Friday, July 2, 2010

... and we're back.

Well, sort of. With a backlog of interesting bits and pieces about the state of journalism these days. First up, a piece from the London Times by Ed Ceasar about the soaring interest in j. schools these days -- despite the dismal state of the industry itself:

A good job in journalism is a licence for nosiness, a soapbox on which to perorate and a backstage pass to the live performance of history. It can make the blood boil and the mind race and the days pass in an arrhythmic heartbeat. A bad job in journalism is like a bad job anywhere. Still, we must look like we’re having fun — almost every week I receive an email from some poor sap wanting to know how to break into the business. I tell them: starting a career in journalism has always been a crap shoot, and becoming successful is like finding Wonka’s golden ticket. There are, however, ways to up your chances.

Nicholas Tomalin — the wonderful, bombastic Sunday Times writer who died in 1973 reporting from the Golan Heights — thought he knew the answer. In 1969, a happier time for the industry, he began a piece in this magazine by asserting: “The only qualities essential for real success in journalism are rat-like cunning, a plausible manner and a little literary ability.” But if Tomalin were commissioned now, he would strike out that famous gambit and start again.

Today, you’ll need luck, flair, an alternative source of income, endless patience, an optimistic disposition, sharp elbows and a place to stay in London. But the essential quality for success now is surely tenacity. Look around the thinning newsrooms of the national titles. Look at the number of applicants for journalism courses, at the queue of graduates — qualified in everything except the only thing that matters, experience — who are desperate for unpaid work on newspapers and magazines. Look at the 1,200 people who applied in September for one reporter’s position on the new Sunday Times website. You’d shoot a horse with those odds.

And yet, in the UK as well here in the U.S., more folks appear to have caught the bug. They want in. What do you think is the draw? And why now? The Times' Ceasar gives a hint:

There will be those who could think of nothing worse than meeting poor Afghanis, or hoodwinking politicians, or testing the patience of Scotsmen. Fair enough — sell cars. But there will also be those for whom the idea of such encounters is intoxicating, and the prospect of reporting such experiences more thrilling still. These people, if they are lucky and tenacious enough, become journalists.

Let's hear your take. bk

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