Survive Your Newsroom

Survive Your Newsroom: The Cub Reporter

Quaint, ain’t it?

Cub Reporter. Sounds fluffy. A doe-eyed little ball of cute fur waiting to roll over and have its tummy tickled.

But don’t be fooled.

This ancient old newspaper term for a trainee reporter actually masks a lethal combination of simmering ambition and soon-to-be boiling point resentment.

Time was it was the inky-fingered copy boy – and it was invariably a boy, in a time before women ran newsrooms – who stepped up to the plate armed with a double-pointed pencil (works in the rain, quick switch if lead breaks) and spiral notebook who would attempt the newsroom’s greasy pole.

Now, however, universities addicted to fee income are spewing out hordes of glassy-eyed digitally-native, multimedia bloggers who have convinced them – despite all evidence to the contrary given pay and working conditions – that journalism is the profession for them.

And, worse still, convinced them that they are destined for greatness.


This is the best press release I've ever rewritten.

This is the best press release I’ve ever rewritten.

So it’s more than a shock when the four-year-trained, top percentile knowledge-economy product actually lands their first job at a news outlet.

Bank Holiday getaways, weather stories (sometimes it’s hot, sometimes it rains), press releases, Twitter rewrites, advertorial or native content, more press releases, the nutter on the phone, the nutter in reception and the shittest shifts known to humankind are not really the Lobby job nor the dashing foreign corr posting they were led to believe was theirs simply by spelling their own name correctly.

If they’re lucky, they get to do a celebrity ringaround which at least allows them to tell mum and dad they ‘know’ someone famous. Telling them you know the local planning officer doesn’t really have the same cachet, despite being considerably more useful if they ever get on the housing ladder.

There are two kinds of Cub Reporter: those who survive and those who go into PR.

Surviving is easy. And by easy, we mean hard. Think of it like grief, accepting the loss of your dream. Kind of like losing your first pet. It stings – and then you realise you can get a brand new one.

Fret not, if you want to avoid the highly-paid world of PR, then read on.

Stage One: Denial You’ve arrived! The Weekly Soon To Be Online Washed Up Advertiser & Bugle has made an important hire – you! You’ve finally got a good reason to have a smartphone and even bought a digital voice recorder – and earpiece! Because soon you will be undercover breaking shattering stories.

Stage Two: Anger Rage Quit! Almost. Your 142nd press release rewrite in and still your genius has not been accepted. You have a degree, fer christsake. And why does the Chief Sub keep shouting at you. Every1 U No writes like Dis?!

Stage Three: Bargaining For some reason (your love of current affairs, your desire to change the world, your landlord’s rent collector and his nailed stick) you want to go on. You want more. And why not? You start to have…er..ideas! Worse, you think they’re good. Even worse, and encouraged by subs who should know better and enjoy prodding you while you’re drunk, you’ve decided to tell the Editor. You argue your own brilliance with a person who is wondering why the new temp has come into their office making noises from their mouth hole.

So I had this idea for a column

So I had this idea for a column

Stage Four: Depression The earpiece you bought is still in its plastic wrapping and you now know every local councillor by their first name. You’ve started wearing comfortable shoes instead of smart ones and your week is divided into ready meals to look forward to. Press release 987 awaits your tender care.

Stage Five: Acceptance That stale smell? It’s you. That novel you were writing? Er… not ask. But what’s this? It’s August, it’s 6.14am, you have a missed call from the News Editor. Twitter pics posted in the last few minutes show smoking metal where a minibus of kids used to be on their way to the zoo. Your smartphone rings again….and this time you DO take the call….


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