Mid-20s Malaise

Struggling against the inevitable since 1986!

Media Message

Fuck the media.

And I don’t mean that in the fuck-the-media-they-never-tell-the-truth way. I mean it in the fuck-the-media-they’re-a-bunch-of-tight-arsed-jerks way.

I’ve got a degree in journalism and politics. I’ve written hundreds of columns, features and reviews.  I’ve worked for some of the world’s largest media organisations in various capacities. But I keep getting interviewed for jobs – with impressive-sounding titles like “deputy editor” – that offer to pay me less than my brother earns working at a liquor store. In fact, my best-paid job to date was at the café where I worked through university.

Often, the interviewer will pretend to empathise with me. “I know it’s not a great salary,” they’ll say. “But you get fantastic experience!”

Look at my resumé and don’t insult me. I don’t need your experience – I need your money.

It’s hard for writers and other creative types to prove their worth. Sales departments can point at increased advertising spending and such to prove they’re valuable to the business. Writers can’t do this in any direct way, but business owners often – or, in my experience, always – forget that nobody would want to put an advertisement in a magazine if the content was shit.

This devaluing of writing talent is most evident in the industry’s use of interns. I had a good experience: after getting a couple of good references from some short-term internships, my first long-term internship turned into a paid contributor’s role. They didn’t pay me much, but it made for some nice pocket money in addition to the money I earned from my full-time job.

However, even I was chewed up by this arrangement. I worked my guts out for three years, hoping a full-time position would eventuate at the magazine. I even took holidays from my full-time job to work at the magazine I contributed to. Eventually, it became too draining, and I quit.

Just in time, too: a couple of weeks later, the editor announced that they were doubling feature length without an increase in contributor pay.

But as I said, I was lucky: I know many people who worked full-time hours for no financial compensation. A lot of my friends work for various newspapers, magazines and websites; every single one of these would collapse without their unpaid interns.

This willingness to work for free then feeds into media employment and freelancing rates: the job is offered to those willing to work for the least. Well, guess what, media? I’m a man with a university degree and five years of experience behind me: I’m not willing to work for what you’re offering. I know so many talented and hard-working writers who struggle to pay the rent.

It’s a joke, and I’m sick of it.

So this is my “Dear John” letter to the media. I’ve had enough. I’ve had some great times with the media, and I’ll always love it, but I’m sick of being treated with such indifference. I’m off to find an industry that will appreciate me for who I am.

And pay me accordingly.

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4 Responses

  1. Rachel says:

    Wow, that really sucks. I never bothered to work in the media (didn’t love it enough to follow through with that) but I understand how hard it is to get work. University degrees mean nothing.

    I have two degrees (5 years work of uni) and am currently completing a Masters degree and I can’t get a full time position.

    Did we pick the wrong professions? or is this just how the job market is today? full or lousy pay and temp roles?

    Any ideas on what you are going to do now?

    • liamliamliam says:

      I think it’s the job market in general, but especially the media.

      But just because “that’s the way it is” doesn’t mean we have to like it, and that’s why I’m getting out.

      Not sure what I’ll do now. Thinking of going back to uni next year. Yay, more HECS debt!

      • Rachel says:

        hhhmmm true. I have been casual teaching for 12 months and it’s horrible. It pays REALLY well but often I can go weeks without work.. don’t get paid on holidays… don’t get sick leave… often get 6am wake up calls to come in.. no stability. HATE HATE HATE.

        We are really struggling to afford to live at the moment but Richard has been awfully patient. I am in a position though where if I don’t have full time work in 3 months, or full time work lined up for next year, in 3 months, I need to get a different job. I will have to go back to retail or something equally mortifying.

        I hope you get a good job!

        What are you thinking of doing at uni?

  2. Michael Bush says:

    I feel you, boo.

    One day I’ll have my own media empire, and I’ll let you work for me. Job titles will include ‘Maker of Mirth’ and ‘Naked Janitor’, take your pick.

    Totally sucks, though. I wish the people who told me I’d make vast riches if I went to university had offered me the ‘does not apply to an Arts degree’ disclaimer before I’d done an Arts degree.

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