Press Talk: Really, it’s the best job … ever!

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian editor

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Reporters. One of the worst jobs out there?

Come on, man!

That’s what I noted here last week after reviewing yet another “listing” survey ranking jobs. Heck, the list put maids, waitresses and taxi drivers ahead of us.

I don’t think there’s any question that reporters are some of the most highly educated, quick-on-their-feet, intuitive, well-spoken and bright people around.

That makes reporters a hot commodity. So as we continue to grind our way through this recession, we find that we are losing some good people — mostly to government and health care. Public relations positions in those fields, for some reason, offer lots of cash. ;-)

But the truth is, even in good times, reporters were not highly paid. Most of us get into this profession because we simply love it. And, frankly, we consider it a great job!

I was reminded of that when Jeff Bercovici, a Forbes reporter, wrote a story with this headline:

Forget That Survey. Here’s Why Journalism Is the Best Job Ever.

I thought I’d go through a couple of points he made and put my own twist on it:

You’re always learning:

A few weeks ago, I did a column on how much money the county government takes in. For the first time, we went over $500 million. Our reporters here uncover and learn about new stuff daily.

You get paid to read a ton.

I read The Columbian, The Oregonian, The Chicago Tribune, USA Today, a bunch of newspaper websites and occasionally a couple of local bloggers. If someone in another job did this at work, you pretty much could figure they didn’t have enough to do. Reporters here are -- in part -- paid to keep up on the news and read.

You get paid to meet interesting people.

I’ve had the opportunity to shake Ronald Reagan’s hand, roll the bones at Caesar’s Palace next to Rodney Dangerfield, talk to former New York Yankees manager Billy Martin, work with a Harvard grad who now writes for “The Simpsons” and verbally spar with one of the brightest guys I’ve ever met: New York Gov. Mario Cuomo. I was working through all of those encounters.

Our reporters can tell similar stories.

Journalists get around.

I’ve worked in the four corners of this country and once was on a work assignment that took me to every state over six months. But what getting around really means is getting up and away from your desk, and meeting different people all the time. Our reporters do this regularly.

Many jobs stick you behind a desk and leave you there for 30 years.

• • •

So, yes, we have our challenges. The pay ain’t great, and the number of reporters isn’t growing, and there’s always some stress when you’re encountering something new every day.

But it’s the best job out there.

Heck, even those who leave the newsroom for richer pastures -- I’m betting -- can’t shake the newsroom bug. If they had a chance to help someone write a story about them, this might be what they’d say:

“Make sure you get that I worked in a newsroom high up in that story!”

Really, there’s nothing quite like it. Hey, give a reporter a smile if you see one. They work hard for you every day.

Lou Brancaccio is The Columbian’s editor. Reach him at 360-735-4505 or lou.brancaccio@columbian.com. Twitter: http://twitter.com/lounews.