Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Amongst other things, I am now officially a journalist. I joined the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) and have official status as a working journalist. I have published frequently since May in The Edmonton Journal and have arrangements with one magazine (Lifestyle 55+) as their technology columnist. More stable work in the works and opportunities for freelance work.

As part of the CAJ I subscribe to a list-serv about freelancing and freelancers. There is a debate taking place, which I have been contributing to, about the future of journalism. One view is that we are all in trouble and that both the quality of journalism and our ability to make a living from it is poor. The latter is true, but it is no different now than (say) in the 1920's. While a few did very well, most didnt. The major change is that the few who did well have grown in volume and there are more people doing OK than ever before, but there is a large pool of talent who earn modest returns from their labour.

Is it time to shut down the School of Journalism at your local University - well yes, but not because the industry is in dire straits. They should never have been opened in the first place. The best education for a journalist isn't a journalism program, but the good old PPE degree - politics, philosophy and economics. Journalism, now deemed a profession, is one that relies in serious knowledge and depth of understanding.

Good journalist learn their trade by doing the work - court desk, city reporter, weddings, funerals and lunch meetings. They become true professionals when they rise above all of this and offer insight, challenge, understanding and analysis - Jeffrey Simpson for Canada and Tod Maffin on technology, for example. Bill Richardson is a professional librarian and got into broadcasting by default, working as a producer on the Viki show.

I got here after 25 books, over 100 academic artucles and book chapters and slogging my way through Letters, op ed and occassional columns for The Times, Times Higher Education Supplement, The Guardian, Bradford Telegraph and Argus (where I reviewed books aged 14) and so on. I have three earned degrees, including a doctorate, and an honorary degree and have worked newsrooms, radio and television studios as a writer, broadcaster and producer.

So its a nice moment to reflect on. My passport, in the space that says occuption (on my EU passport) has always said writer. Nice to know that my association thinks so too.

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