Advice from a Wannabe Hack

Five recent graduates chart their journeys into journalism.

As you will be well aware, the media landscape has changed dramatically in recent years. Journalism is in decline, it no longer makes any money and no one can get a job.

Or so people would have you believe. Ed Caesar wrote a piece in May about getting into journalism, one that suggested you need an "Oxbridge degree, a London pad and sharp elbows" to make it. So we might as well give up and go home. Or not. I believe something different.

There is an opportunity to reshape and remould journalism. We are the generation to give it purpose and definition. We are being handed the bricks of a beautiful old house, which we must carefully renovate, modernise and adapt to the needs of those who will live in it in the future.

If anything, this is a call to arms.

To this end, inspired by our time together at Redbrick (the University of Birmingham student paper) and the lack of relevant advice available to us, my fellow graduates and I have started a project called "Wannabe Hacks". Its tagline? "Five young men, five different career paths. One capital city. All Wannabe Hacks."

Its purpose is to chart the different journeys into journalism of its founders: Ben Whitelaw, the Student; Nick Petrie (that's me), the Intern; Matt Caines, the Freelancer; Ned Murray, the Detective; and Tom Clarke, the Chancer.

We are, in effect, guinea pigs in our own experiment. Which path will be most successful? Who will still be jobless this time next year? These are questions we cannot answer now, but we can light the way for those that follow.

We want to be the recognised resource for students and graduates looking to enter the world of journalism. Advice from the horse's mouth, so to speak, rather from those already established in the industry. We want to demonstrate that there is no best path; that hard work, an entrepreneurial spirit and taking risks is the way forward.

Journalism is by no means the only industry in decline today, but it is our industry of choice. People should not be scared by hard times, but rather driven by them. To create more from less is a fundamental human trait, one we need to see more of.

You cannot be afraid to get your hands dirty.

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Can Philip Hammond save the Conservatives from public anger at their DUP deal?

The Chancellor has the wriggle room to get close to the DUP's spending increase – but emotion matters more than facts in politics.

The magic money tree exists, and it is growing in Northern Ireland. That’s the attack line that Labour will throw at Theresa May in the wake of her £1bn deal with the DUP to keep her party in office.

It’s worth noting that while £1bn is a big deal in terms of Northern Ireland’s budget – just a touch under £10bn in 2016/17 – as far as the total expenditure of the British government goes, it’s peanuts.

The British government spent £778bn last year – we’re talking about spending an amount of money in Northern Ireland over the course of two years that the NHS loses in pen theft over the course of one in England. To match the increase in relative terms, you’d be looking at a £35bn increase in spending.

But, of course, political arguments are about gut instinct rather than actual numbers. The perception that the streets of Antrim are being paved by gold while the public realm in England, Scotland and Wales falls into disrepair is a real danger to the Conservatives.

But the good news for them is that last year Philip Hammond tweaked his targets to give himself greater headroom in case of a Brexit shock. Now the Tories have experienced a shock of a different kind – a Corbyn shock. That shock was partly due to the Labour leader’s good campaign and May’s bad campaign, but it was also powered by anger at cuts to schools and anger among NHS workers at Jeremy Hunt’s stewardship of the NHS. Conservative MPs have already made it clear to May that the party must not go to the country again while defending cuts to school spending.

Hammond can get to slightly under that £35bn and still stick to his targets. That will mean that the DUP still get to rave about their higher-than-average increase, while avoiding another election in which cuts to schools are front-and-centre. But whether that deprives Labour of their “cuts for you, but not for them” attack line is another question entirely. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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