Saturday, May 4, 2013

Worst Job in America

According to the employment website CareerCast, I have the worst job in America. Newspapers are dying, and we’re Slim Pickens at the end of Dr. Strangelove riding the warhead into oblivion. YEEEE-HAAAA!

CareerCast published an article entitled “The Worst Jobs of 2013” and ranked newspaper reporter as number one on the list of shitty careers.

Newspaper reporter.

Worst job in America.

That means every other job in America is better than newspaper reporter.

The second worst job? Lumberjack.

That’s right. A lumberjack has a healthier outlook on his career than I do. Losing your arm in a chainsaw accident is apparently less stressful than filing a 500-word story on the municipal budget.

Other careers faring better include enlisted military personnel, actors, oil rig workers and dairy farmers.

All of these careers made the list of worst jobs and all of them have a better outlook than the lowly newspaper reporter.

Here’s why CareerCast chose newspaper reporter as the worst profession: “A job that has lost its luster dramatically over the past five years is expected to plummet even further by 2020. Paul Gillin says, ‘the print model is not sustainable. It will probably be gone within the next 10 years.’”

Paul Gillin is a social media marketer and founder of, a virtual atomic doomsday clock for the newspaper industry. Every time a newspaper dies, its obituary is presented, lamenting the last editions of daily papers and heralding the age of digital journalism.

According to the CareerCast article, things aren’t peachy with the Fourth Estate. Besides mentioning the low-pay and high stress, the article interviews the obligatory ex-journalist who left their job because newspapers are cutting resources instead of expanding.

“Ever-shrinking newsrooms, dwindling budgets and competition from Internet businesses have created very difficult conditions for newspaper reporters, which has been ranked as this year’s worst job, according to the Jobs Rated report,” according to the article.

There is a silver lining to this. Journalism itself is still around; it’s the newspapers themselves – printed media – that’s quickly destined for a dirt nap.

“Of course, newspaper reporters have fared poorly in the Jobs Rated report for years due to the job’s high stress and tight deadlines, low pay and requirement to work in all conditions to get the story. But journalism is not a dying art, nor is reporting a profession without prospects,” according to the article.

The public’s perception of journalists remain negative. Once the shining knights of truth and imparting information, the destroyers of political conspiracies and a dispensary of facts, reporters now are labeled as stupid, lazy and leftist. Their social capital dried up long ago and they’re reduced to begging the streets for scraps and tidbits.

The American press has become the gutter press, obsessed with scandals, celebrities or the mundane and ridiculous.

Any reporter who thinks they’re summoned to a noble calling apparently is a time traveler from the 1920s to roughly 1975. Modern journalism is rickety shack built on a precipice, teetering on the brink of destruction. Objectivity, once held as the standard all reporters must strive toward is obfuscated by partisan opinion and asshattery.

If you’re gullible enough to think the readers are the only thing that makes this job a rewarding one, I’ve got a thousand acres of prime Florida real estate to sell you, along with the Brooklyn Bridge, Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster.

Readers are skeptical of the media, lumping newspaper reporters in with the coiffed, blow-dried mannequins who prattle on cable news.

Readers hate us, and aren’t weeping at the demise of the newspaper industry.

Reporters, through millions of years of evolution, have developed a lethal defense mechanism when confronted with irate readers. During particularly nettlesome times of stress, reporters internalize their aggression, until the rage and hostility congeals into a frothy syrup which oozes from their pores. The venom builds up under terrific pressure and is jettisoned from a lima bean-shaped gland in their forehead and into the eyes of readers quibbling about “objectivism in the press” and harping on niggling inconsistencies and such persnickety twaddle.

Listen, I’m a bedrock realist. I’d like to know the actual snapshot of a situation before reacting. Everything I’ve read and the people I’ve talked to suggest reporters as a whole aren’t going to receive a tickertape parade anytime soon.

Once in a while you hear from a grateful reader who thanks you for looking into an issue and writing about it. On extremely rare occasions, they’ll call or write to say they’ve appreciated your words.

Most of the time, they remain silent, muted by indifference or disgust.

Noted journalist H.L. Mencken wrote “A newspaper is a device for making the ignorant more ignorant and the crazy crazier.”

Writing is not dead. It’s a fat caterpillar stirring in its cocoon, waiting to emerge from the brittle husk and transform into a kick-ass butterfly, taking to the Internet and leaving behind the world of dead trees.

Is sticking with print like rearranging deck furniture on the Titanic? For those of us in the newspaper industry, we’re the last gasp of a dying empire, the few who remain recall ink-stained fingers, rolls of newsprint, waxing pages and paginating by hand. We remember typewriters, clunky word processing software and the significance of ending stories with “30”. We’re the fogeys who worked early mornings and late evenings, who researched in libraries instead of Google, who treasured our first bylines like they were holy relics, who devoted time to crafting and perfecting stories. We investigated, irritated and annoyed, but we had an innate talent for writing. We waded through documents, made politicians quake in their boots and wore our press passes like badges of honor.

Fuck the haters, we thought.

We were the Press. The Fourth Estate. Imparters of truth, shining a blinding beacon in the dark places of society.

Now we huddle in our newsrooms, fearing overaggressive cuts, dreading the day we’ll be turned loose. 

Our mistakes are mocked and ridiculed on public Internet forums and comments posted online. Despite how idiotic these comments are, made by partisan hacks whose idea of journalism is the Limbaugh Letter, they’re still disheartening to read.

I devoted nearly 20 years of my life to journalism. That’s two decades of attending council meetings, political rallies, and numerous events. Hundreds of interviews. Hundreds of stories and columns spread over four different newspapers. If I were truly terrible, a clueless relic with a “room temperature IQ” as one douchemonkey put it, would I have lasted this long? If I am incompetent in my archaic career, would the New Jersey Press Association have awarded me eight awards for my reporting?

Some days it’s disheartening. Some days you want to quit. Throw your hands to the heavens, rain down lightening and smite the haters.

Many reporters have quit.

In March, former reporter Allyson Bird wrote a great blog post, “Why I Left News”. The post received nearly 550 comments, mostly from ex-journalists relating their tales of woe and frustration. Bird described the burnout and fatigue of the newsroom, and the inevitability of working in a dying industry.

If you have the time, read the entire post. It's excellent:

Bird wrote, “I don’t know a single person who works in daily news today who doesn’t have her eyes trained on the exit signs. I’m not sure what that says about the industry, but I certainly don’t miss the insecurity.”

Amen, sister. Amen. 

No comments: