Flicking through the weekly glossies, I knew entertainment was the field of journalism I wanted to get stuck into. Politics – at the time – didn’t appeal to me , I knew I’d break down if I was told to report on an animal cruelty case and there’s no way I would be willing to knock on someone’s door to ask them about their dead aunt, who was brutally murdered by their uncle, who subsequently killed himself and left little clues all over town to help the police piece together the case.
Weirdly enough, if you’d told me to knock on Kim Kardashian West’s door and ask her about her dead dad, I would do it. Why? Because in my head, at the time, they weren’t classed as “real people.” And, after all, if they were going to release a sex tape and live in the limelight, surely they signed up for this kind of hounding from the press? Right? They’re used to it. It’s the nature of the beast…
I’ve been working in showbiz now for five years and, although I love what I do, there are some things you should know before you decide venture into the world of journalism because, after all, it’s not for everyone and that’s OK because it’s not the easiest career to balance with ‘normal life’.
1. Shift work
If a 9-5 Monday-Friday job is something you’re after, this career isn’t for you. When you work in an industry like this, the news never stops. It may be 1 minute from the end of your shift but if you haven’t finished your story or something breaks, there’s no way you can just pack up and leave.
I’ll never forget when Robin Williams – God bless his soul – died. It broke in Australia before it broke in the UK because the reports didn’t start coming in until 1:50am. I was just about to finish my shift – I was on the late shift – and I was due to fly Down Under at 9am but I couldn’t shut down my computer until I had that breaking news story out. It worked in my favour because we were the first to break it in the UK. Shift work doesn’t bother me but it’s not for everyone.
2. A lot people are wary of you
You meet someone new and it’s all going so well. That’s until they ask: “So what do you do?” “I’m a journalist,” I reply. Expect the conversation to end right there and then. You can see their brain reciting our two-hour conversation to see if they’ve told me anything that could see their story as the front page of a red top national. Or you’ll be out with a group of mates and they’re like: ‘No we can’t tell you, you’re a journalist. You’ll print it.’ Firstly, babes, I couldn’t give a shit about who this person has shagged. Unless you’re a celebrity or you got your dick stuck in a G-clamp while you were masturbating to S Club 7’s Reach For the Stars…Now that’s a story 😛
3. Red carpets are cold!
You may think it looks super glamorous from the pictures and videos I upload of myself standing on the red carpet interviewing celebrities but, what you don’t know, I’ve actually been standing there for five hours in the freezing cold, fighting against other publications in order to get to the front so I can speak to one star and then when I finally get to the front, my hands are too numb to switch my dictaphone on. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE interviewing celebrities – and they’re even more fun face-to-face on a red carpet – but I just wish award bosses would choose venues inside 🙁
4. The pay
If you’ve watched The Devil Wears Prada and are convinced one day you’ll have your own desk and be able to boss people around for a living, think again. It’s highly unlikely you’ll be rolling in the dosh. You’ll be expected to intern for months at a time – luckily I didn’t have to do it for too long – and then you’ll be put on a basic pay until you’ve worked your way up the ladder. It’s a lot of hard work, long hours and good exclusives. And, even then, Editors don’t get paid near enough what they deserve. I went into journalism because I love writing, I’m nosey and I love talking and meeting new people, so the financial side of it doesn’t matter to me as long as I can pay my bills and live my life.
5. Every day is unpredictable
You go into work expecting it to be a nice, chilled, day writing stories at your desk and then a (or three) celebrities decide to pop their clogs (very inconsiderate) just before lunch and then you have to leave and make your way down to Soho for a last-minute interview – doing your research on the tube with zero wifi. If you like things to be planned weeks in advance, this career probably isn’t for you.
6. You spend a lot of time at your desk
Although you will get to go out and party at some really cool events, cover some wicked red carpets and interview some class celebrities, a lot of the time you’re sat at your desk churning out story after story. And, to make things even more stressful, you have deadlines you HAVE to hit! If you’re not keen on writing all day, maybe broadcast journalism or video journalism is better for you?
7. You will get used
This is partly true. A lot of people will either frown at you and your job or they will try to use you to get free stuff – either tickets to gigs, alcohol, trips or food.
8. You need to be adaptable
This is particularly true if you’re freelance. Everyone can write but not every way you write will be suitable for every publication. You need to learn how to adapt your style of writing for the company you’re working for. The way I write on my blog is a whole world away from how I write my stories at work. Being able to flick between being creative and drawing up a fantasy is completely different from writing up stories based on cold, hard, facts and it’s a skill that will work in your favour if you master it.
9. You need a thick skin
Journalism is hard work and a lot of the time you’ll either be ignored, get a blunt answer, have the phone put down on you or have an agent yelling at you because you’ve accidentally put a typo in the story – hey, everyone makes mistakes, we’re only human!
You need to be able to take it on the chin and accept that things aren’t always going to go in your favour. You’re not always going to get the best angle – despite trying your absolute hardest – and sometimes you miss things but that’s just life and you learn from it.
10. You high possibility you’ll get fat when you first start out in journalism
Celebrity parties are all fun and games until you realise you’ve scoffed a shit tonne of food and knocked back 10 glasses of prosecco…. top tip: get a gym membership!!
All the things I’ve written above may be seen as negatives when you first start out in journalism but for myself, and all the other journalists I know, it’s just part of what we do.