British media: an elitist cult?

Following Owen Jones's recent comments about elitism in the media, our writers discuss connections, wealth and privilege

Charlotte Boulton
7th May 2018
Image: Flickr

I’ll be the first to admit, Owen Jones really isn’t my favourite person in the world. In fact, I find him positively insufferable. But even I must say, I think there is some truth to his tweets, about how getting into journalism relies on connections. However, I don’t think this is the case for everyone.

Getting into journalism relies upon a lot of graft. You must be able to show published work and be able to show you’ve had an internship somewhere. However, whilst you must work hard to accomplish this, it is perfectly possible. Writing for your university newspaper will get your writing published, and you can start doing other little things like running a blog to keep your hand in it. Equally, applying for internships is a tough, often de-motivating

process, but again perfectly possible. You must be prepared for the fact that every fifty you apply for you’ll hear back from one, but if you want the experience badly enough you’ll put in the work. And often, writing for a university newspaper is enough to make a workplace consider you.


Getting into journalism relies on a lot of graft


Yes, it’s easier if you have the connections. I recently visited a friend in Bristol and listened to his privately educated friends talk about how if they wanted an internship with a leading newspaper, they could simply ring up their father who works for said newspaper to get them in. And, as someone who slaved away at applying to The Times (and got an internship there, may I add) this was disheartening. But, I didn’t let it de-motivate me. I understand I’m going to have to work harder to get where I want, but I know it’s possible and I want to work for it. After all, I was educated at a state school that was rated as being in the bottom hundred in the country and I have managed to secure myself four journalism internships with leading publications.

Whilst it’s been harder for me, it’s been well worth it, so Owen Jones needs to stop moaning and get over himself.

Susanne Norris

Owen Jones’ recent Twitter comments on media elitism, about the media being filled by journalists with impressive connections, created outrage. Many media types took it personally and attacked Jones for his commentary. But as Jones says in his Medium article, ‘talking about systemic problems is not an attack on the individual’. The ferocity with which many journalists replied seems to highlight the very problems Jones outlined; groupthink, intolerance of critics. There are journalists, and other media-based people, who did not achieve their careers through connections and wealth. But there are a great many who do, reinforcing the rigged system that benefits the more privileged.

Journalism is a difficult career to break into. There’s plenty of unpaid opportunities around, but if you’re from a socioeconomic group that cannot afford to take on this unpaid labour, you’re in trouble. It’s no secret that journalism internships are often hard to come by, require lots of work, and are often unpaid – or paid so poorly you would need to supplement your income somehow. The more high-profile jobs may require relocation to London, something that working-class people are extremely unlikely to be able to afford.


The media industry is built on nepotism


As a working-class student journalist, I write a lot for free because there is no way I could afford to take on an unpaid internship or move to another city for better opportunities. I’m missing out on amazing career-building opportunities because I do not have the economic or cultural capital to participate. Even after I graduate, specific journalism qualifications are expensive and increasingly required for the best jobs.

With the media industry being built on nepotism, how am I supposed to catch a break? The systemic inequalities need to be broken down to give everybody equal opportunities. Journalism needs to be more democratic, not exclusionary. Regardless of your privileges, everyone deserves a fair chance.

Charlotte Boulton

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