Being a serious, well established journalist is a dream for many students studying for their NCTJ diploma and MA, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Unfortunately though, not everyone will actually achieve this and that’s ok too because, like myself, there are plenty of students who don’t want to walk that path. There seems to be this incredible stigma attached to anyone who doesn’t want to reach the highest highs of political journalism or become the next Fiona Bruce and this seriously needs to change.

Anyone who thinks that we’re not ‘real journalists’ because we don’t want to claw our way to the top of some prestigious organisation needs to take a step back and ask themselves one question.

What actually makes a real journalist?

If being a real journalist is all of the things I’ve just mentioned, then it’s a very elite social club indeed and there’s nothing good about that.

We’re storytellers, we’re gatekeepers, we can impart wisdom and information but we can also just help people to escape the stress of their daily lives for a moment with an interesting article about cheese.

Everyone is taking the MA/NCTJ diploma for different reasons. I don’t think that it’s right that some of us should be made to feel any less special because we’re not trying to fight some noble cause that might someday change the world. We’re constantly being told that nowadays, almost anyone can be a journalist and that journalism is diverse, but how can this be true when we’re still being shunned for wanting to work for glossy mags or for having the cheek to ‘switch-off’ from the news for five minutes?

If there’s one surefire way to suck the fun and soul out of writing, then it has to be this.

Of course, I want to use journalism to help people but I’m happy to do that in any way I can, whether it’s taking up a cause, writing a piece to make someone smile or telling them 5 cool facts they probably didn’t know about cats.


But that doesn't make what you've written immediately helpful. I think you've brought a gargantuan issue to light that needs to be addressed, and I know my colleagues and I in Year 2 have been feeling the brunt of it for a while now.

I think my experience at the CFJ has proven a hypothesis I've held for a long time, about the symbiotic nature of sacrifice, suffering, and growth. I've known for some months now that I'm not cut out for this course. In fact, I don't think anyone studying here is, but maybe that's the point.

We're taking on a challenge (with a very real risk of abject failure) by taking a course that doesn't necessarily cater to our strengths and interests. Some of us would be much happier if we were rewarded for studying to be bloggers, feature writers, photo-journalists, and PR representatives. We would be content.

But contentment is the death of ambition, and ambition is second only to fear as the strongest motivator for growth in human beings. By throwing ourselves into the unknown, where we are least safe and most afraid, our potential for growth is limited only by our own resolution to keep swimming through the wine-dark sea of anxiety and pain.

This course is a hulking golem that we need to beat into submission. If doing this hurts, good. Get angry, kill the damn thing, and make a necklace out of its teeth. Only when we've beaten it at its own game can we truly say that we've grown from the experience.

Then, we can rest on our laurels for a while, and enjoy the progress we've made by completing a course as bloody difficult as this one, before we choose our next fight.

We're not cut out for this course, but we can be.

(PS: I'm sorry if that got a tad aggressive, I'm very stressed at the moment. I think we all are. Your blog post is excellent, and it's made my day knowing that an MA student is feeling the heat like we are. MERRY CHRISTMAS! By God, we've earnt it.)

Oscar Sylvest Olesen

Are you sure you're a real journalist?