Top 10 things to know about journalism

Journalists have been at the heart of many controversies and debates for years, and all the more so at the time of the yellow vests movement. Those who are regularly called “merdias” or “journalopes” drag behind them the pans of received ideas. Yes, I’m playing devil’s advocate, and I suggest you put a few things in context and give a brief overview of the profession.

1. No, the press card does not give access to everything for free

With their press card, journalists can enter the vast majority of museums free of charge. On the other hand, to gain free access to cinemas, you need a special document: the green card, served by the National Federation of the French Press. In the same way, you must have the red card to access the theater for free, and a blue one, in the world of music. In short: NO, the press card is not a sesame to live your best cultural life without spending a penny.

2. It also does not allow discounts on anything and everything

We are not saying that it has never been true, we are simply saying that today it is not (or no longer) the case. So try to ask for a discount in a clothing store under presentation of your press card. At best, you’ll walk away with an embarrassed smile. On the other hand, it can happen, in certain fields such as fashion, that journalists take advantage of reduced prices during “press sales”.

Top 10 things to know about journalism

3. Besides, the press card is not mandatory

Yes, the press card is classy. It always has its little effect. However, one can be a journalist without holding it. In fact, its criteria for obtaining it are quite strict and narrow, and several “journalists” are refused the document. Some do not feel legitimate to ask for it, do not receive enough money, others are bloggers who do not work for the media,… The list of those who are journalists without (being able to) be listed is long. In France, in all cases, the practice of journalism is free and not reserved for holders of press cards.

4. Professional journalists benefit from a tax allowance

A real advantage, for once! The tax allowance concerns journalists subject to the collective agreement for the profession. The tax deduction can amount to €7,650, in particular to cover various expenses related to the exercise of the profession (telephone communication, meals, travel, etc.). To benefit from it, they must be able to justify that the majority of their income comes from journalism, whether they hold the press card or not. Those who earn more than €93,510 gross per year are not eligible for this scheme.

5. No, journalists don’t all roll in gold

Not all. It’s like a lot of professions, actually. There are rich, very rich, less rich, and quite a few not rich at all. There are pay scales negotiated by the unions, but in practice they are not applied in all media. From one sector and one status to another, net monthly salaries can range from €1,567 to €4,190 (and even more for certain well-known journalists).

Top 10 things to know about journalism

6. …Journalism is even a precarious medium

Far from our childhood dreams, not all journalists who wish to do so end up being great reporters or news presenters. No. On the contrary, places are expensive, and many are those who, until late in life, chain small contracts, fixed-term contracts, freelance positions, or extended hours. The average age on fixed-term contracts is 30, 40 for freelancers and 46 for permanent contracts. In Paris, a quarter of the journalists listed are freelance or on fixed-term contracts.

7. More than half of journalists in France are in Île-de-France

If you are in journalism school (or if you have been there) you have surely heard that you have to go through Paris to start. It’s not totally true, it’s not totally false. It all depends on the sector that attracts you. To work in the regional press, the capital space is not necessary. For the major national media, generally having their headquarters in Paris or in the suburbs, it is almost inevitable. For this reason, more than 55% of French journalists are in Île-de-France.

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8. The majority of the media are owned by private shareholders or the state

That’s a fact. The major media are often owned by billionaires or large industrial groups. Investing in the media is often done to gain influence. On the other hand, do not see evil everywhere: this does not mean that the owners control all the content published. It exists, but it is far from being the case for all newsrooms. Many maintain their editorial independence. Take the example of Le Monde: when one of its shareholders, Pierre Bergé, publicly supported Emmanuel Macron in 2017, the newspaper broke away. (Source.) Conversely, Vincent Bolloré, he assumed to keep the editorial control of his titles. (Source)

9. Journalists can submit their stories

We often hear it said that journalists only write the subjects that are imposed on them. Again, that’s not quite how things work. Journalists who work for a media are, in fact, subject to a more or less strict editorial line, which they accept by signing their contract. Inevitably, the articles they will deal with will have to be faithful to it. On the other hand, a journalist can propose his subjects. Certainly, they must be validated by the hierarchy to be produced and published, but it can be a source of proposals. This is one of the reasons why editorial conferences are held. Over time, team renewals or eras, editorial lines may change. If a journalist is no longer there, he can resign while receiving severance pay: this is the conscience clause, slipped into the employment contract of journalists.

10. A journalist can never be objective

You really need to stop this stuff. Objectivity does not exist in journalism. From the very moment when we adhere to an editorial line, when we choose one angle rather than another: we bring a part of subjectivity into play. Life is subjective. The editorial choices, the turns of phrase, the witnesses interviewed,… It’s all just subjectivity. Objective journalism is just an old fantasy. We can be factual without being 100% objective.

On this subject, I invite you to take a look at this interview with Salomé Saqué who expresses herself very well on this subject:

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