ROME – Every now and then, I find myself talking to young people considering a career in journalism. Most often it’s a young person who comes up after my one of my talks, says he or she is interested in covering the Church and wants some advice about what to do.
Usually, I start by half-seriously recommending they run screaming into the night rather than trying to break into this racket.
Truth of it is, there’s a truckload of reasons why journalism doesn’t appeal as a career path: The hours are insane, the pay is lousy, the pressure is intense, nobody remembers what you did yesterday so it’s all about what you can bring today, and the industry is in constant transition so job stability is a relic of the past. Moreover, we live in a hyper-polarized time in which no matter what you say or write – and I mean, no matter what – somebody’s going to be upset.
Frankly, I’m amazed sometimes there isn’t a riff out there on the old Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson tune: “Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be reporters!”
In the end, I can only think of three motives for anyone to consider this line of work.
First, being a journalist is like carrying a license for curiosity. You can walk up to the most interesting people you can find, tell them you’re a reporter and start asking all sorts of questions that would seem wildly inappropriate in any other context. If you’re the personality type who just has to know the answer when a question grabs you, there’s really no better way to scratch that itch.
Second, journalism is perhaps the last remaining meritocracy. No one cares where you went to school, what degrees you hold, who your friends are or what social circles you move in. In any hiring process I’ve ever been involved in, the only thing that’s ever mattered is what we used to call “clips,” meaning samples of the person’s work – no one ever looks at grades, letters of recommendation, honors and awards, etc., because in a high-pressure newsroom, we all know that stuff just doesn’t mean anything.
In this job, you rise or fall on your ability to deliver – period.
Third, and most importantly, journalism is really the only profession left where you get paid to tell the truth.
Granted, not every media operation rolls that way, but at its best journalists don’t represent any faction, lobby, or corporate or political agenda. As Justice Hugo Black famously put it in the 1971 Pentagon Papers decision, commenting on the intention behind the First Amendment, “The press was to serve the governed, not the governors.”
A journalist’s role is to get the story right without worrying about whose interests it serves – which, these days especially, is a terribly liberating job description.
If you’re a young person pondering your options and this all sounds like it might be your cup of tea, we’ve got an offer for you.
Crux is currently looking for a couple of interns, meaning young people interested in testing the waters of journalism by working for borderline-obsessive personality types for a few months under ridiculous pressure for no more than a modest, albeit competitive, stipend. We can’t promise fame or fortune, simply a front-row seat to what’s still the greatest show on earth: The worldwide Catholic Church, in all its spectacular glory and its gut-wrenching failures.
We’re looking for two interns based in the United States – ideally one on the East Coast and another in the Western part of the country, but location is negotiable. One should have proficiency both in English and Spanish, the other should know Spanish or at least one other language. The plan is to have the interns chosen by the end of the summer, so they can hit the ground running in September.
The interns will be supervised by Inés San Martín, our Rome bureau chief, and Christopher White, our national correspondent. The positions are being created thanks to the generosity of the Bishop McFarland Trust in Orange County, California, and the support of Bishop Kevin Vann of the Diocese of Orange — an old friend of Crux, and a real believer in opening up opportunities for youth.
To be brutally honest, some of it will be grunt work: Compiling lists, taking notes, doing some basic translation, and so on. However, we also want these interns to be able to get into the field, cover stories, do interviews, and write articles to be published on Crux, so it’s a chance to develop some real-world experience.
If you’re a college student or young professional just starting out and this prospect seems completely nuts, I couldn’t blame you. However, if the thought of it elevates your heart rate just a little bit, if the idea of running around in a frenzied search for news brings the edges of a smile, you should consider applying. It may turn out you’re one of us, and this’ll be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Information on Crux internship opportunities can be found here.