Dear Mr Marr, want to swap places?

88964286 300x198 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’

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  • Oliver Farrimond

    “Gone are the days of calling your editor from the red phone box you just so happen to come across while on the job”Ah, the halcyon days of reporting from an Arthur Conan Doyle novel.

  • Guest

    It says so much about Mr Marr that the only thing he would change about the status quo is that he wishes to be younger so he might embrace it more fully. Perhaps if here were to be 20 again he could forgo the pretence of scepticism altogether.

    More power to your pen, Ms D’Arcy. But please set your ambitions higher than the deadening sinecure of the BBC’s Sunday morning rubber room. Aim higher. Now Jon Snow, for example, it at least a bit taller …

  • zandeman

    I’m afraid I’m as misjudged and sweeping as Andrew Marr. Only a 20 year old could fail to understand the attraction.

  • bob idle

    Can you not do some investigative journalism and write about something important rather than yapping on about yourself (as lots of bloggers, twitterers, and students seem to do)?

    Just a thought from someone who is not and does not claim to be a professional writer.

  • Rebecca Hughes

    Sometimes I wonder if I’m incredibly gullible as I gush away my money on a journalism degree. After all there are far more journalism students than jobs.

    They drum the idea of convergent journalism into us as well as the state of the dying media in parts, and then drive off home; one in his new Jaguar, which he obviously bought with my tuition fees… But they’re right to promulgate these things. And Marr, he’s right too.

    He’s also right not to hark back to the old golden days, like some fellow journalists. When did this golden age exist? In between the heavy drinking at El Vino’s? During a time when newspapers passed out their tablets of knowledge through the so-called pearly gates? And let’s face it, Perez Hilton is not the first to use sensationalist stories to become popular. That dates back to the years of Beaverbrook and Rothermere.

    In regards to making your mark and getting noticed, the advent of tools like Twitter has made it much more easy. Let’s take a case study: Josh Halliday. If you’re tapped into the media/student media circle, then chances are you’ve heard his name. Why? Because he’s one of those ridiculously enthusiastic fellows who utilised the world of online to make his mark. He graduated this year, amidst all the gloomy stories of job shortages, and walked straight into a traineeship at the Guardian. Yes, the northern kid without an Oxbridge degree reminds us all that if you want it you can get it.

    Whilst there’s research to suggest that people don’t read much of an article, there’s also research that shows that the average amount of story text read is higher for online. In fact readers are more likely to finish reading a piece online than anywhere else. Your CV is no longer a piece of paper, it’s a hyperlocal blog that you’ve built, produced work for and promoted.

    Tap into the technological world, build relationships and you’re on your way. Technology isn’t always about replacing old skills (unless you have poor little interns who will transcribe your tapes because you don’t use shorthand). It’s about mixing the two together. Get creative.

    Journalism has always been a competitive field to get into. Why should it be any different now?

    P.S. I do, however, feel it would be beneficial for myself and for Marr to switch salaries for a while.

  • Jon Yates

    So what you are saying is that you are not good enough. Hmmmm……….you are now in a very big pond.Sink or swim. Digital cameras make us all photographers but I think Henri Cartier-Bresson would still shine through.

  • Jon Yates

    Quite. Another bleater

  • pointoview

    I wish he was 20, maybe he could learn to interview the suited clones, and at least expose their empty rhetoric and lies, instead of his sickening animated bon homie.

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