Thursday, 21 June 2012

What Price Progress?

Journalism is changing.

Blogging, the required mastery of social and networking websites, added to the galloping growth of online journalism is changing the media landscape in a way that even those starting out a decade ago could not have imagined.

Though established older hacks have reluctantly adopted email addresses and in some cases learned to operate to a computer, often with hilarious consequences, none have seen their positions under threat from a lack of understanding of changing media technology.

That's because they received the training which still makes the difference between writing the scoop or re-writing someone else's lead later.

It frequently would have in involved alcohol; usually with an older veteran hack; the art of conversation (Yes - it still exists somewhere), fostering and nurturing contacts; and discovering whether you have the inner drive to beat the competition.

Contrary to what many who have witnessed some of the worst excesses outlined at Leveson, or from the reporting of Operation Motorman, it didn't involve hacking phones or spending days on the phone to private eyes.

Journalism then was the old-fashioned technique of wearing out shoe leather on the streets, and working long hours to get stories which those in power frequently were doing their utmost to stop you getting.

Fast forward to 2012 and often the only danger to shoe leather for many young hacks is tripping on the scuffed carpet in  offices where they spend too much time writing for online newspaper sections without going out on actual stories.

The long hours are, of course, still there, and the staff of most newspapers is less than half of what it was ten years ago.

And whereas many local newspaper groups frequently sponsored aspiring journalists to get training, covering course fees and accommodation costs, this is now proving to be the exception rather than the rule.

Which brings us to another of the biggest changes in the media - the explosion in post graduate media courses and the fees required for those who still want to pursue their dream of becoming a journalist.

City University, for example, runs the country's best known and most successful post graduate courses in journalism. But to undertake a full-time MA in say Investigative Journalism at City students have to come up with £9,000 if they come come from the EU, or £18,000 if they are from a non EU country.

Kingston Uni, another of the leading choices for those wanting to study for an MA in Journalism, charges £5,850 for full-time students from the EU, and £12,350 for non EU. At Cardiff it is a similar picture - £6,320 for EU students studying for an MA in International Journalism, and £12,400 for their non EU counterparts.

Just how many of the older hacks, many of whom come from the deprived East End, included in their numbers former messengers, or sons of printers, could have afforded that TT wonders? 

A friend who works at City says the courses are excellent but that the sheer cost has meant the vast majority of the students come from privileged backgrounds, and most definitely do not include the working classes.

Those national newspapers which run their own graduate recruitment schemes have the pick of thousands of applicants, frequently plump for Oxbridge students, who again do not tend to come from the ranks of the less well-off.

So while today's journalism students deserve huge credit for paying so much to simply enter what is an extremely uncertain profession one concern remains: Is some of the raw talent we once took for granted simply being being priced out?

Hopefully the answer to that is a resounding "No" and students from deprived households are still making it, albeit with an even larger student debt.

And if they're not perhaps its time for some of the newspaper groups earning millions while not paying Corporation Tax to set some money aside to ensure that everyone gets a chance.

Yes and pigs might fly - but TT lives in hope.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, anybody who comes from a background below upper-middle class IS being priced out of journalism.

    My GP - very nice woman - has a daughter who recently completed an MA in investigative journalism. She was able to get an internship at The Guardian, where she was paid £200 A WEEK. How was she able to survive? Because her parents were subsidising her, obviously. Could she have done all that if her mother had been a school meals cook rather than a GP? Don't be silly.