jobless
A recent job advert for an online reporter at the Sunday Times attracted a reported 1,200 applications (possibly more); just one example of how competitive it has got out there.

A handful of paid blogging opportunities opened up by schemes such as Guardian Local are little comfort as journalists' jobs are drastically culled each month.

Many members of the profession are throwing their reporters' notebooks to the wind and entering jobs in other sectors - for security, more money and different kinds of daily battles.

And they're not just swapping journalism for the communications and PR sector or consultancy work: Robert Ridley, assistant editor at Manchester Evening News, is leaving to become a driving instructor; while many former journalists head to teaching or university jobs.

Numbers of journalism jobs losses are difficult to quantify, let alone what types of jobs people leave journalism for. That's why Journalism.co.uk is today launching a national questionnaire in collaboration with the Journalism Leaders Programme at the University of Central Lancashire to find out what happens to laid-off newspaper journalists. You can find more details at this link.

In the meantime, we've collected the stories of a few journalists who have left, or are thinking of leaving - while they still have the choice. Want to contribute your story? Comment below, participate in the survey if you're eligible, or drop us an email laura or judith [at] journalism.co.uk.

From a national to the bar

Oliver Marre was the deputy literary editor for the Observer until earlier this month. Although he will be carrying on some freelance writing, he has handed in his notice and headed to law school, an idea he has harboured for a while.

"I have had long-term legal ambitions; really I was side-tracked into journalism after fabulously exciting and fun work experience at the Telegraph split between diaries and leaders," he tells Journalism.co.uk.

"I loved my time at the Observer and the decision to revert to law isn't to do with the paper's woes, though those are, obviously, indicative of certain changes and depressed - and depressing - conditions in the industry.

"I am still writing for papers and magazines and of course would love to continue to do so if life as a barrister permits it - there are many previous examples."

From career to hobby
Ben LaMothe, a UK-based American journalist turned PR associate, says that for him, 'journalism went from being a career of choice to being a hobby of choice' about a year ago.

"It's still an odd feeling, because I think back to just a few months before that when I was finishing up my BSc in journalism and ending my last paid placement in journalism to start a MSc in ePublishing," he says.

Continuing the MSc alongside, LaMothe has taken up work at a corporate consultancy, with blogging as a recreational weekend past-time.

"Our clients are large corporations and organisations, who we advise and develop strategies for. It's a very fast-moving environment that relies on the entire team.

"From the outside looking in, I realised journalism is a solitary profession - you write your stories, you send it to edit, you phone sources and start it all over. I found that I enjoyed the strategy meetings and the business environment more than being a full-time reporter.

"Which isn't to say there aren't things I liked about being a reporter. There are. I have a lot of friends who are still in journalism and I want to encourage them to keep working at it. But it's tough out there. Very, very tough."

And it's not going to get any easier when the economy recovers, warns LaMothe: "The money you make likely won't be very good. But, then again, most journalists do it because they love it - the pay is secondary.

"The media industry hasn't hit bottom yet. More newspapers will die and the industry will have to reinvent the way it makes money and fundamentally functions as a business. A casualty of that will be the journalists. I've found the skills I learned as a journalist in my current role, whether I'm phoning journalists about a story, or writing blogs for clients."

Having a background in journalism helped LaMothe secure his current employment.

"It's all about being flexible, but PR is not journalism," he adds.

"It's a very different profession and there is a period of getting adjusted. For those interested in looking beyond news, it's important to know how to utilise your skill set in other areas. Journalism skills have applications outside of journalism, and the opportunities are there if you're willing to look for them."

Those who want out
Asking to remain anonymous, a regional newspaper reporter, shared his thoughts with Journalism.co.uk. The reporter is moving ever closer to quitting, because of the job itself and the wider industry problems, he says.

"Beyond my personal reasons, constantly hearing about job cuts both locally and nationally is damaging to morale," he says.

"One of the biggest, if not the biggest reasons, I'm unhappy in the job is the pay. Like countless other bottom-of-the-ladder reporters I earn less than £15,000 per annum.

"This is unlivable and makes me reluctant to go that extra mile - like evening and weekend assignments.

"I don't want to sound like I have an inflated sense of entitlement, but I have friends who did not pursue further education and who have little passion or interest in their careers yet earn double my salary.

"The current climate has provided few opportunities outside of London so I feel my only option is to leave journalism."

But not for a PR job, he adds: "I'd like to go into web design. I love web culture and have a good grasp on HTML. I'm going to start learning CSS and Javascript in my spare time and try to move into web design or development.

"I know from friends that skill in these industries is proportionately rewarded, unlike journalism."

In our anonymous correspondent's case, it's the job itself as well: "The reality of working on a local newspaper can be monotonous and, for someone like me, quite stressful, when it comes down to it.

"You can't learn how to deal with a death knock and you can't study how to grow a thicker skin. The academic side of things interests me, particularly the future of the industry and the development of online journalism, but I don't think I'm cut out for the actual job."

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