Wednesday, 22 February 2012

12. At least feign enthusiasm when doing work experience on local newspapers – even if you don’t actually feel it

In a newsroom people's impressions of you are made very quickly.

It is filled full of people making snap judgments through years of interviews and doorsteps.

So one mistimed word, an ill-conceieved phrase, an insolent look can ruin your chances of ever working in that newsroom again.

Do everything - without complaint. Better do - and offer to do - even more.

You see it's very well turning up to a newsroom believing it to be staffed with cynical seen-it-all hacks.

Nothing could be further from the truth, he lied.

Sure there are a lot of reporters who see out one day to the next - occasionally (but not always) bothering to stir when something suitably big or exciting comes along.

And then there aren't. There are the ones that can get up each morning and know that what ever is going on in their patch that day they will get to see or experience the best and the worst of it.

I must confess after returning to local newspapers - following a decade long stint on the nationals - I did wonder how so many (but certainly not all) reporters end up the way they do.

After all journalism colleges churn out thousands of bright, young things all with dreams of becoming the next Woodstein or Burnward or - holy of bloody holies working for The Guardian - and within a year they are as depressed and depressing as even the oldest hack.

(Which is largely unfair to old hacks - many of us retain some interest in our chosen trade.)

(Scene from The Paper - features the word "art" they mean photographs)

It has  to be the newspaper industry itself which weighs upon them. Uninspiring leadership, the churn it out, finish at five attitude (at least for the editor...everyone else can stay until the paper is finished).

But clearly I'm going off on a tangent. The point is that as a young reporter you are expected to rise above all this. You haven't got a mortgage to worry about, you haven't seen half the staff disappear from the newsroom like some Stalinist purge, you pay levels kept to near subsistence levels for four years on the trot, or senior reporters replaced five months after they left with a green junior - a bit like yourself (on three-quarters of the pay because if it was any less it would be beneath the NMW), or good stories spiked because the editor doesn't want to upset someone, or put up with good editors replaced with cheap and nasty versions. Or indeed just become fed up with the fact

You've yet to see any of these things so don't think for one minute you can walk into a newsroom and have the same world weary cynicism that even the office junior is allowed to adopt...because no one will thank you for it.

Indeed, you'll have plenty of time to be cynical later on in your career.

The truth is newspapers rely on the young and enthusiastic (in other words the naive, cheap and stupid) so don't think playing the hard-bitten reporter is going to wash with anyone - because the jolly chap in the corner cheerfully writing about the W.I. meeting might just be a former national man with more experience in their back pocket than you shall ever have in your entire career (btw I was not that reporter - bloody hated WI reports and can be seen moaning in a corner...very loudly).

So what people want is the enthusiasm. This is not to be confused with going up to news desk or bothering the reporters every 10 minutes asking for something to do...see earlier point.

Later I'll go on to other ways you can fill your time productively while doing work experience.

Tomorrow: Don't get too settled. The (bad) pay in local journalism.

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