THE BLOG
02/13/2014 08:43 EST | Updated 04/15/2014 05:59 EDT

Robyn Doolittle, Stop Making Journalism Seem Glamorous

Dear Robyn,

I am writing to you as a concerned fellow journalist to implore you to please stop making our profession look so goddamn glamorous and rewarding. Not to mention lucrative.

Last week was particularly hard for the rest of us. Your Rob Ford expose Crazy Town was launched, you coasted through a kick-ass interview with Jon Stewart, and Gawker editor John Cook threw you a party. You were also featured in Flare magazine, looking regal atop a throne of newspapers.

This week, the film rights to said book were sold, making you probably the richest 29-year-old journo ever.

Seriously, in what reporter's world does this happen?

Politics, corruption, gangs, guns -- crack. How can the rest of us ever measure up to this?

Seriously though, and more importantly, I worry that you are single-handedly recruiting a whole generation of aspiring wannabes.

Because let's face it, apart from Lois Lane, no one has ever managed to make journalism look as cool and sexy as you have. Not even Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman in All the President's Men.

This is a problem, because young influential guys and gals pondering their career path are looking at your success and thinking "I want that." But hang on kids, before you sign up for j-school, a word of warning -- journalism is nothing like the alluring life-changing career in this heady tale.

The reality is more like me.

I graduated from a journalism masters in Ireland in 2006. Out of about 15 of us, probably less than a third are still working in the field. This is pretty typical. A Canadian journo friend of mine estimates only about 20 per cent of her j-school class is working in the business. She is currently out of work for the second time in a year.

Since I came to Canada almost two years ago, there have been major layoffs at the Star, the Globe, and most recently, the National Post. It's likely not the end either. But of course it's not just a Canadian thing. Jobs in newspapers just don't exist anymore, unless someone gets laid off, dies, or you're an intern.

Even when I graduated things weren't great. But I got lucky and landed a job in a solid newsroom, and then another, before finally, my big break three years later when I was hired as a senior reporter for a respected national newspaper. I broke important stories, investigated corruption, abuse, youth violence, won awards even. I left that gig to come to Canada and score my next break. That was two years ago and I'm still not quite there yet.

I'm a production editor and freelance writer, and wait for it -- a non-union staff member at the newspaper I work for.

Some people don't talk to me because of this affront to their sensibilities (you know who you are). Imagine, people who are lucky enough to have a healthy union-agreed wage and benefits don't talk to me? Someone who's on less pay, with no rights, no benefits. I guess I can see it from their point of view. Their colleagues were laid-off and people like me, cheaper alternatives, were hired. But it's hardly my fault, we all gotta work.

But what's crazy though (in a more mundane way than crazy in your world, Robyn) is that despite all of this, I still count myself really lucky. Because I've actually got a job in the business. Not the job I crave, but one where I've learned new skills, am diversifying and educating myself in other parts of the business.

This is the reality of the print industry today. It's not the Jon Stewart show, Gawker parties, and book deals. With the circulation of most newspapers in free-fall, ad revenues shrinking daily, outsourcing, lay-offs and cutbacks, it's a race to the bottom. And it's proving yourself; working all hours to get the story. It's standing in the cold waiting for the story. Staying late to cover the budget. Getting hate mail and being sworn at by angry readers (and your news editor). It's also about getting lucky, getting a break, being in the right place at the right time and digging deep like a dog with a bone.

If I sound a little bitter, or cynical, it's not because of your success, Robyn (well done you!). But because of what this industry is doing to all of its passionate, creative and dedicated young people. In any other sector, being talented, motivated, full of ideas and willing to work for peanuts is sure to get you a job.

So please, Robyn (you've been through the hardship yourself no doubt) make it your mission not just to inspire the next generation of budding muckrakers, but to educate them on the reality behind your accomplishment. It might not be a very sexy angle to your much-told story, but it's one every aspiring journalist should hear.

Yours,

A fellow hack

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