Dear Dr Deadline 21-03-03

Dear Dr Deadline,

My boss keeps giving me rubbish assignments and it’s doing my head in. I’m the most junior staffer on a smallish editorial team, so I’m not expecting to be handed the best jobs on a plate, but surely they could throw the odd juicy bone my way? As it is, I just seem to get handed the real barrel-scrapers that nobody else will touch because they know they’ll get nothing much out of them. Even some freelances we use get better stuff than I do. I’m trying hard to impress everybody but I’m finding it difficult because I don’t feel I’m being given the material that gives me the chance to shine. Help.

Seems to me you’re going about this the wrong way. Let’s get one thing straight: journalism isn’t about being handed anything – whether it’s on a silver salver engraved with your name and the word “splash” or whether it’s lifted with an industrial scraper from the bottom of the deepest, filthiest barrel selected from the Warehouse of the World’s Worst Barrels. So if you’re sitting in conference thinking “Huh, I wonder what lame material I’m going to get landed with today”, then that’s probably exactly what you’ll get. Far better, surely, to turn up to that conference with a list of superb ideas that will make everyone else sit up and take notice. If you’re new to the team, this can of course be very difficult – especially if you don’t have your own “patch” to cover and other reporters are protective and wary of you treading on their toes. But it’s a competitive business, so don’t be too afraid of digging your elbows in a little. Even if your ideas aren’t perfectly honed to start with, at the very least you’ll start to build a reputation as someone who’s thinking positively rather than as Oliver Twist holding out a begging bowl for more gruel.

Dear Dr Deadline,

I’ve just finished my training and am looking for my first staff position as a reporter. A job as a sub-editor has just come up at one of the places I’ve been doing work experience. If I take it, will I be able to move across to reporting later – or would I be effectively consigning myself to a future as a sub?

It’s not a one-way street. Most of the best reporters have subbing experience tucked under their belts somewhere along the line, just as most of the best subs have been out there reporting. If there’s a job there, take it. You’ll learn more about good copy in the first week than you have in all your years at college.

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