And no, “get out now” doesn’t make the cut.
All young journalists will find this story familiar. You’re introduced to somebody – a parent’s friend, perhaps – and told they’re a journalist. “Really? I’m going to be a journalist too!” you say, bubbling with youthful enthusiasm. Now you can probe them for secrets of the trade, and with so much in common, you’re going to get along great.
But no! They have that haunted look in their eyes. They know they’re about to stamp all over your dearly-held ambitions. “Don’t do it,” they implore you. “Go and study law. Get into finance. At least, marry rich. But please, don’t throw yourself naively into a dying industry. Get out while you can (and, also, stop trying to take my job.)”
This was the general gist of Felix Salmon’s dream-crushing article, ‘To all the young journalists asking for advice‘. Salmon says he can’t give advice because it’s all about being in the right place at the right time, and anyway, now is a terrible time to become a journalist. This, however, did not deter the journalists of Twitter, who started tweeting scraps of advice under the hashtag #AdviceToYoungJournalists. Some of it is jaded, some of it is funny, and some of it is genuinely useful.
Here are the best.
Stop being scared of the phone, says Emily Bell.
#AdviceForYoungJournalists Pick up the phone. Not joking. Ring them up. In person. On their cell phone. At the weekend.
— emily bell (@emilybell) February 10, 2015
And be a (wo)man of your word:
Editors care about word counts and deadlines. Go be Tolstoy on your own time. #AdvicetoYoungJournalists
— Richard Whittaker (@YorkshireTX) February 9, 2015
A trick of the trade from Sally Davies:
Get a pen that works horizontally – often a wall is the only available surface. Or a thigh. But then you fall over #AdviceToYoungJournalists
— Sally Davies (@BCNExpert) February 14, 2015
Don’t ever switch off your brain (or your voice recorder):
#AdviceForYoungJournalists The story happens at the end of the interview, when you’re putting on your coat and leaving. Catch it or miss it
— John Corbett (@CorComm) February 10, 2015
Some good general advice: be nice – to everyone.
Be nice to people on the front desk – so they’ll forward your stuff if you get escorted out of the building. #advicetoyoungjournalists
— Wendy Harmer (@wendy_harmer) February 10, 2015
And a way to get over that writer’s block when you’re staring at an empty screen:
Don’t be scared of a really crappy first draft. But don’t be content with it either. #AdviceToYoungJournalists
— Jeremiah Massengale (@jeremiahpm) February 10, 2015
This freelance science journalist knows it’s a harsh world out there:
The weak points of older journalists include the throat, eyes, groin, ego, and behind the knees. #AdvicetoYoungJournalists
— Ed Yong (@edyong209) February 10, 2015
Office etiquette is important to journalists:
Don’t steal my milk from the fridge or I will cut you. #advicetoyoungjournalists
— tina pittaway (@tinapittaway) February 10, 2015
…Unless you work from home.
#Advicetoyoungjournalists A whole bag of Doritos isn’t a meal, but if you work from home no one will know
— Colin Schultz (@_ColinS_) February 9, 2015
Everyone knows the pain of transcription:
Discover an ancient tribe of transcribing monkeys in a hidden cave & sell them to desperate journalists @ 5K each. #AdvicetoYoungJournalists
— Deanna Cheng (@writerly_dee) February 10, 2015
And journalists must know how to make the most of perks:
Carefully remove all stickers that say “sample” or “review copy” when gifting items you took from the free table. #advicetoyoungjournalists
— Lakshmi Gandhi (@LakshmiGandhi) February 10, 2015
This blogger and TV host was exasperated with the comments section:
If you want to generate a ton of quick interaction with your readers in the comments, just misspell something. #AdviceForYoungJournalists
— Mark Ennis (@MarkEnnis) February 9, 2015
This tweet called journalists out for churnalism:
Every time you put your byline on a thinly bastardised media release a subeditor loses their wings #advicetoyoungjournalists
— Amy Coopes (@coopesdetat) February 10, 2015
This freelancer knows the pain of making ends meet:
Hit the pavement. Knock on doors. Your relative’s doors. To ask for food. #advicetoyoungjournalists
— Devin Pacholik (@DevinPatches) February 10, 2015
This writer is in the right place at the wrong time:
Be sure to punch a hole in the wall and curse the cruel God who gave you a humanities skillset in a STEM economy #advicetoyoungjournalists
— jongraef (@jongraef) February 10, 2015
And this one didn’t sugar coat anything:
#AdvicetoYoungJournalists: RUN. RUN AS FAST AS YOU CAN.
— David McGinnis (@dav_mcg) February 9, 2015
And here’s an old piece of #AdviceToYoungJournalists:
“The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself” -Oscar Wilde #AdviceToYoungJournalists
— Joe O’Shea (@josefoshea) February 10, 2015
So pass this on.