I’ve written a lot this year about the perils and pleasures of working as a freelance writer, and, more importantly, about how much money you might expect to make at the two dozen or so places I’ve contributed to. As a result, I hear from eager young writers and students all the time, looking for insight into how they can “make it” in this biz.
One thing that doesn’t get mentioned often enough is that there’s a highly delineated pecking order of esteem in the various branches of journalism. Some of it might seem obvious — covering crime and murder stories, which we’ve seen too many of this year, for example, is a more highly regarded profession than embedding SNL videos into a CMS and trawling Reddit for traffic-generating memes. But, one interesting thing I’ve found in considering the field at large, is that the respectability of the job seems to be almost inversely proportional to the coolness of the subject matter. For example, music is, arguably, the “coolest” field, followed closely behind by movies, fashion, and so on, and yet the people who cover it are often, and often rightly, paid little regard as professionals. This is regrettable to those of us, like myself, who’ve spent the majority of our careers covering music, but on the other hand, the job is to drink beer in a bar while some asshole yells into a microphone. Not a bad way to make a buck.
Toward the other end of the spectrum, death and killing and destruction and starvation and strife? Not all that cool. But the payoff comes in terms of the import of your work, and the attendant respect you get for your efforts.
For the most part, as seen in the chart above, the line of the graph is almost a perfect 45° angle. There are outliers, of course. It’s hard to imagine anything less cool, or respectable, than covering the video games industry, although most of the garbage viral content we see everywhere now gives it a good run for its money.
So. Do you want to get a job in journalism? You might need to figure out what it is that’s more important to you before you start, status, or comfort, lifestyle, or respect, no money, or even less no money. Consult this chart to help you on your journey.