So you want to be a journalist ?

If, like me, you are still desperately looking for an internship, spring break doesn’t mean holidays. As a journalist and MA International Journalism student trying to make it outside Italy, I thought it would be interesting to attend a panel discussion with the (rather lengthy) title of : “Skills for the future, what do we need to know and what skills do you need to be a journalist in the digital age ?”

On the panel, expert senior journalists and communication professionals, mostly from the BBC, talked about the skill set a journalist needs to survive in this ever-changing communication and social landscape. Obviously, a good knowledge of social media was mentioned. But what about young people who are trying to start a career in journalism ? Needless to say, being a Twitter addict or a Facebook expert, having a Reddit account or a profile on Flicker won’t quite cut it. In response to the question “what do trainee journalists need to have in order to get an internship, for example ?” the first thing Jonathan Baker, of the BBC College of Journalism, said was « experience. » “Here we go again,” I thought. Experience. If you are expected to have some experience in order to apply even for a ‘work experience’ placement, how are you meant to get that experience in the first place ?

I am an international student who happily spent all her savings on an MA that was supposed to be the ace up my sleeve for a career in journalism. But as my tutors said at the beginning of my course, they are very happy to teach to us, and to wish us good luck in finding a job in our home countries. As if to say : we have enough English journalists in England, what made you think there was enough space for you too ? Moreover, as many people remarked yesterday, having a Masters doesn’t give you extra value and certainly doesn’t increase your chances of finding a job in this field. Again, the most important thing is experience. So you’d better find an internship.

And if living in another country, studying at a masters level in a language that is not your own, preparing for exams and meeting assignment deadlines wasn’t enough, applying for internships is a stressful process. It’s anything but easy : time is against you and each negative response is not only a failure, but can represent days, sometimes weeks, wasted waiting for an answer. This is how you end up sending emails to almost anyone you can think of saying things along the lines of : “Hi, it would be amazing to work for you. Your newspaper/production company/radio station/magazine/anything is exactly what I am looking for,” like the typical high school loser desperate for a prom date. It becomes difficult when you then start to ask yourself : “what do I really like ?” and “why am I doing this ?” and you don’t seem to know the answers anymore. You know it can’t get any worse when you even send the wrong email to the wrong person : “Dear Director of BBC, it would be a pleasure to work for ITV....."

Journalism is a competitive field and I believe the truth is that no one really knows what the right recipe is for success. Many of the people I met yesterday came to journalism by chance, having studied other subjects for their undergraduate degree. Some of them, on the other hand, were in journalism and later moved to PR, to “finally make some money.” At the end of the day, if there are so many aspiring journalists out there, even intelligent people that well know the state of the profession and still want to try to make it, that means something. And I think that ‘something’ is a passion for what for me is the best vocation in the world.

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