The Price of Journalism

27Apr09

I have just paid for my last installment of rent and my exam re-sits. The total cost was over £700 for both of them. I reckon I have paid about £6,000 in total for my journalism studies including tuition fees, exams, materials, travel and rent. If I added alcohol expenditure to that list then you would be shocked. Everybody is allowed a vice… journalists in particular.

Wine sales, and gin and whiskey for that matter, must be going up in the corner-shops near news offices and media production buildings nationwide. Journalism is an expensive career-choice and it remains expensive in a recession hence the mass cull of media professionals today.

A classmate of mine texted me earlier to inform me of the bad news that Channel M are losing 41 our of their staff of 74. Horrifying news for a girl like me who a) has been promised work experience there at the end of June and b) who would potentially work there for minimum wage. What is happening? Journalism is coming crashing down about our ears!

Democracy relies on a shrewd and accessible news culture. What is going to happen to democracy if there are no journalists to pick up on expense scandals in Parliament or even local news items like unpopular council plans to erect multi-storey car parks in green-band areas? Thats how we know to retaliate or to protest, because the news lets us know these things are going on. It is news because its shocking, its controversial, things will change as a consequence or that its effect is significant to individuals, to communities, to entire populations of countries.

It is deeply upsetting to see the breakdown of our local news-outlets. Local papers in Manchester are being downsized or scrapped altogether with staff either being booted out and left to struggle through agencies who are over-staffed or have to move away from their offices in their local patches into central offices. Far from the subsidiarity that local news ought to have.

I used to snigger at my local paper for which I worked as a columnist, the Rutland Times. Hanging baskets and the town hall changing the colour of its front door made the headlines. Nevertheless it uncovered important news stories affecting the miniscule population of the area. Parking prices going up for a local dog-walking park was one of my more controversial by-lines. The paper got a lot of letters for that one. But how would the locals know that is was worthy of a few complaints unless it was printed for them in their weekly?

In a similar way, Sachsgate last autumn when Jonathan Ross and Russel Brand left those cruel messages to Fawlty Towers’ Andrew Sach’s mobile regarding Brand’s uncontrollable genitals finding their way into Sach’s granddaughter relied entirely on press coverage.

The BBC received a few complaints following the broadcast but to be honest, no more than they would for one of Chris Moyles’ shows when he was still considered a shock-jock.

It was only after the press got wind of this that they blew it up into the biggest story to hit the papers until the snowfall in February fluttered in in a mass of reader participation! The BBC received an avalanche of complaints and the recording was splashed across news websites, YouTube and replayed on the television for weeks and weeks after the original broadcast. The result was Brand leaving the BBC and his popular weekend show, the sacking of a formerly credible producer and Wossy being suspended right in the middle of his Friday Night series.

None of those calamitous consequences would have occured without the media which is why it is such a fascinating industry. It churns out things which can cause a whole nation to punch in the same tags in their search-engine and it can increase complaints to Ofcom by ten fold in the time it takes for the Bongs on ITV News at 10.

Kate Adie told me something at her book signing a few weeks ago, if you want to get into serious reporting in broadcast then don’t go with television because no producer will risk his expensive equipment these days, go into radio. Print is dying and TV is too expensive, its the internet and radio that the true journalism will remain.

I’ll drink to that till I feel better or forget.

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2 Responses to “The Price of Journalism”

  1. This is really interesting! Especially what Kate Adie told you. I’m studying to be a journalist and it definately seems expensive, in particular the unpaid work experience.


  1. 1 The Kindness of Strangers « Vickybeckett's Blog

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