"I've got it all planned out. College, internship with a major company, graduation, and then it'll be nothing but Brooks Brothers suits and BMWs."
It was my freshman year of college, and a childhood friend of mine—a business major at a reputable university—felt the need to give me some career advice.
"Why journalism? Man, you're going to be working for, like, $50,000 at the height of your career. Straight out of college, you'll have to work your ass off to break 30."
Now, I've never been so naive as to believe that a career isn't about making money. I wouldn't come to work each day if I weren't drawing a paycheck. That said, I set out to become a journalist not because it was the most lucrative choice, but because it was something I was passionate about. My friend's words, though I laugh at their callowness now (and I'm sure he would, too), were unsettling at the time. I've learned since that his view of journalism as a fruitless, inferior career choice is not an uncommon one.
I doubt anyone would argue that there isn't a rift between social classes, and by extension, between blue-collar laborers and white-collar office workers. But one thing I've found fascinating during my time in publishing is the almost universal disdain both parties have for journalists.
While I've known some career journos who had only a high school education, most major publishers in this day and age expect employee candidates to have at least a BA. (Even with a degree, it's lucky if you'll even get called in for an interview if you don't have substantial work experience, too.) From a blue-collar perspective, perhaps the publishing industry's requisite higher education alone makes journalists appear effete and pretentious.
Although I graduated college alongside pre-law, pre-med, business, and pharmacy majors, there was a tangible antipathy held by those other students, and even professors, for me and my fellow J-school students. I suspect that their perception of journalism was that of a lesser profession comprised of those not mathematically inclined enough to succeed in the sciences and not motivated enough to choose a career in medicine or law. An associate of mine, during her college career, was even driven to drop a business class because the professor made a habit of picking on her—making disparaging comments about her being a journalism student whenever she would dare to answer a question. "You only know that because you probably wrote some article about it." Her story is not the only one I've heard to this effect.
Academics and blue-collar workers alike often deem journalism an inferior trade. But they're wrong. Profoundly so.
In what other business does an individual have to pursue higher education while enduring widespread criticism of their career choice, work their ass off and take unpaid internships to build a portfolio, only to get a job that comes with inferior pay and enormous social responsibility? Yet in what other business can you find such a high percentage of stubbornly industrious people? The kind of creative minds that find satisfaction in bringing their readers or viewers the information they need to remain informed citizens?
No, I'm not driving a BMW, and the two off-the-rack suits I own aren't tailored, but the satisfaction I have in doing what I do is priceless, even if it goes unappreciated by most.
(Featured image courtesy of pouted.com)