Dear Mr Marr, want to swap places?
Yesterday, Andrew Marr made the misjudged and sweeping statement: ‘I’d like to be 20 and starting out again’. Instead of lamenting the good ole’ days of classic news reporting, complete with notepad and biro, he commended the staggering advances in technology and expressed a certain covetousness at eager, young writers – like myself – who are trying to make it in the modern media industry. He applauded the immediacy of real-time news reels, made tribute to the use of multifarious technology, and praised the step towards the democratisation of print media. Now anyone can be published online; even Perez Hilton, who found fame through his celebrity gossip blog despite his excessive use of exclamations, puerile doodles, and text speak (!).
What Marr failed to realise in his whimsical desire to be starting out again is that, despite the leap in technology making it easier for new writers to be published – anyone can now set up their own blog and publish their writing online – it is harder to gain prestige.
Gone are the days of scribbling down quotations in the strange scrawls of shorthand. Gone are the days of calling your editor from the red phone box you just so happen to come across while on the job. Gone are the days where the only skill you needed to make it was to be able to write well. Oh, and being a vague relation of the editor-in-chief also helped.
Now the media industry expects wannabe journalists to have a blog bursting with well-penned articles, stories plastered all over the student rag, and minute-by-minute tweets that push the boundaries of the mundane that usually grace the pages of Twitter. In other words, student journalists are now expected to be ubiquitous, to the point that it would be media suicide not to hire you.
With over 190 million users on Twitter and only 140 characters to play with, how can a student journalist make their mark? How can they navigate the fine line between an insightful tweet and the far-too-personal or the down-right boring, when the premise of Twitter is a knee-jerk reaction to everyday events? How can they ensure that their blog is devoured whole when research suggests the average reader doesn’t even make it through a fifth of an online article? It seems that new technology has led to a case of digital diarrhoea. We have upped the quantity of words published, while the quality is seemingly lacking in the immediacy of transcription.
Now, I wouldn’t want to go back to the media dark ages; I love the instantaneous, short bursts of factual titbits that fuel my addiction for the story of today instead of the news of yesterday. However, I certainly do not wish for the extinction of the double-page news feature, the rustle of freshly printed pages, and the buzz of relishing quality journalism in a room of uninterrupted silence.
But it is this friction between the world of old-school media and that of the digital era that is the root cause of my despondence. Marr gets to the heart of the modern student journalist’s anxiety when he quotes Jeff Beck’s lyrical paradox: ‘You’re everywhere and nowhere, baby…’ It is true. My writing is splashed all over the net. But who, if anyone, is going to read it? And how exactly will this online publicity advertise me to prospective employers? I guess I just need to push on, in the hope that through experimentation I can make my mark. I want to be everywhere and somewhere.
(Picture: Getty Images)
Sara D’Arcy is Features Editor of the Edinburgh University student paper ‘The Student’Tagged in: journalism, marr
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