I'm Graduating High School and I Want to Be a Journalist but Everyone Says I'm Nuts!

by The Concessionist


The Concessionist gives advice like… once a month maybe? Whatever. I’m busy. Trouble? Write today.


For a long while now, I’ve thought I wanted to major in journalism. It’s been something I could see as a passion, or a career. But lately, when I’ve been in bed late at night, I worry.

I graduate high school in a week, and although I’ve already had an internship at a newspaper, mostly all of the editors and reporters took me aside to voice what they saw as a way to save me from boarding a sinking ship.

“Don’t major in this,” they told me. “Please go to law school.”

Now, I know that a newspaper is probably the easiest place to find a jaded journalist, and a depressed and underpaid one at that, but if these people are telling me the truth then what do I have to look forward to? I’m a naive high school kid, and I know nothing about the world yet. This is an undeniable fact. I can feel the strange, strange way that this pulls me in while all the while I know it’s not a smart career choice. The job market is down, and the whole industry is over saturated. On one side, I see myself taking a risk and succeeding — perhaps not wildly, but at least comfortably. On the other side of my mind, however, I see a dissatisfied store clerk, fuming at my 2015 self for not taking accounting by the hand and running with it. This is my dilemma. I do not want to be sixty years old and looking back, thinking of what might have been had I been brave enough to take a chance. I also, however, do not want to be an embittered old woman, her accolades nothing more than her college publications. The industry is changing, and I’m afraid.



Hello young person,

Here are just a few things I think you need to know.

1. You do not need to know what your college major is going to be now. Or maybe ever. You truly don’t! You’re going to college! You should be excited about going to college and be busy planning an experience for yourself. Do you want to be doing outdoors things? Do you want to be deep in a library? Do you want to be taking big lectures, or studying with smaller groups? Do you want to be painting and taking lots of drugs and arguing? What does your dream college look like to you? Let’s worry about that now. And also focus on GETTING OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL and starting a whole new life! You’re up all night fretting when you should be celebrating.

2. If you hate your college, you can leave it for another one. Colleges are all very different and they are not one size fits all! But even if you hate your college, you can also start your life over at the same college. Most colleges are big enough that they contain multiple existences. If it’s dreadful, or you make a bunch of mistakes in your first year, switch it up: apply for overseas programs, switch majors, change your focus, change where you live, change your diet, change your name even. My point is: you can mix up your path at any time. That’s also true in the real world. And if you really hate it, or find something better to do, drop out! You can live without college, though it’s rough, lemme tell ya.

3. You don’t have to be a journalist first, or for forever. Many people go through their entire lives without a passion to do something in particular for a living. Isn’t that funny to think about? But it’s true — they may like certain things or be good at a set of skills for instance, but they don’t have a drive to like “be a litigator” or “write romance novels” or whatever. But you do have a passion. If you want to work on the college paper, great! If you want to intern in the summers or look for fellowships in journalism, awesome. You should!

But also you’ll learn a lot about your interests in the next four years — and they might surprise you.

I don’t in general have a lot of regrets, because regrets are for losers, but I do wish that I’d accumulated a more sophisticated sense of privilege early on. I would have learned so much more about the world! Some young people are taught that the world is there for the taking. It is our job to teach that to every young person, not just the ones who went to private schools and private colleges. Entry level jobs in sales, business, real estate and even some levels of finance have little barrier to entry, it turns out, even though this is where the 1% hide all their children. The fields are only packed with muttonheads and pearl-clutchers from Trinity-Pawling and Loomis Chaffee because they are told how to get there. The rest of us just need to be informed. The point being, you can take a thousand paths to performing journalism, and being literate in the ways of the world is actually a much better path than being literate in journalism. Journalism is easy to learn. The world is much harder.

For instance, have you ever read journalists writing about the media business itself? For the most part, they have literally no idea what they’re talking about. They don’t know how marketing or circulation or advertising sales work; they aren’t familiar with the technology of their own publications; they certainly don’t understand the financing and ownership of their own publications. When their publications or publications they admire fold or are sold or are “sold,” they tend to print the story they are told rather than the story that is obviously true. This happens even at the highest levels; you can see media reporters at the New York Times relaying concepts or ideas or narratives that they don’t actually understand or possibly, if they took a breath, even believe.

Should this happen to you? Say no! And start now! Major in art. Major in finance. Major in chemistry! Major in engineering science! Major in accounting! Major in Russian! Major in statistics! Major in African-American studies! Literally any of those will serve you better in the world — and in journalism — than the undergraduate study of journalism.

By the time you graduate college in four years, we will already be on the other side of the current insanity in the industry and into a new flurry of insanity. The Great Consolidation will mostly have occurred. Henry Blodget will have triumphantly returned to Wall Street to ring the opening bell; Vox Holding Industries LLC will have long IPO’d; BuzzFeed Sony Paramount will still be hiring journalists out on the east coast to cover their own films. Disney’s FusionLand will be hiring catering specialists. Maybe Barry Diller’s New York Post and Times and News will be beefing up.

Will this web page even exist in four years to be mocked? Probably not. Perhaps it’ll be archived on Awl.Vice.Kinja.com somewhere, or it’ll be deep in the old archives of FaceMedium. It doesn’t matter. All things turn to dust. But not you, not yet! Whatever weird landscape you have to face then will be just as surreal as this one. You actually can’t worry about it now; it’s literally unimaginable. Ha ha, you’ll have so much to worry about in four years! But for now, follow your dreams, try not to tweet too much, and go learn something that no one else knows.

The Concessionist is an adult human in New York City who is somewhat worn down and willing to make a good number of sacrifices for a peaceful life. Is it decision fatigue? Or just ennui? That’s probably a question for a psychiatrist. Anything else, ask me. I agree to keep your identity between us unless like an emergency exists. Photo of cheerleaders with ennui excerpted from this photo by Ed Uthman.


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