Image by flickr user Allan Rotgers, licensed under Creative Commons.

5 Things Journalists Are Sick Of Hearing

If you’ve been working in the field, you’ve probably heard these more times than you can count. If you’re just getting into it, here’s a survival guide.

“I have a great story for you.”

We’ve all been there. Nodding encouragingly while desperately looking for a way to escape a full-fledged pitch from a well-meaning relative, someone who sees a marketing opportunity or just an enthusiastic hobbyist who is sure they have a great article for you.

As journalists, we know it’s a lot harder than people to think to find a story a large number of people will hand over money to read. We also know there are stories that are interesting, and for that reason, have been told several times over. (How many times have you been pitched Misadventures on Tinder?)

Game plan: smile and nod.

Your industry is dying.”

If we had a penny for every time we heard someone outside media talk about how journalism is a dying industry, we’d be heavily out-earning our own salaries.

It’s easy to understand why people would think journalism is headed into the ground. The internet has done for journalism what the invention of the engine did for public transportation. It smashed it to smithereens and rebuilt something entirely different, but very powerful, based on the same principles.

Media is undergoing that change, and that is often painful. But like many other life changes, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s entirely for the worse.

There is a lot of hand-wringing going on about monetization of the industry, and rightly so. Although there are one-off dramatic successes with different revenue models, the industry hasn’t found a way to regain a standard reliable model to keep it afloat.

That being said, journalism is entering an age of unprecendented opportunity. The ability to research, write and produce a great piece of work is now open to almost anyone with the willingness to learn the right tools. Information is free-flowing, publishers recruit across international lines and there are a huge number of outlets putting out high quality work. It truly is the best and worst of times.

Finally, and most fundamentally, there’s a reason journalism is called the Fourth Estate. It is a vital part of a functioning, democratic society, and there will always be a need for skilled, courageous, discerning and persistent journalists.

“The media doesn’t do xxx right.”

A brilliant letter from Paul Farhi in The Washington Post voices a common lament among journalists.

It’s become a cultural past-time to lambast the media for a variety of sins. Irresponsible coverage, misleading coverage, inaccurate coverage, bias, corruption, advertising — you name it, we’ve done it.

It’s also undeniably true. Whether through human error or bad journalism, there’s no lack of mistakes in our publications, and always room for improvement. However, it’s become more acceptable to tar ‘the media’ with the same brush than it is with most other professions.

To say the media is doing something wrong is to say that everyone from Seventeen magazine to the El Pais to Popular Mechanics to Politico to Dubai 92 FM to The Economist is doing something wrong. The media is, in essence, a meaningless term, and to accuse it of anything is about as silly as accusing an entire population for one citizen’s crime.

“So who do you write for?”

People still have a very fixed idea of what a journalist is. Notebook, pen, overcaffeinated, underpaid, frantically working away unsociable hours in a newsroom. While all of those things are still (woefully) true, ‘journalist’ also covers videographers, photographers, documentarians, multimedia editors, social media strategists and far more.

If you’re not contributing to an established print media, prepare for a few repetitions of, “Well, I’m not that kind of journalist…” everytime you introduce yourself.

“That doesn’t make a lot of money.”

People say this often, as if they’ve been the ones dreading looking at our bank balances at the end of each month.

This is a hard one to deal with. Journalists, for the most part, know the odds are slim we’ll be getting hefty compensation for our work. To be reminded that everyone else knows it on a regular basis, however, can be a bit of a blow to the ego. Luckily, there are some days when you’ll love the job enough that the paycheque (or lack thereof) won’t matter.

Then there are a lot of the other days. For those, we offer three life hacks:

a) You repeat to yourself that money doesn’t necessarily equal happiness.(It’s true. Google it. And ignore the clickbait-y headlines which say it does only to clarify in the article that by ‘does’ it mean ‘sort of does in some situations depending on who you are’.)

b) Watch Spotlight.

c) Enjoy the biggest perk of this job — spend time commiserating with the other incredible, fascinating and tenacious people in the field, dedicated to documenting the stories in the world around them, over a few (probably inexpensive) dinners.

By Farahnaz Mohammed