Law and journalism are often two careers that are rarely intertwined. Yet Joshua Rozenberg is the perfect example of utilising an education in the law within a different field. Currently a freelance journalist, he has worked for the BBC, Sky News, the Guardian and Telegraph, both writing and reporting on legal news.
He is a rare example of how an education and background in the law has acted as an advantage in the field of journalism. Rozenberg studied law at Oxford and worked at a suburban law firm, when an opportunity at the BBC opened up to train as journalist.
His position as a legal writer, and often correspondent, requires specific legal knowledge. This knowledge is advantageous when trying to convey to the general public how the legal system works, and to explain the unique terminology that is demanded by the law, for example, titles of judges and terminology of legislation. He told me that studying law is not necessary as a prerequisite to be a journalist. There are many successful legal correspondents and journalists who did not study law, but he stated that it has helped him to a certain extent.
I had the privilege to hear Rozenberg lecture, and to speak to him about the topic of law and journalism. Not only does he have a great sense of humour, but more importantly he has the ability, which has been expertly honed over many years, to convey and present information that brings you to the conclusion of an argument without ever having to state his opinion outright. Instead he leads the listener or reader, by arming them with information so they can form a reasoned opinion, even if that opinion does not necessarily match his own. This skill could be said to equally come from both his legal background, both in study and some time in practice, but has also developed over years as a journalist.
It may be true to say that is non-essential to have a law degree to be a journalist or to comment on legal news and events. On the other hand, one of the greatest skills is taking something that is innately complex such as the system of law and filtering it down to the most essential parts to be able to communicate it to the wider community. To me, journalism done correctly does not dictate opinion but informs, educates and is challenging.
Speaking to a man with over 15 years of experience in journalism in print, radio, television and more recently online journalism, it is only natural that his evaluations as to the health and climate of the journalism industry speak some truth.
Rozenberg noted that people are not willing to pay for journalism anymore, yet highlighted the difficulties online publications face in staying alive. One aspect of this is advertising, which is where most of the revenue is generated in order to keep the sites alive – unless you pay for subscription for access to publications such as The Times. Yet, good journalism such as Rozenberg’s is needed and it should continue.
Finally, Rozenberg stated that he was in the right place at the right time and that he also took a chance at a complete change of career. What is true is that his illustrious career began with taking a chance, but it is also true that he has been successful because of the skills and knowledge gained from the law. Many who graduate with a law degree will not follow the path into journalism, but it is one to consider if you are interested, or if the opportunity presents itself. If you are currently studying, or are considering studying law as your degree, you will acquire skills that have merit in whatever career you pursue.
Joshua Rozenberg currently presents Law in Action on Radio 4 and writes for The Guardian Law and The Law Society Gazette.