Barely has a moment passed over the last year without thoughts turning to jobs. We are fortunate enough to receive emails from our tutors detailing internships and offers of employment each and every week.
There are, of course, plenty of talented candidates out there who have studied the trade without access to a structured, academic course, but the fact remains that for many organisations, a reputable MA from a reputable university will stand you in good stead for application season (especially when specific skills are required).
Although the Interactive MA at City has undoubtedly made me a far better journalist, the one thing it could not easily prepare me for was working life on my first job. After starting work at ExaroNews.com as a resident data journalist focusing on scraping projects, the sudden gap between what the classroom teaches you and what is required in the professional workplace became apparent.
When it comes to the type of scraping-heavy data journalism I do for Exaro, this disconnect mostly presents itself as the unique challenges that each project throws up. On my first day, I suddenly realised that for my first project, there were no more sanitised, neatly-formatted datasets to work on and no more webpages to scrape with clean, efficient HTML going on behind the scenes. I was on my own.
Instead, I had to rely on the fact that I knew I had the skills to tackle the problem in front of me, even though I wasn’t quite sure which ones would do the trick.
I am ultimately glad of this wake-up call, however. My learning curve has increased dramatically, and the confidence I have gained from successful problem-solving along with my colleague, George Arnett, has led to me learn new techniques that I once thought were beyond me.
Undoubtedly, the same will go for anyone coming out of the safe environment of academia and going into the harsher world of results, deadlines that you can’t miss and most importantly, complete responsibility for the work you produce.
“What exactly is data journalism?” my flatmate asked earlier this evening.
“Ermmm…it’s sort of like normal journalism, only with lots of Excel spreadsheets,” I reply.
“No. Wait. That’s a shit way of describing it. There may not actually be many…
shared via WordPress.com
From what I can gather, data journalism seems to be both an art and a science. All of us on City’s Interactive MA will eventually approach similar problems in different ways.
The other students on the course are also running their own data blogs. They’re…
shared via WordPress.com
The newspaper industry as we know it is collapsing. No one knows how fast, but few people argue that it’s at a leisurely pace.
For many current students (myself included), the plan is to get onto the bottom rung of a national’s ladder and see how far you can climb.
This article – concerning charities funding journalists to promote their causes – caught my eye a couple of months ago. It alluded to something that increasingly feels less likely to come across in the changing journalism landscape – options.
I was feeling relatively positive about what the future may hold, until I read this Guardian article that hints at wider disinterest on the charitable sector’s part to fund the media.
Of course, a lot of ethical questions are raised over how to remain objective as journalists if funding is coming from NGOs (nongovernmental organisations) that – by definition – are pursuing specific agendas.
However, social media and the increasingly crowded internet makes it harder for NGO’s to have their voices heard and to effectively communicate their messages. Not only are they competing with other NGOs for attention, but ethically-minded bloggers and citizen journalists are also taking advantage of the fact that we live in an age of democratic publishing.
It’s reasonable to assume that the newspaper industry will adapt to the changes brought on by the digital age more successfully than NGOs – if only because it has to. Once that adaptation has happened, by exploiting the advantages that journalists can offer, the charitable sector could access a considerably larger readership than it would otherwise manage to amass on its own merit.
With that in mind, is it not short-sighted for any NGO to be so concrete in its refusal to work with journalists? As Liberian reporter Mae Azango says in the above Guardian piece: “They’re fighting with one hand tied behind their backs.”
There would of course be many kinks to iron out, but it seems to me that both sides have something to gain – new avenues to pursue and truths to uncover on the part of journalists, and widespread media attention on the part of NGOs.
Note: It makes a different point, but Marina Hyde’s article in yesterday’s Guardian brilliantly exposes some of the idiocies surrounding the celebrity-fronted tactics some charities resort to.