankfully to bed. But back you go and lean your elbow on the door bell until someone eventually comes to the door.
At one, two and three AM, you telephone the office.

But all night news editors have gramophone records where their hearts ought to be – records which say: “Go back and have another try” until the last London edition has gone to bed.

You have heard all this before and you are still going to be a journalist?
You lucky girl. You’ll do.

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