It pains me to think that tens of thousands of young men and women pay tens of thousands of pounds to study journalism. Only one or two of them will ever work in media. Most journalists study PPE at Oxford.
In truth, if you want to get ahead in journalism there is one thing you can do that doesn’t cost even a penny: follow the career of Telegraph columnist Dan Hodges.
Dan Hodges is known for his bold and confident predictions. Way back in 2012 he declared that if UKIP earned more than 6% of the vote in the next election he would “streak naked down Whitehall“. They won 13%. Hodges kept his trousers on.
Months afterwards came the Labour leadership elections and Hodges assured the world that Jeremy Corbyn would lose. How could he know, he was asked. “It’s already been decided“. There must have been static on his hotline to fate. Corbyn won with almost 60% of the vote.
Undaunted, Hodges began 2016 asking, “Can we all stop pretending Britain might leave the EU?” “Britain is simply drifting,” he informed us, “As she always drifts, with and towards the status quo.” Leave won. People began to wonder if some kind of cosmic joke was being played on the man.
You might think embarrassment would drum humility into Hodges. Not a bit of it. Back in 2015 he said, “We now know the identity of the next Republican nominee to be President of the United States. It will be Jeb Bush.” Perhaps a nagging, teasing doubt crept into the man’s mind as he considered his next sentence. Should this claim be qualified? Even a little? Absolutely not. “It can only be Jeb Bush.” What about Donald Trump? “He will fade and vanish.” Bush earned less than 1% of the popular vote. Trump triumphed with almost half.
Hodges bored on. After predicting that Owen Smith would become Labour leader (Corbyn won with more than 60% of the vote) he returned to the theme of Trump by asking liberals to “calm down”. “Trump is a poor man’s Barry Goldwater,” he declared, “Hillary Clinton is going to obliterate him.” His confidence grew. By October he was acting as if Trump had already lost. He was “was never going to win”, he said. “The danger is the next Trump.” In a moment that came perilously, frighteningly close to self-awareness he said of Clinton, “Even I can’t lose this for her”. She lost. Trump won.
So, there you have it, boys and girls. You don’t need to rack up huge debts studying journalism. Just follow the master. Be wrong again, again, again, again and again. But never let it shake your unwavering self-belief.