Press Talk: Of Watergate, awards & stress

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian editor

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Discovery TV is running a documentary, "All the President's Men," which — as most of us know — is that Watergate thing.

I watched, of course, because I grew up during that entire President Nixon mess.

But one aspect the documentary didn't touch on is what Watergate did for so many college students who were looking for a career path:

It led them to reporting.

The allure of doing good, uncovering evil and holding the government accountable was a magnet for the brightest and the best.

That allure still holds true today — just look around The Columbian's newsroom, for example.

I'd argue we have more educated, talented, dedicated staffers than just about anyplace else. And just this week we learned that 21 journalists here scored in the latest awards contest held by the Society of Professional Journalists.

We'll learn more details when the awards are officially announced, but — like last year — we're likely to have won more awards than any newspaper in our five-state region in our circulation category. Wow!

But there is a force now that is creating a monumental drag:

The payoff for the hard work.

Career Cast does an annual "Best and Worst Jobs" report, and this year, newspaper reporter was listed as No. 1!

Well, the No. 1 worst job.

CareerCast.com, a career website, ranked 200 jobs from best to worst based on five criteria: physical demands, work environment, income, stress and hiring outlook.

One of the reasons for the bad vibes in reporting jobs is because newspaper advertising revenue has collapsed. In 2006, newspapers were bringing in almost $50 billion a year. Five short years later, it was only $24 billion.

The Internet has created an upheaval in the information business, and even though we're the number one local website, advertising has not followed our readers there.

This has been heart-wrenching to watch because — frankly — reporters and all journalists deserve much, much more. We are extremely fortunate that so many talented folks have remained with us.

But back to the survey. Last year, lumberjacks held the position as the worst job. Now, I don't know jack about that occupation, but if that job is tough, I guess our job is tougher.

Being the worst makes it pretty easy to point out better jobs. Like all of them. Still, when I see a few, I wonder — really? And that's no disrespect to other occupations. We all bring value in some way to society.

So here are a few other rankings:

• 83, hair stylist.

• 86, receptionist.

• 101, teacher's aide.

• 146, taxi driver.

• 157, bus driver.

• 160, garbage collector.

• 181, maid.

Reporters used to be able to compare themselves to teachers in job rankings. Not today. Elementary school teachers are ranked No. 93. Summers off and all those other perks have left us in the dust.

By the way, the No. 1 best job? Actuary. These are the dudes who take statistics and apply a whole bunch of math to assess risk.

Let's hope they don't work their magic on reporting jobs. We've got enough stress. Regardless, I still think it's way more exciting than a haircut.

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