Notes from a City graduand: Journalism may not be easy, but it sure is fun

It’s been twenty-four hours since I handed in the final project of my City masters degree. With the champagne-soaked memories of last night’s celebrations hanging over me, I’m sitting in a busy, noisy Hackney launderette and I feel that now is the perfect moment to reflect on the year that’s gone by. I don’t know whether it’s the hypnotising whir of the washing machines, or the cosy warmth of the room, but a kind of nostalgia has come over me.

Let’s rewind to that first day of City. That first day on which we now look back and laugh. That first day after which we all went home terrified that each of our classmates were better journalists, had louder voices, had more experience. Little did we know it, but on that first day of City, each of our unsuspecting, inexperienced former selves were about to be plunged into another world – a world where you eat, breath, speak, do and think journalism for an entire eight months. A world where your friends are journalists (and also your rivals), where your tutors are journalists (and also your heroes), and where every waking moment is spend doing, speaking, and thinking journalism.

Submerged in this stressful whirlwind of night shifts, deadlines and bylines, it’s easy to forget to take a step back. Until, when you finally come up to breathe after eight long months, as I am now, you look in the mirror and realise that you’ve become more assertive, more confident, a better journalist. You look at the year behind you and realise you’ve had things published you’d never have expected. You’ve pushed yourself to achieve things you never could have dreamed of. You’ve made mistakes, learnt lessons, and you’ve made friends who actually understand your weird obsession with words. You too are one of those proper, fully-fledged journalists they ask to come back and speak at City in week one. It’s like some kind of journalist-churning factory.

What’s more, it has suddenly struck me that the stark contrast between last night’s glorious merriments and this morning’s moment in a miserable back-street launderette perfectly encapsulates what journalism is all about. It’s about contrast, about variety, about tremendous highs and extraordinary lows.

And I wouldn’t change a thing. My friends in PR and finance sit at their average desks, doing average work, enjoying average day after average day. No, they may not find themselves faced with an angry press officer roaring down the phone, nor may they find themselves working 12-hour shifts for free. But then again, none of them have found themselves drinking mulled wine with Greg James at an ice rink, or chasing Boris Johnson with a microphone, or being told by an elderly lady that your article saved the plants on her balcony from being destroyed by the council.

Of course there will be moments where you think you can’t do it, or you simply wonder why – why am I doing this the hard way? But then something will happen that will show you why. I’m going to call this a ‘priceless-moment’, for our rewards are not monetary. And if it’s money you’re looking for, unfortunately you’re in the wrong profession. We, here in journalism, trade in bylines, experiences and ideas. Ideas, as they say, are the currency of journalism. And our reward? That indescribable joy that comes from knowing others have read and enjoyed the words that you have put together on a page.

So I will remind myself of this during those undoubtedly stressful moments next year, as I am lost somewhere on the outskirts of Liverpool, looking for an address that doesn’t exist. I’ll remind myself that I could be sitting at a desk in Canary Wharf staring at a set of numbers, knowing that I will do exactly the same tomorrow and the next day. Though the excitement of seeing my name in the paper may dwindle slightly, let’s hope that inner buzz you get from knowing that thousands of people across the world are reading your work does not fade. To be a narrator of the present, to write that first draft of history, to be an expert on a different subject each day – journalists must surely be the luckiest people in the world.


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