Hi, I'm Ben Hazell. I used to blog here about the media, but now I work there I don't write here anymore.
I'm the Web Publishing Editor at - I find better ways to tell stories, developing tools, training and practice for journalists.

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The Blog

Rarely updated now, used during Journalism MA at the University of Sheffield.

Further confirmation of the virtues of youth

Friday, 15 February 2008
'It's very very good time to be young'
Anne Spackman, Editor in Chief of the Times Online.

Parts of Anne Spackman's talk earlier this week made me think back to previous comments about the difficulty of getting media jobs in the UK at the moment. Editorial budgets are shrinking everywhere and there is a growing reliance on cheap agency copy combined with sexy interfaces and Google friendly headlines. Independent newsgathering is no longer a priority. Instead, money is being spent in a technology arms race that none of the newspapers feel they can rise above, even if their websites are yet to turn a profit. Everywhere money is being pumped into new distribution methods, but all this investment is still supported by revenue from the printed copy.

Anne identified a feedback loop to this process though, where the website strengthens the brand and directs readers back to the printed paper. She also noted that statistics gathered from the website are being used to improve the targeting and profitability of advertising in the printed paper. The example she used was the growth of advertising in business supplements targeting hard to reach demographics, where advertising had previously all been centred around the main news stories. The printed newspaper is still vital.

So the newspapers need solid reporting and technology on a tight budget. Step forward the youth.

Now is a 'very very good time to be young' says Anne. Young journalists have an advantage in the jobs market that is 'frankly due to age'. She described the difficulty for seasoned reporters as like 'learning a new language'; the language of the internet that the young already speak. While she was adamant that the 'same core journalism skills that have served us so well have lost none of their value', she was keen to impress on us the advantages of being able to quickly adapt to the web.

Of course the other advantage we youth have is that we're cheap. 'Tech skills as well as editorial skills make you a very valuable person', she said. Valuable to the newspapers perhaps, but is the value being passed on to these bright young workers?

According to the National Union of Journalists, 'Journalists’ starting rates are at least £7,000 less than the median starting salary for graduates'. You can snigger at the careful use of 'median' (which suggests statistical fudging to me), but it's undeniable that young journalists are underpaid compared to other trades. Again, the NUJ say that '75% of journalists earn less than the average wage of a professional worker'. We can't expect to be well rewarded then for our tech and editorial skills, even when we build enough experience to produce reliable copy. And by then we'll be to old to understand the Web 4.0 and too expensive to retain.

Still, flattery will get you anything; including budget labour. So thank you Anne for you kind words on youth, and can I have a job? I can dos teh blogs and everything,


Will Gittoes said...

I have the MP3 of the Dungeon Keeper into music.

2 gitt
4 es
5 @
6 gmail
1 will
3 o
7 .com

Email me and I'll send it to you! Long live RPS!

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