The truth is that my generation, more than any before it, thrives on communication.
The media world – the big, official one, where Jon Snow works and everyone wears sensible shoes – is becoming less of a distinct entity. Instead, each social group creates and maintains its own little media industry, distributing its information and ideas through blogging, social networking sites, communal texting, fanzines, flyering and, occasionally, wearing sandwich boards in the street. We are egotistical exhibitionists who think nothing of broadcasting every detail of our trivial lives on Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and the like.
The internet has taken the media canvas and stretched it to infinite proportions.
Everybody thinks they have their right to a slice of the media pie, because everybody nowadays believes he or she is a disproportionately interesting person.
This might explain why recent years have seen such a shift towards the fluffier end of the media spectrum – few people, it seems, want to report actual news anymore. A recent survey conducted for the House of Lords Communications Committee showed a 37 per cent drop in newspaper readership among 15-25-year-olds. It seems logical that fewer graduates should be plumping for the old allure of Fleet Street, and instead be finding their way into internet journalism and the ever-growing clutch of fanzines and red-top gossip mags. When you can earn a living drawing comedy circles around Coleen McLoughlin’s cellulite, who would choose to pen pieces about the future of the country?
Work experience is still, by and large, the best way to get a headstart on that job in journalism. Interning is inherently a fairly-hideous experience. Being launched into an environment where you are only marginally more useful than the office pot plant is not the warm, fuzzy induction to a career most likely to ensure you stick at it.
Nobody likes you. That is a given from the start. More un-nerving is the realisation that nobody needs you either. You are the office equivalent of a screaming newborn at a dinner party.
On graduating with his English degree in the early Eighties, my dad was rejected for no fewer than 200 newspaper jobs – a tale that strikes fear into my heart, knowing that the subsequent decades have made the struggle only more ferocious. I have occasional nightmares in which I must fight off the other 60-odd BA English students in my year at UCL for a tiny chair marked ‘media career”, and that’s not to mention those emerging from the scores of other courses with qualifications
that promise to act as gateways to a job in the industry.
Despite popular derision for its ‘Mickey Mouse’status, annual graduate review What do Graduates do? revealed in 2007 that Media Studies is the third most employable degree, with a healthy 72.1 per cent of students finding work within six months of graduating, though still only a paltry one in seven land a job in the media industry.
Depressing though these stats might be, they are unlikely to quell the appeal of journalism in a world growing ever-more dominated by the media. For some the chance to contribute to global communication will always be a sexier option than a career that reaches only as far as a till or spreadsheet. We know we’ll be broke and stressed but we’re prepared for the fight.
A full version of this article, ‘The Devil Wears Primark”, appears in The British Journalism Review, Volume 19, Issue 1