Parkinson: Being a journalist is not just about fame

Sir Michael Parkinson, the President of the SJA, has spoken out against celebrity-inspired journalism careers.

Speaking at the National Association of Press Agency awards in London, Sir Michael – a veteran of local newspapers in Yorkshire before joining the Manchester Guardian, Daily Express and Daily Telegraph – said: “I feel sorry in a sense for the younger generation – and I don’t mean that in a patronising sense at all. We all know how much this industry of ours has changed and changed for the worse in the sense that there are fewer opportunities.

“Young people today who go on media courses do everything we want them to do in the sense they are multi-skilled and multi-task, but yet you know that when they leave their place of learning in the majority of cases there will be no job for them to go to.

“I left school at 16 and went to a local newspaper, you knew in those days that if you went into an apprenticeship scheme and kept your nose clean and enjoyed it not only would you have a job but a job for life.

“I joined a newspaper because I thought it would be a glamorous job, glamorous in the sense that I thought I would be like Robert Mitchum with a trench coat and trilby and all that.

“Nowadays when I talk to students I get a sense that behind their ambition, is another ambition, that ambition is to walk down the stairs of a television talkshow and become famous, to be a celebrity.

“I try to tell them that being famous is not a profession. If it happens as a consequence of what you do that’s fine, but if you chase it as a dream and ambition as simply that it’s going to come apart in your hands.

“I was very lucky to become famous at 35. All that ever happened to me is three things: I had a race-horse named after me, a rose and a rhinocerous in Chester Zoo.”

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