Journalism: Maybe, Maybe Not.

Natasha Lam discusses getting into journalism and argues that it's not something you 'just do'.

Journalism is an amazing industry. Difficult, sure, but absolutely amazing. Of course, I’m biased in that view considering I am looking to go into this industry and, on good days, may even refer to myself as an actual journalist rather than a journalist-to-be. My life is filled with FOI requests, countless emails to interview subjects and half-finished articles in various Word Documents and I love it. I am always trying to get my friends interested in journalism and if you’ve spoken to me for longer than five minutes, it’s likely I’ll have tried to recruit you for this very magazine. People getting involved in journalism, and especially student journalism, is extremely important as we are facing accusations of ‘Fake News’, budget cuts and, more often than not, a stressful environment to work in.

However, there is a phrase I am hearing more and more often, said nonchalantly and without really thinking about it: “maybe I’ll just go into journalism.”

This phrase, while seemingly innocuous, not only upsets and invalidates me personally but it is also an irritating assumption about the industry. I am an optimistic person and I love when people around me are also optimistic about their futures and what they want to go into. But, I’m also realistic and I know that to make it in journalism takes a lot of hard work – as do most industries! A friend from school wants to be a lawyer, so she’s working hard at it and doing internships at law firms to gain experience. Another friend wants to go into politics, so she is part of a political society and is going to conferences for student politics to show her engagement with the field. One of my best friends is now in a high-powered job as a marketing executive, which she got after doing an internship for them last year. These people didn’t just stumble into their roles, they didn’t wake up one day saying “maybe I’ll do that” – they worked their way into the industry by hustling, hard.

Use iconic Reese Witherspoon film Legally Blonde as your measure: her professor says that it seems like Elle woke up one day and decided to go to law school. Think about it though, she was only noticed by the professor after undergoing her montage-based transformation and studying hard. There was also a little sexism and harassment involved but it was mostly due to her hard work and street smarts.

Some people don’t know what they want to do from the age of six, or whatever, but that’s not what I’m discussing here. It’s perfectly fine to figure out what you want to do after university but university is all about trying new things and learning what you like or don’t like. If you’re interested in journalism, write for Orbital or any other student publications at RHUL to find out if you really do want to go into it. Don’t go around saying “maybe I’ll go into journalism” without any reference for what the industry is like or even one article to show as a portfolio piece. It’s rude to those that have worked hard for years, in and out of university, with an extensive focus of going into the industry and invalidates that work.

Would you ever say “maybe I’ll become a doctor”? I’d wager that you wouldn’t because in your mind, becoming a doctor takes amazing A-Levels, five-years of university, foundational training as a Junior Doctor and specialisms training after that. Now, I’m not at all comparing journalism to medicine – the work that doctors do in this country is exceptional and unprecedented. What I am saying is that every industry requires hard work in very different ways and, sometimes, you may not understand what it takes.