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How not to get a job in journalism

by Tamzin Byrne

It was reassuring this week to witness another “career suicide by MuMbrella“.

Fresh from the #huntern scandal, we see another young journo, sorry “emerging/aspiring journalist”, picking a public fight with a potential future employer at News Ltd.

Or, sorry, is he a freelancer? Or just another unemployed Arts grad?

Mumbrella readers had front row seats for the end of Matt's Smith's journalism career. Screenshot: mumbrella.com.au

Long story short: recent journalism grad Matt Smith tried to pitch an op-ed to Daily Telegraph editor Joe Hildebrand.

It all went pear-shaped when Smith’s Gen Y sense of entitlement led him to demand payment for what was essentially a rant about bogans. Or, sorry, a critique of Channel 10’s programming decisions.

Hildebrand was right when he said that there’s no budget for unsolicited op-eds.

There’s a reason for that.

An op-ed is an opportunity to have a rant, to put forward a point of view, to get on your soapbox Hyde Park style and get in people’s faces over their Weetbix.

Charities write them for free. Think tanks relish the opportunity, and the IPA will even settle for a prominent letter to the editor of the NT News.

PR people have paid me to write them. And I won’t have a journalism degree until 3.30pm this afternoon.

They’re quick and dirty, rich in bias and light on facts.

To use this piece as an example, MuMbrella commenters pointed out that it was: mostly unsubstantiated, poorly researched; incorrect in parts; and, to use Hildebrand’s words, only “vaguely interesting”.

Sure, some news organisations capitalise on the ‘free’ in freelancer.

Gawker.com trawls online job websites in the States looking for the most egregious examples of employer exploitation.

They’ve come up with a couple of corkers:

Creative professionals in photography, design and music suffer the same indignities.

But even as a card-carrying member of Gen Y hungry for a career in the media, I’m shocked at his chutzpah.

I’m not worried, though.

For every kid who clumsily falls on their own sword, there’s another job opening for me.

I want to be a journalist, not a “media personality”. I want to spend my day on the road (or the phone) talking to people. I want to research stuff and find out Interesting Facts.

And I sure as hell ain’t spending the rest of my days writing op-eds.

Solicited or otherwise.

Posted under: Future of journalism
Dated: Oct 12 2012

497 Comments

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