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Articles > Rant April, 15, 2013

Why should young journalists trust an industry that doesn’t trust them?

Marta Castellani
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If, like me, you are still desperately looking for an internship, spring break doesn’t mean holidays. As a journalist and MA International Journalism student trying to make it outside Italy, I thought it would be interesting to follow a panel discussion (a very long one!) called: “Skills for the future, what do we need to know and what skills do you need to be a journalist in the digital age”.

Photo by Jon S

On the panel, senior journalists and communications professionals, mostly representing the BBC, talked about the set of abilities a journalist needs to have to survive in this era of change in the communication and social landscape. The obligatory “good knowledge of social media” came up. But how about young people trying to make journalism their profession? Needless to say, being a Twitter addict, a Facebook expert, having a Reddit account or a profile on Flicker won’t do you any good. To the question: “What do trainee journalists have to have in order to get an internship, for example?” the first thing Jonathan Baker, from the BBC College of Journalism, answered was: experience.

“Here we are again,” I thought. Experience. Of course we need to have some experience to apply for a ‘work experience’ placement, don’t we? And we also need some work experience to gain some experience in the first place. I am an international student who happily spent all her savings for an MA that, presumably, was going to be the ace up my sleeve for a career in journalism. But as my tutors said at the beginning of my course, they are very glad to teach to us, and wish us the best of luck in finding a job in our home countries. As if to say: we have enough English journalists in England, what made you think there was enough space for you too?

Moreover, as many people remarked yesterday, having a Masters doesn’t give you any extra value and definitely doesn’t improve your chances of getting a job in this field. Again, the most import thing is experience. So good luck in finding an internship. And as if living in another country, studying at a masters level in a language that is not your own, preparing for exams, meeting assignments’ deadlines wasn’t enough, here comes the stressful process of applying for internship. It’s everything but easy: time plays against you and each negative response is not only a failure, but a matter of days, sometimes weeks, wasted waiting for an answer.

This is how you end up sending emails to almost everyone you can get hold of saying things on the line: “Hi, it would be amazing to work for you. You newspaper/production company/radio station/magazine/anything is what I have always been looking for,” like the typical high school loser desperate to date whoever at the prom. It becomes difficult then when you ask yourself: “What do I really like?” and “why am I doing this?” and you don’t seem to know the answer anymore. You know it can’t be worse than this when you even send the wrong email to the wrong person: “Hi Director of BBC, it would be a pleasure to work for ITV!”

Journalism is a competitive field and I believe the truth is no one really knows what the right recipe for success is. Many of the people I met yesterday came to journalism by chance, having studied other subjects in their undergraduate studies, for example.Some of them, on the contrary, were in journalism and moved to PR after a while, to “finally make some money”. In the end, if there are some many aspiring journalists out there, even pretty clever people that well know the state of the profession and still want to try to make it, it means something. And I think that ‘something’ is the passion towards what for me is the best vocation in the world.

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