I have been back at The Telegraph, following my stint with the Investigations team. This time I was working as a news reporter, spending one week with Foreign News and then one week on the Education desk. There was also a smattering of security/defence and social media/trending news in there too, for good measure.
I’ll say it up front – I think this might be the one.
As I’ve mentioned before, one thing that I’ve learned from this journey is how much I’m enjoying the opportunity to write all the time – something I’ve never really done before. Journalism, of course, would allow me to do that on a daily basis and would even pay me to do so.
Working as a news reporter gave me far more insight into the life of an average journalist than the specialism of Investigations. It involves pretty much all of the things I enjoy doing beyond writing – talking to interesting people, not sitting at a desk all day, the opportunity to analyse and question national and international events.
I found a great deal of satisfaction seeing something I’d written in print. I got a pretty large adrenaline kick out of the fast-paced nature of having to write to very short deadlines and I relished in the opportunity to write both daily news and more strategic opinion pieces.
It has also made me consider the extent of the impact journalists can have. As I discussed in my blog post on Investigative Journalism, revealing the MP expenses scandal has certainly made a difference to parliamentary financial accountability, war reporting raises awareness on conflicts around the world and can shape the national mind-set, and the impact of exposing abuse in the Catholic Church by The Boston Globe is still ongoing.
The principle reason I joined the Civil Service is because I want to make a difference – partly as a way of giving back to a world in which being born into a middle class London family means I have been born into its luckiest 1%. Partly, because I believe we all have a responsibility to live for more than ourselves, and I sense that much of career fulfilment for me will come down to this. This was the case when I was 22, and I see nothing wrong with being driven by optimistic ideals at age 24 too. Let cynicism follow in the decades to come.
Whilst I grew frustrated at several aspects of working in the Civil Service, journalism too would certainly enable me to make a difference, as access to information in itself makes a difference. The media can provide a platform to challenge perceived ills in society – they (mostly) present the facts, rather than ‘alternatives.’
I now wonder how it has never occurred to me before that being a foreign correspondent (still aiming for that travel!) might actually be my dream job. It seems so obvious, like everything has clicked into place.
Journalism genuinely seemed to pretty much tick all my boxes. There are two question marks over innovation and problem solving though – the latter as I feel it is perhaps something that sits comes with seniority, the former, however, is a much bigger question.
The Future of Journalism
The industry faces perhaps its greatest challenge since its foundation – how to create a sustainable business model when so much news can be obtained for free online. Few millennials pay for their news, and increasingly fewer members of older generations do either.
News organisations across the world are grappling with this issue, and as yet there is no long-term solution. There is now paid access to ‘premium’ content, such as with The Telegraph, or access to news only through fully paid subscriptions, such as with The Times and Financial Times – but how long can these models last?
Media outlets are having to become increasingly digitally savvy, and some businesses such as The Independent have abandoned print media altogether.
One consequence of this for journalists themselves, is the need to work harder for decreasing wages, along with substantially less job security, as redundancies can be rife.
Beyond this, as someone seriously considering entering the profession, I’m acutely aware that it is not a future-proofed option. Automated writing software has already begun writing sports news in several major news platforms.
After this stark realisation, I’m left asking if journalism is a sensible career option for the long-term.
This is a question I posed to many of my temporary colleagues and their answers did not comfort me, as both junior and senior reporters cautioned me about entering the profession. However, their passion for their jobs was consistently obvious – they all seemed to love what they do, it just kept coming back to sustainability.
Indeed, for some it no longer was a sustainable option; one was looking into retraining as a lawyer, and another decided to join a PR firm.
The challenge to this from other journalists was that the ‘job for life’ concept is dead. It is now common for people to retrain four or more times throughout their career, and this is increasing.
Perhaps this is where portfolio careers should be pointed to again. Not putting all your eggs in one career basket, but spreading them out could mean you benefit from still being able to do what you love, but to ensure your skillset remains broad and up-to-date.
Perhaps I can be a freelance foreign correspondent, tour guide and work part-time for an international development charity all at the same time?
With this in mind, I am now actively looking for opportunities to freelance and work weekend shifts at news publications to build more experience, whilst I continue on the 25before25 journey.
This article is also available in the blog section of the website.