Sunday, November 17, 2013

Why I Am Not A Journalist

I didn't always want to be a journalist.

Around the age of 21, I became aware of the fact that I preferred to be an observer - I didn't fit into any particular clique, as I was always on the outside, and always a 'loner' when it came to society.

I felt it best to view the world from afar, and so in terms of a career, I found the best niche that fitted my general psyche was journalism.

Now, here at 29, I am here writing to you today as to why I am not a journalist, despite multiple opportunities to launch my career in either print or radio.

I present well; I've been told I have a great speaking voice by several professional broadcasters.

I can write well; I've been told my writing is 'shit' but it is 'high class shit' by a senior lecturer.

At 23 after completing a Diploma of Communications & Media from TAFE (the Australian equivalent of community college) I entered the university system, and studied a Bachelor of Arts in print journalism.

Coming from a lower socio-economic background (I am pains to call it disadvantaged, as everyone essentially has the same advantage on merit), I counted my blessings in being able to get into the higher education system without a formal year 12 qualification.

I soon learned however that I did not exactly fit in; I was unable to relate to many of the middle to upper class 'children' at university, or understand their motives and suave, cultural leanings.

I wasn't exactly an outcast, but I soon discovered that my place and personal ambitions could not be at the same level of those who came from more grounded, gifted backgrounds.

This wasn't to say I couldn't keep up with the work, and to the contrary, I was staying ahead of the pace and making my own way academically, and at the very least, passing all of my exams.

However, to this day, three years after formally graduating, the Australian government is yet to reclaim any of the HECS money it invested into myself and my education.

The employer at my very first job interview, a home insulation company who needed someone to write blurbs for their webpage (or at least something along those lines) told me in no indirect terms that he did not know 'whose cock' I would have to suck in order to get a job with my university degree.

Three years or so of work and toil amounted to this let down at my very first job interview that I had travelled four hours to get to.

Of course, between graduating and this unfortunate interview, I did engage in several internships - one at a newspaper, the other at two radio stations; a local station and a big metropolitan broadcaster.

I found myself more at home interviewing people for radio news and editing their sound grabs accordingly - I grew very fond of it, and it was a game for me to see how fast I could coax what I needed out of someone, I was very efficient at it.

At the newspaper however, I found most of the people there to be spiteful, sour, bitter, and poisonous - the very environment was spirit-crushing, and while I enjoyed writing my few articles and interviewing people,  I did not see this as a sustainable career.

And indeed, on occasion I was there, a facsimile came through from Fairfax announcing that they were cutting several hundred editorial jobs nationwide.

"They can't sack me... I'm in the union!" muttered one junior journalist.

Well, that sealed its fate for me as a career path.

Given that most Australians have a reading comprehension level below that of a year 8 high school student, coupled with our general dumbing down of the culture, there was little point in trying to enter a career that was most likely doomed to inevitable redundancy anyway.

To this day, despite attempted restructures, the print audience continues to shrink.

I formed the view that while it may well be a useless degree at this point, it was worth it because it might prove to employers that I could at least stick to something for this amount of time and see it through.

How mistaken I was there on that front as well - even the most menial of jobs, such as Telstra call centre work, came to exist in the realm of the impossible - earning a simple basic wage is now increasingly out of reach.

Even the job agencies themselves now inform me that office work is a 'woman's' jobs' and that males aren't generally desired in these types of work.

Hmm.

I suppose there is more and more young fodder spewing forth from all orifices of our education and training system, doe-eyed and ripe for the picking, and more relatively senior candidates such as myself have probably missed our boat.

But hark - what are we writing about - the autopsy of a seemingly failed and aborted career, or the dissection of a system gone wrong?

We'll start with university itself.

Charles Sturt University is the uni of choice for most rural and regional students - however, many inner city children are also sent there by their parents to somehow gain an advantage from the alternative cultural setting.

Being able to wear ugg boots to lectures is quite trendy.

I even came across several international students that probably somehow reached the conclusion that this was their best educational recourse of action because of its relative obscurity - compared to the big metropolitan options, such as UTS.

Of course it gets results, and of course people that go to them at least get something from it.

Everyone there was seemingly well-travelled.

During the summers breaks, I would be told stories of the fantastical adventures people had taken to India, Canada, America, England, or to China - I on the other hand had only stayed here and watched the cricket over the summer, which I personally didn't see as such of a bad option, especially coupled with some beers.

Quickly class divides opened up, either tangible or perceived, and my previous attempts at befriending these people was reaching dead ends, especially when many of them joked about public housing, which I was a resident of, and took pride in where I lived.

There was always this niggling feeling that somehow you are not living up to expectations, especially those from families of more conducive means to success.

None of them were really happy to be there - one girl I knew would gripe and complain about her faux employer from internship, but would later go on to develop a relatively good career from that employer.

What I took home from my experience at university was that the education system here is not about educating people, it is about enabling a new means to make a profit; the last thing this country needs is a large group of educated, well-informed citizenry, as it would challenge the established status quo.

The university itself makes a profit from providing the 'education' and the employers make a profit from the resultant fodder.

The average Australian is not concerned with academic pursuits, and so long as the mortgage is serviced and the children have McDonald's, there is really no other concern our public has.

At university, so long as the kiddies pass their exams and have a good time, there is really no other point to university, at least in the sense of the liberal arts side of things.

I've encountered many people who puff out their chests with pride with the fact that they are liberal arts students - so was I, youngling, so was I, but it's not something you should broadcast and wear as a badge of pride.

It's arts, arts, arts, so they must be seeing the world differently to the poor, down-trodden blue collar slobs.

Upon entering the real world, this falsity became all-too apparent, as what I initially thought was an important pursuit, studying for a university degree, was really just to pass the time in an artificial construct.

Besides which, most if not all graduates entering the news media field were female, and as a male, I was almost made to feel like an outcast for wanting to make my way in such a pursuit.

"You should be on the street holding a jackhammer," was one such quip from a female student.

Although, I cannot play the victim with it.

It's my own choice not to take myself any further with this nonsense.

While on my newspaper internships, I found I got on best with the photographers, who were the unsung heroes, and who were really the only ones that got off their butts on a daily basis and into where the news was happening.

Currently for the time being, I am satisfied with photographing 'pretty' things - whether or not it could reach the holy grail status of 'career' is a different matter.

I just like it for its beauty, and not its ability to turn a profit.

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