Oscar Wilde said the only thing to do with advice was to pass it on. “It is never of any use to oneself.”
Felix Salmon begs to differ. He recently wrote a piece offering advice to young journalists, including such cheery statements as “Things are not only bad; they’re going to get worse,” and “I’m sure that many people have told you this already, but take it from me as well: journalism is a dumb career move. If there’s something else you also love, something else you’re good at, something else which makes the world a better place — then maybe you should think about doing that instead” and “You want to be a journalist, and you want my advice! Beyond, that is, a simple “don’t do it”.” (Hooray, all around.)
Here is some better advice.
Advice For Young Journalists
First, you will sail to the island.
They will offer you a choice of three caskets.
Ignore the gold and silver caskets.
Open the casket made of lead.
After leaving the island, winds will seize your ship.
Do not listen to your comrades. Do not release the winds from the bag.
Wait for the winds to change.
(If your comrade falls from the roof, be sure to inter his body with due rites.)
Soon you will reach an island full of strange beasts.
Do not accept the drink that the sorceress offers.
Do not accept any drinks whatsoever of any kind.
Do not eat of the food that she offers. Especially do not eat of the meat of the pigs.
Strike the sorceress with the flower that is provided and she will release your men from their pig-shape.
You will next leave the shore and venture into the underworld.
You must sacrifice a ram and pour its blood for the ghosts to drink.
Hold your sword above the blood to keep the ghosts away.
The seer will come in due course.
The seer will prognosticate the future of new media.
The seer may be wrong.
Kill your darlings.
Not metaphorically, literally.
Exchange places with an old (in journalism, 40) year-old man.
Leave his body at a cross-roads. Put coins on his tongue to compensate him for his content.
You will encounter death along the road.
Give death to drink from the beer keg you are carrying.
You will thereby gain power over death.
Do not attempt to cheat him. You can only cheat him once.
When you leave the island you must disembark quickly, before nightfall.
Do not take shelter in the cave.
The cave is the dominion of a one-eyed giant.
The one-eyed giant’s father is the sea-lord and his wrath will follow you.
If you encounter the cyclops do not tell him your true name so that he cannot curse you properly.
Do not enter into a weaving contest with a goddess.
Do not enter with gods into a contest of any kind.
Especially do not enter into a contest that requires a fee for entry no matter how prestigious the contest says it is.
When you are given the dragon’s teeth, sow them quickly.
Rub the ointment on your skin to protect you from the dragon’s fire.
It is always good advice to wear sunscreen.
Afterwards, do not abandon the sorceress on the island.
Trust me on that one.
Take the ball of yarn with you into the labyrinth.
Only with its aid will you find where your desk is located.
(If, in this turmoil, you have a desk at all.)
You will come upon a man frozen in a block of ice.
Pay for his burial and he shall become your traveling-companion.
He shall tame for you a good horse.
He shall rescue your true bride from the enchantment of a troll.
Give this companion whatever help he asks and no harm shall come to you.
When the troll maiden offers you a drink, throw it behind you.
The drink is a sleeping-draught.
Do this if you hope to rescue your beloved from the troll.
Never leave a companion in the hands of trolls.
When you have made landfall take your content management system and carry it with you.
Travel inland until you no longer recognize the surroundings.
Travel until strangers inquire what is this thing you carry.
Raise a family.
Forget the sea.
Forget the content management system.
Weave your own shroud every night.
Unpick it before dawn.
When you venture into the land of the dead do not seek to embrace the shades.
Do not try to bring them with you.
If they permit you to leave with one, depart quickly, and do not look behind you to see if you are followed.
No number of followers will ever be enough.
All will be lost if you look behind you.
If you seek a kingdom, do not forget your quest.
Do not do as your brothers have done.
Do not go into the tavern or you will forget your quest.
Do not show rudeness to the witch at the bottom of the well or toads will drop from your mouth instead of viable, taut, smart content.
Do not show rudeness to the witch or you will spit forth only hot takes for all eternity.
Do not open the box.
If you open the box shut it quickly.
If you open the box be sure to let hope escape.
Hope, for a young journalist, is the most dangerous thing in the box.