Making a splash in the big sea – trying to make your way in journalism

“If you do something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life”

A couple of weeks ago, an #AdvicetoYoungJournalists hashtag quickly started to trend on social media all over the world. Inspired by an advice column by Felix Salmon, a financial journalist formerly of Reuters, those with experience in the trade began dispensing guidance to budding journalists hoping to make a splash, a ripple even, in the big bad world of media.

Predictably, there were the gloom merchants that advised, almost tongue-in-cheek, fledgling writers to reassess and go down a different career path, blurting out hackneyed utterances such as ‘journalism is dead’ and ‘there is no money to be made as a journalist’.

But Salmon coins the current period as “probably the greatest era for journalism that the world has ever seen.” While admitting there are now more obstacles than ever to overcome in pursuit of a profession in journalism, Salmon insists the decline, for want of a better word, in print media is being counterbalanced by the blossoming of the online industry.

For journalists of a certain generation – our generation – online media has been the breeding ground. The advent of free blogging platforms and social media has made it easier than ever before to broadcast your views and, most significantly, showcase your wares.

Photo credit: european_parliament
Photo credit: european_parliament

Salmon goes onto admit he is “constantly astonished by the quantity and quality of the material being produced today.” Indeed the age of citizen journalism and blogging is making it harder to break through the glass ceiling in order to reach an exalted status where you can make a living from a hobby millions of people all over the world do each and every day. Simply put, there is more competition for jobs in the industry.

Yet, it would be easy to shirk at the challenge. Perhaps the most striking piece of advice that came from the #AdviceforYoungJournalists was from Storyful’s Aine Kerr. She wrote: “Persist. Probe. Prove.”

If you really want something, you’ll find a way. You won’t ‘catch’ a break but force it. You shouldn’t want to become a journalist because it’s a job, a means to live, but because it’s something you’ve a passion for, a love of.

You have to be willing to put in the hard work. It’s not glamorous at times, which job is?. But once you’ve got the determination and perseverance, the rewards will come.

This is not a self-gloating exercise but just one example of how, with undiluted tenacity, one can make strides in the industry.

What’s struck me during my relatively brief time and experience in media in both Ireland and England is people’s assumption that all the pieces will fall into place. Just get a degree and you’ll walk into a job in The Irish Times or Sky Sports. Alas, it doesn’t quite work like that.

The media centre at the Oval cricket ground in London. Photo credit: Ryan Bailey
The media centre at the Oval cricket ground in London. Photo credit: Ryan Bailey

I’ve been fortunate enough to have a platform to build off. Whilst still in school, I began reporting on League of Ireland matches, on a voluntary basis, for football websites. It certainly wasn’t glamarous. There were Friday nights when it was difficult to justify spending an evening sitting in a press box, invariably shivering with the cold, for no  remuneration but it was a means to an ends – this is what I wanted to do.

So many opportunities have arisen as a result, however. Covering the Irish national team for, a trip to Wembley for the England-Ireland friendly in 2013 and freelance openings for the now defunct Metro Herald and the state broadcaster RTE.

In October of last year, I began working in (at the time it was still which is the sports site of When someone discovers I work for, there is an expectation that I’m on a teed-up placement as part of this college course or partaking in an internship programme.

It’s not demeaning in any way but a presumption someone of my age cannot have the experience or capacity to work for such an organisation – a protagonist in the Irish news and sport sphere.

That in itself is what drives me on to make a splash in the big pond.

What started off as a part-time role involving two, maybe three days, a week fitted around college has developed into much more.

The glamour of covering the League of Ireland. Photo credit: Ryan Bailey
The glamour of covering the League of Ireland. Photo credit: Ryan Bailey

The best piece of advice I’ve ever heard and something that sticks with me everyday is:

“Don’t say no to anybody because you won’t be asked again.”

When you’re trying to find your feet, you never know what door might open but, just as importantly, you can’t afford for doors to start closing either.

Although still in the infancy of my career, and as of yet, no degree to furnish my CV, I’ve had the fortune to work in Distilled Media and last summer, ESPN, in London. Again, this wasn’t a placement or token internship but was arose from pure, undiluted determination to work, and learn, in the best environment possible.

It’s like a domino effect. The type of exposure associated with working and writing for one of the world’s biggest sporting media corporations is invaluable. Last week, I got calls from Spin1038 and Newstalk to go on air and talk about Ireland’s World Cup wins over West Indies and UAE.

Naturally, the answer was yes even if it meant changing my plans for the afternoon at short notice.

But, for me, this is not work. At times, the late-night shifts aren’t particularly sociable and appealing but journalism is not a 9-5 job. As Scottish author J.M Barrie once proclaimed: “Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else.”

I’m extremely grateful for the opportunities and start I’ve been given but it is only that because in this industry, you’re only as good as your last piece of work.

I’m on Twitter @RyanK_Bailey 

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