Wednesday, 30 September 2009

[creative-radio] The Costs of Becoming a Journalist


The Costs of Becoming a Journalist

Working-Class Perspectives
September 28, 2009


A report by the British Cabinet Office released this summer offers stark
evidence of the disappearance of the working class from the journalism
profession, and the study offers some relevant observations for American
media as well.

The report, Unleashing Aspirations,
notes, among other things, that journalists born since 1970 predominantly
come from middle class to upper middle class backgrounds. And Journalism
ranks third in the list of the most socially exclusive professions, just
behind doctors and lawyers.

The study finds that:

Between the 1958 and the 1970 birth cohorts, the biggest decline in social
mobility occurred in the professions of journalism and accountancy. For
example, journalists and broadcasters born in 1958 typically grew up in
families with an income of around 5.5% above that of the average family;
but this rose to 42.4% for the generation of journalists and broadcasters
born in 1970.

The National Union of Journalists told the panel compiling the report that
a 2002 Journalism Training Forum poll showed that fewer than 10 per cent
of new journalists came from a working-class background and only three per
cent came from homes headed by semi-skilled or unskilled workers.

One of the many troubling findings of the report, and the one most readily
applicable to the profession here in the US, is that a prerequisite for
entrance into a career in journalism is at least one internship
experience, and that many, if not most, are unpaid. A cursory glance at
available internships here in the US reveals that of 50 intern
opportunities listed on, only 15 offer pay. Of the 50 internships posted,
another 15 offer no pay but college credit, which at many universities,
ours included, means that doing an internship actually costs a student
tuition money. Here at YSU, students can earn six hours maximum for
internships, but at many universities, 12 to 16 are allowed, paving the
way for students to spend several thousand dollars (at least) to get an
entire academic semester of work experience.

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