Ouch! Career in the media? Forget it, says Paxman

His fearsome scorn makes politicians quake, but now the 'Newsnight' presenter is lashing out at the trade that made him

Jeremy Paxman, the combative grand inquisitor who leaves politicians quaking, has turned his ire on the profession that has made him a wealthy household name.

In a broadside on the media, he has branded the industry "underpaid and oversubscribed", and advises that those tempted to join the trade should do something "worthwhile" with their lives. Otherwise, he warns, they may be washed up by the time they reach their 40s. It will be seen as a swipe at the TV industry's obsession with youthful looking presenters such as Natasha Kaplinsky.

Paxman's comments are being circulated to Oxford and Cambridge University undergraduates in a careers handbook, a slot that was filled last year by the more encouraging words of the Prime Minister, Tony Blair. The Newsnight presenter was unrepentant about his views yesterday. "What is the point of pursuing a career in the media?

"People would be much better pursuing a worthwhile or entrepreneurial or other form of activity," he told The Independent on Sunday.

"There is no shortage of people who would eat their own grandmother to get into the media, so what a career handbook is doing encouraging people when they haven't considered it previously, I just don't know."

Paxman is renowned for his no-nonsense style as he interviews guests on Newsnight, famously asking Michael Howard the same question 12 times.

He adopted that same clear-cut approach when asked by the Oxford and Cambridge Careers Handbook to contribute to its latest edition in a section on media jobs. The University Challenge host and Cambridge graduate fired off a stinging email response that read: "I have to say I can see absolutely no point at all in a handbook which 'gives any prominence to a career in the media'. The trade is, by and large, underpaid, oversubscribed, and has no longevity in it at all.

"Television is increasingly dominated by production companies set up by superannuated Marxists and kept afloat by young people willing to work for no pay. Some household-name newspapers are no better. For heaven's sake steer the students of Oxbridge away from the media; there are far too many people clamouring to get in.

"If they're successful, most will find themselves producing garbage for cynics who think the only way to advance is to pander to the lowest common denominator. Too late they will realise they have no career prospects beyond the age of 40 or so. Why don't you 'give prominence to' something useful? Like brain surgery, cancer care, or manufacturing something that someone might want to buy?"

Paxman told the IoS he did not wish to elaborate further as to the identities of the "superannuated Marxists".

However, he said he was trying to make a serious point. "A career in the media has become incredibly sought-after for, as far as I can see, no particularly good reason."

Others working in news did not share his cynicism about the media's purpose.

The ITV news presenter Andrea Catherwood said: "When you are trying to explain what is happening at the Albania-Kosovo border as refugees come flooding over with these incredible personal stories, it makes you feel as though the media has a crucial role.

"Of course, the media isn't brain surgery and we're not comparing it to that. There are clearly plenty of people that do jobs that are far more worthwhile - surgeons, doctors, teachers. If things go wrong in the newsroom, at the end of the day it is just the news. But I've been to all sorts of places - Afghanistan, Iraq - and it is a privilege to witness history being made and to impart what you are seeing in an impartial way to the audience at home."

Mark Calvert, editor of Five News, said: "I can think of no better way to earn a living whether it is in newspapers or TV news or radio than to spend each and every day thinking about and talking about the stuff that makes the world go round.

"Far from discouraging bright, young graduates to get involved, I'd actively encourage them. I'd rather have the pick of a thousand young eager graduates than just a handful of people.

"It's a bit rich that he said there were no career prospects beyond the age of 40 - here's a man in his 50s still at the top of his game. If you are good at what you do you can have a long and fulfilling career," he added.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Guru Careers: Senior Account Manager / SAM

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: A Senior Account Manager / SAM is needed to join the ...

Guru Careers: Management Accountant

£27 - 35k + Bonus + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Management Accountant is needed ...

Guru Careers: Recruitment Resourcer / Recruitment Account Manager

£20 - 25k + Bonus: Guru Careers: Are you a Recruitment Consultant looking to m...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'