Media Pass Student Industry Day – overview.

I had the opportunity this week to attend an event that ordinarily wouldn’t have hit my radar.

It was a day where journalism students could sit in a theater and listen to industry professionals give advice on continuing their blossoming careers and ideas on how to develop a good work ethic in an industry “under attack” (more on this later). Needless to say, as someone who is NOT a journalism student, I felt very much the outsider. An interloper. Despite this, I managed to hold my own and ask a few questions which seemed to make a few peoples ears perk up.
The day was held primarily by The Walkley Foundation and The Media Alliance. If you’re not familiar with these institutes, I strongly suggest you take a look at their websites and do some investigative research. They seem to be in the know when it comes to what’s going on in the journalism world.

There were two presentations I found particularly interesting. Please understand,this is not a criticism to the other presenters. I am not aiming for a career in journalism and so, wouldn’t find career-specifics terribly exhilarating or rewarding. The first was that of Christopher Warren (Media Alliance’s federal secretary) on where he saw the future of journalism to be headed. The second was the keynote speech by journalist for the West Australian, Joe Catanzaro.

The thing that struck me most about Mr Warren’s address was that while he was suggesting that the world of journalism was being disrupted by the Internet, he also suggested that part of the problem was a lack of faith or trust being a continued part of the vicious cycle that was destroying print media. He suggested that Internet media was giving advertisers greater choice for targeted ad placement, leading to declining investment in traditional media (newspaper, radio and the such) thus leading to a decline in print media over all. He said that the factory model of journalism was going to be the death of traditional media whereas the digital model freed journalists from the divides that ordinarily held them in the traditional sector.

He brushed upon the Wikleaks continuing story, naming Julian Assange as a member of the Alliance and crediting the site as an essential tool for future journalism. When probed by someone young upstart from the back of the crowd (any ideas who that might have been?), he said that the attacks on Wikileaks represented an attack on journalism. He may have been lead by the question, “You brushed on Wikileaks for a moment. Do you not think that Wikileaks is simply pushing journalistic source protection and a demand for government transparency into a digital format? Do you see the attacks on Wikileaks as an attack on journalism?” but don’t quote me on that. 😉

He also suggested that the monetisation of blogs was an attempt to find balance in the old school vs digital world and that it, combined with trust and acting under the Code of Ethics, was a way to distinguish journalists from the noise of the internet. I found it a little surprising then, in light of all his previous points, that he did not find hyper-local journalism to be interesting, saying instead that while the future is not certain, the chances were it would fade away.
Onward to Mr Joe Catanzaro’s address, in which he attempted to inspire the students in the room by telling anecdotes from his own career. I have to say, it almost made me question my own career choices and wonder if journalism mightn’t be the thing for me (never fear, dear world. I wouldn’t do that to you).

His advice would seem to apply to many as a great way to live your life:

  • take all the available information from all the people around you.
  • in a world where you can check so much at the click of a mouse button, leg work still counts, as does hard work.
  • keep the passion for the job, even in the dark times.
  • there are 24 useable hours in every day.
  • never say no to a job in the early stages.
  • “right place, right time” still accounts for much of the perceived luck people have.
  • don’t have a sense of entitlement. Just because you have a degree doesn’t mean the world owes you anything.
  • instant careers are very rare. Most of the time you have to earn your stripes.
  • be a little bit gutsy, bite off more than you think you can chew.
  • persistence and tenacity will give you more points than plodding along.
  • (if you’re in a media type environment) write something somewhere, anything.
  • be resourceful, think laterally, then be prepared to duck your head.
  • follow the money. If you get stuck on a story, look at flows of money. the story almost always follows the flow of cash.
  • find the right questions to ask. The obvious ones get you no where.
  • learn to steer your way through the grey.
  • be a bit cynical – fact check fact check fact check.
  • talk to people, as in actual face-to-face contact.
  • own up to your mistakes. People will remember you made a mistake, but they’ll also remember that you put your hand up and accepted responsibility for it.
  • observation is everything. People tell you a lot without using words.
  • know when to shut up.
  • read everything.
  • don’t become jaded.

Good advice, I thought.

Why did I attend if I thought it wasn’t going to be any use to me? I shall refer you to the first point in Mr Catanzaro’s list up there: All knowledge is worth having. Remember that.

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