A research study into the careers of 60 trainee journalists who began working for a regional press division has found that just 43pc are still working in newspapers a few years on.
The study by Alan Geere, left, former editorial director of Northcliffe South-East, found that many trainees had left the newspaper industry because of low pay and disillusionment, although only four had left journalism or PR completely.
He carried researched the destinations of 60 trainee journalists recruited by Northcliffe South-East between 2008 and 2011, finding that 13 remained with a newspaper published by the division, which is now owned by Local World, while another 13 were still working in newspapers but with other employers.
Alan’s research into his former trainees, which includes recommendations on training, has been published in the new edition of What Do We Mean By Local?, which is being serialised by HoldtheFrontPage.
He found that, as of June this year, 14 of the trainees were working in another area of journalism, including trade publications, news agencies and online publishers, while ten were in PR or marketing and six of the group had gone freelance or were running their own business.
The remaining four trainees were no longer involved in journalism – taking up careers as a a teacher, an author, a shop assistant and a stand-up comedian.
And Alan criticised trainees for using the excuse of low pay as a reason for leaving the local press, saying that the salary expectations were always clearly explained at interview.
He wrote: “So, what happens between accepting a job with salary expectations clearly explained and leaving just a few years later with poor money cited as a reason?
“The salaries are realistic for the creative industries and promotion to senior reporter, chief reporter, news editor and editor brings incremental rewards with the editor of even a small weekly paper earning more than £30k.
“Money is, I feel, is often used as an excuse to get out. Journalists who leave either during their training or shortly after qualifying can feel an embarrassment that they have abused their employer by accepting the training (at a cost of an average of £1,000 per head) and then jumping ship.
“Complaining that they are not compensated well enough is a convenient excuse when they are really finding the going too tough or they realise they are not good enough.”
Responses from the trainees when asked about the worst thing about being a newspaper reporter included long hours and the relentless nature of the job.
One trainee complained about “Working long hours for little reward”, while another highlighted “The never-ending cuts, which made it harder and harder to put in the time required to create the very best stories”.
Respondents also had mixed views on whether they would recommend newspaper journalism as a career, with one saying “it is an incredibly frustrating and bleak time for newspapers”.
There were also positive aspects of the job given by those who remained in newspaper journalism, such as the variety of the work and the privilege of speaking to people and covering stories.
One trainee said: “I love meeting lots of interesting, funny, strange, scary people and being able to share their stories.”
In his recommendations, Alan said he believes the system of training new journalists “often falls down at the newspaper office” and said there was no oversight of the quantity or quality of support provided by senior staff.
He suggested that an online training schedule should be devised to be completed at set intervals and work experience should set out in a formal contract, with a minimum period compulsory before a job offer is made.
Alan also said there needed to be a unified campaign backed by proprietors, industry bodies and training organisations to “sell” journalism as a “rewarding and viable career to the genuine brightest and best”.
He added: “The journalism industry needs to wake up and stop fooling itself that the brightest and best young people are queuing up to enter journalism. They are not.
“The lack of a defined career path, uncertainty over the future and direction of journalism and better offers from other creative industries mean journalism is not the first choice of career.”
Alan’s report can be read here.