Do you have to be rich to get into the writing game?
An essay titled “How to Succeed in Journalism when You Can’t Afford an Internship” has been getting some buzz in journalism nerd circles. The piece, by Toronto writer Alexandra Kimball, follows that headline with a pithy subhead:
“Answer: Hope for an inheritance.”
Kimball tells her own story, how she wanted to be a writer but faced crushing student debt and high rents in her 20s, which rendered her unable to get her foot in the door of the industry, which, as one editor told her, has been “becoming something of a glamour industry”:
To be a writer in this market requires not only money, but a concept of “work” that is most easily gained from privilege. It requires a sense of entitlement, the ability to network and self-promote without seeing yourself as an arrogant, schmoozing blowhard. And it requires you to think of working for free—at an internship, say, or on one of those gratis assignments that seem to be everywhere now—as an opportunity rather than an insult or a scam.
I’m guessing that’s a provocative statement for a lot of Bleacher Report writers, many of whom aren’t paid—and many of whom have taken advantage of B/R’s meritocracy and worked their way up to paid positions.
Kimball, who writes that she comes from a working-class background, has some interesting things to say about class. She writes about a low-level, low-paid job she had editing free magazines for a telemarketing company.
“I met people who worked at good papers and magazines, in Xanadus walled off by internships and contacts,” she writes. “I wondered which of them had interned and how much start-up capital interning had required; what their parents or spouses did; who might have helped them and for how long. In their writing, I thought I caught traces of an easy ascent: the nostalgia for a middle-class childhood, the self-assured tone.”
What do you think? Is the world of journalism that Kimball describes the one you’ve encountered? Read the piece and leave your thoughts in the comments here.