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21 September 2010updated 27 Sep 2015 2:12am

Advice from a Wannabe Hack

Five recent graduates chart their journeys into journalism.

By Nick Petrie

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.

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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.