Earlier today it was announced that George Osborne, former Chancellor of the Exchequer and Conservative MP for Tatton, has been made Editor-in-Chief of the London Evening Standard. As a soon-to-be trainee journalist, it’s great to see that journalism continues to be as elitist as ever, and that at the end of the day money and position are worth more than skill and experience.
Any wannabe hack who has spent time applying for jobs will be aware that almost all require a ‘minimum of two years experience’ with many also looking for an NCTJ diploma, or masters degree in journalism. I have been offered a trainee position with a local newspaper yet these jobs are rarer than hen’s teeth so I accept that I am one of the lucky few, and am the exception rather than the rule.
Many young and talented journalists have to fund themselves through the NCTJ diploma, which can put you in debt to the tune of approximately £5,000. If you want to do a masters degree you’re looking at around £10,000 course fees and then the added cost of living in London. This is the cost of a trainee position – so I can hardly imagine the experience and qualifications required to become Editor of one of the most popular London dailies.
In 1993, the young George Osborne intended to pursue a career in journalism. He was shortlisted for but failed to gain a place on The Times trainee scheme. He then applied to The Economist, where he was interviewed and rejected by Gideon Rachman. Not one to give up, in the end he had to settle for freelance work on the Peterborough diary column of The Daily Telegraph. Some time later an Oxford friend of his, journalist George Bridges, alerted Osborne to a research vacancy at Conservative Central Office and thus began his political career.
In 2001 he became the youngest Conservative MP in the House of Commons, and in 2005 he ran David Cameron’s successful leadership campaign. As Chancellor he pursued austerity policies aimed at reducing the national debt, and was partly responsible for the UK’s loss of its AAA credit rating in 2013.
So let’s do a little comparison: I have spent three years working as a student journalist, I have written for two local papers, one American newspaper, two student newspapers, one national and I have a acquired a trainee position. George Osborne spent three months working as a freelance journalist, pursued a career in politics, got sacked by Theresa May following his unsuccessful attempts to revive the economy and is Editor of the Evening Standard. Now, I am not saying I am qualified to run the Evening Standard, but when trainees have more experience than George Osborne does, perhaps it is time to admit he might not be the right man for the job.
Whilst he has had a far-reaching political career, the skills required to run a newspaper on a daily basis are entirely different. Whist I am merely a student editor, I feel I that have a far greater grasp of the responsibilities involved than Osborne does and this in itself is worrying. Furthermore, the industry needs to stop reminding young aspiring journalists that no matter what their experience they can easily be ousted by a male MP with no prior experience.
Do we really want the editor of one of the best London daily newspapers to be someone who doesn’t know shorthand and whose grasp of media law is less than the average trainee?