Posted by: Sami Smith
The media makes working in journalism look like a picnic behind grand glass doors: an endless cycle of fancy networking and Starbucks dark roast “addictions”. Business casual offices finally give young women a place to wear all of those pencil skirts, and men have an excuse to buy 2-for-1 suits. It’s the journalism world—media glorification style.
Anne Hathaway’s rise to magazine “somebody” in The Devil Wears Prada came only after she ran for coffee, did bitch-work, and ran for more coffee. But she made it, right? It only took her a few months—that can’t be too bad!
Mad Men glorifies the advertising world in the same way Glee does for high school a capella groups. But, as a former choir kid, I’m here to tell you that you can’t make eight part harmonies with four singers. I’d be willing to bet advertising professionals feel the same way about the AMC series.
The perpetual representations of journalists in television and movies is so wrong, it almost makes full circle back to being right. Before coming into journalism school, I completely bought into the hype. After a few years of classes and two years in the professional sphere, those illusions are shattered:
- You’ll work in a cube. A small, gray cube. Decorate only if you admit you could picture yourself in this sector of the industry forever.
- Learn to fact-check, because it’s all you’ll be doing for awhile. Calls on calls on calls.
- Be prepared for a time when your publication folds, especially if it’s one of the “starter,” a.k.a. special interest magazines at a larger publishing house.
- The glamor of a photo shoot is lost under strange lighting, mediocre catered food, and the realization of how heavily even celebrities rely on Photoshop.
- Pitches don’t always end in a cheeky happy hour or a hot night of sex with a co-worker. Sometimes you just end up at home, savoring a Hot Pocket during Doctor Who.
- Watching television or reading a magazine will never be leisurely again. You’ll be too busy critiquing to enjoy them.
- EOD and ASAP suddenly mean raised heart rates and cancelled lunch plans.
- (Depending on your hours) “What do you mean no one wants to grab dinner with me after the 2 a.m. deadline?”
- Walk and talk interviews make you grateful you ditched the heels at events long ago.
- Lunch break? You mean Ramen and a lukewarm cup of office joe at my desk?
Prepare yourselves. The journalism field isn’t what all too many people expect it to be. Fortunately, if we’ve made it this far in our academic careers, chances are that we’ve already realized that and decided to pursue it, anyway. The media gets the passion part of movies right, however. It makes their characters seem alluring, determined, and sexy, but in the real world, it’s what keeps us going. Maybe someday there will be shows about crafting the perfect lede, snagging your first big interview, or life in the cube world. Then again, those aren’t nearly hot enough for Hollywood. Hopefully our own desires to spread truth and bring light to issues across the world remind us that we are in the right place in the journalism field.
Tell me—when did you hit this expectation wall head-on? Will you stick it out even after the unveiling of journalism a la reality?