Wanted: handsome, charismatic writers with social skills

Jokey recruitment ads for journalists reveal just how casual the industry has become

Thu, Nov 21, 2013, 01:05

Esteemed trade publication Press Gazette has a way of highlighting available media positions that makes it sound like the writing of its list was preceded by an epic search for a rare, precious commodity. “Nine new journalism jobs found today,” is a typical example of its tweets, as if to say “we hunted far and wide, river deep, mountain high, looking for genuine paid jobs in this bizarre industry of ours and eventually we came up with a magic nine”.

Demand for jobs in journalism far exceeds the supply of such jobs, which must be why some of those employers who do manage to take on new people seem so keen to liberally lace their jobs announcements with exclamation marks. “We’re hiring! We’re actually hiring!”

To be fair to online publishers Maximum Media, which has just announced 25 new jobs, its call for journalistic resources eschews excitable punctuation, imitating its droll editorial style instead.

Her.ie, its “ website for Irish women”, is “holding out for a heroine”, which as synonyms for full-time journalists go is pretty accurate. Apart from the relevant experience, Her.ie is keen on someone who is “willing to participate when we decide it’s moustache day”, while at JOE.ie, where “it’s man stuff”, they would like someone with “that handsome thing” who will fit right in with its existing “handsome” team. Novelty facial hair requirements are not specified.

Oddly, Maximum Media shuns this decade’s recruitment advertisement vogue for the “p-word”, which, as fans of Lucy Kellaway’s management articles will know, is “passionate”. Over at rival Distilled Media, passion is still in fashion, and in a May jobs advertisement, its main site TheJournal.ie sought to hear from people “passionate about good journalism, current affairs, online news and social media”. But that sounds a lot like what an old-school print title might be after, so in honour of the internet’s beloved visual-punchline “listicle” format, it also asked applicants for at least three reasons, “with images”, explaining why they would like the job.

Three selfies taken outside the local dole office with a big thumbs down seems the obvious laughing-through-the-pain answer to the question, though possibly not one clever enough to make the grade.

Entertainment offshoot The DailyEdge.ie, meanwhile, advertised for people “passionate about the entertainment world” (passionate translating as “delightfully nerdy” in this instance), with the skill to cover “everything from a Twitter spat to Tom Cruise to the Toy Show”. On sister site TheScore.ie, there were more onerous requirements when it called for people who were not only “passionate about sports”, but had the talent to “make a cup of tea on top of that”.

Presumably, the intention of funny-ha-ha lines in job specs is simply to mirror the “offbeat” tone of the publications’ content. But it also reflects a nervous energy among new employers in a media sector where every start-up must be relentlessly upbeat about their long-term business model, lest advertisers get the wrong impression.

More honest ads would say: “Wanted: Suitably irreverent underemployed young folk to work in jolly digital media office. The ideal candidate will have low financial expectations, not that this narrows the field down much these days.”

The most telling use of language in Irish journalism recruitment this year has not been for a digital media venture, however, but for the Irish Sun, which has advertised for Casual Reporters (a not-so-casual two years’ experience in a national daily was required). There has, sadly, been no corresponding hunt for Formally Dressed Reporters, though at least the ad didn’t jokily ask anyone to make the tea.

Naturally, this frivolity about something that is actually quite serious is not a purely Irish phenomenon. Tech site Mashable’s current search for a features writer calls for people with a “positive, curious, proactive personality!” who are so ahead of the curve “they are in danger of lapping it”.

This is another strange aspect of modern journalistic recruitment-speak - the demand for extroverts. Al Jazeera, also in hiring mode, lists “charisma” as one of its performance measures for news correspondents. Glossing over the fact that charisma, like handsomeness, is in the eye of the beholder, this, at least, is a TV gig. The “superb interpersonal skills” now required for every desk-based journalist role, however, ignores the fact that many of the best writers – and indeed many of the most “clickable” ones – are hopeless introverts who can’t make eye contact with their own friends and family, never mind the guy sitting opposite them keeping tabs on the Mayor of Toronto.

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