Finally getting around to writing a ‘conclusion’ post on Dancing About Architecture. The five evenings over five weeks wrapped up last Tuesday. Thanks so much to everyone who came down, asked a question, made a point, or just contributed by being there. I hope you got something out of it. Big up McGrattan’s for giving us the space for free. And, of course, a big thank you to Jim Carroll, Patrick Freyne, Susan Daly, Niall Byrne, Markham Nolan, Kathy Sheridan, Shane Hegarty, Nadine O’Regan, Stephen Collins, Lise Hand, Shane Coleman, Jacqui Hurley and Miguel Delaney. The main element of these talks is always going to be the guest speakers, so I really appreciate people taking time out of their busy lives to impart their advice and experience for free. Merci.
I guess it was ambitious to run something based on the idea of ‘Journalism 101’, but in five weeks, we covered a lot of ground. Always in the background was a general uncertainty, primarily about the future of journalism. Topics were raised that simply weren’t really that major on the agenda when I left college seven years ago; how long should you work for a profitable organisation for free, are you better off emigrating to get experience, when will newspapers no longer be in existence, and so on.
We’re living in a post-‘staffer’ world, where more and more journalists are freelancers, more and more work across multiple forms of media, and more and more have to build portfolio careers, a network of safety net gigs and constantly diversify. There’s a conflict between being a jack of all trades and the master of a niche and the traditional trajectory from working your way up through regional to national media has shifted online, working your way up through individual to group media.
But some things remain the same. As stressed again and again, the mediums might change, the manner of readership, distribution and publishing might change, but many of the skills remain the same. Old fashioned spelling and grammar, subbing, building a decent contacts book, maintaining relationships with sources, delivering on time, being reliable, figuring out the line between hassling commissioning editors and being persistent, turning around copy quickly, developing the ability to express an opinion, writing well, making mistakes early on and learning from them, listening to feedback, developing an entertaining style, seeing your work edited and learning from it, pitching well, gaining experience from starting small and growing bigger, reading, watching and listening to people better than you and seeing how they do things, checking your facts – these skills have always been the foundation skills for journalism. Employment opportunities and the type of employment offered might change, but these skills remain the same. There might be less jobs, but there is always work for people who have these skills, are good, reliable, enthusiastic and, perhaps most importantly, work hard.
Some of the feedback I got from people (generally on smoke breaks or emails after the evening’s talk) related to the hours journalists work. It’s one of the most time-intensive jobs out there, and it’s good that people starting out realise the level of commitment they have to maintain to give it a decent shot.
I hope the people who came down learned some stuff, or at the very least that it offered some points for people to mull over. Feel free to add your feedback in the comments section.
I will be doing a few more individual Dancing About Architecture talks (as in not part of a series like this latest clutch of them) over the coming months and the summer. If you feel like there are any specific topics worth knocking around, let me know.