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Journalism: Not For The Working Class?

Lauren Cope Graduation

Lauren at her graduation day – but is it all downhill from here?

Lauren Cope wants to break into journalism but is feeling the bite. She says those without strong financial support are destined to struggle…

You might have heard, but getting a job today isn’t easy – and working class graduates in particular are feeling the strain.

According to the Journalists at Work 2012 study by the NCTJ, 65% of those in the industry have a parent who is a professional, manager or director, with a measly 3% of new journalists coming from parents who are ‘unskilled’ workers – not reassuring statistics.

And then there are the internships – aspiring journos need an extravagant list of work experience placements under their belt if they even want to be considered.

Four in five young journalists claimed they had to do work experience before getting their first job. What’s most disappointing about this is that 92% of these were unpaid placements.

With some placements lasting a matter of months, costs of travel, lunch and other expenses mount up. Some companies are prepared to help out, but many others only offer expenses to those based in London. Plenty don’t offer anything at all.

Last year MP Hazel Blears proposed a bill to eradicate job postings for unpaid positions, but the bill was not even heard in Parliament.

Times are hard. Young journalists who don’t have already have their own savings or financial backing from their parents are ultimately being forced out of employment.

What’s also worrying is that, from many people I have spoken to, there seems to be the common story that employers favour graduates they already know of.

Tom, a recent graduate from the University of East Anglia, told me: “I was given a position because I impressed during my work experience. They liked that they knew how I worked and wrote already.”

“I paid travel expenses for the experience, but getting a job at the end of it has made it worthwhile. I guess that’s why we’re willing to pay so much – if it helps to get us a job, we’ll do anything.”

But the bad news doesn’t end there. To become a junior reporter at most UK newspapers, an NCTJ qualification is required.

The diploma, which teaches you essential elements of reporting, shorthand, court reporting and media law, is seen by many as the gateway to a journalism career.

If you have the foresight to combine this qualification with an undergraduate degree, then you can save money and time. If not, forking out for a Master’s, may be necessary.

Alternatively you can try the year-long course, or even the five-month fast-track diploma. But this isn’t cheap – the latter costs just under £2,000, without expenses. If you already have a student loan, getting this mandatory extra qualification might not be financially viable.

All this gloom and doom is only relevant, though, if you can find jobs to apply to. Journalism jobs are notoriously under-advertised, and although sites like JournoGrads, HoldTheFrontPage and Journalism.co.uk post listings, plenty of newsroom jobs are handed out through contacts.

In a crowded profession, getting replies to emails is uncommon, article pitches often go ignored and critique is rarely provided.

Financial experts might be insisting that the economy is improving, but the costs of getting into journalism are sticking around. More work than ever is needed to get our feet in the very, very expensive door.

What do you think? How accessible a profession is journalism, and how important are money and connections when it comes to getting onto the career ladder? Leave a comment below, or join in the conversation on Twitter @JournoGrads

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