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News / Clark County News

Press Talk: The worst job in America is …

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian Editor
Published: April 23, 2016, 6:10am

Just like you, when I was a kid, adults would ask me what I wanted to do when I grew up.

I wanted to be a baseball player, but I could never hit the curve ball, so that was that.

In my spare time, I regularly wrote short stories. It wasn’t because I was interested in having others read them. I just enjoyed writing them. So when I seriously began looking at a college degree, I sought out journalism.

One of the most exciting days in my working career was when I received the official letter offering me my first job.

I would be a newspaper reporter. Looking back at it, the money certainly wasn’t the driving factor. I would be making about $8,000 a year, just twice what the poverty level was.

It was the excitement of being a reporter. The opportunity to help make this crazy world a better place.

But times, they are a changing.

CareerCast.com, which describes itself as the Internet’s premier site for finding targeted jobs, just put out its “Worst Jobs In America” list. And the worst of the worst?

Newspaper reporter.


When the CareerCast people do this list, they are quick to point out it’s not just all about the money. Frankly, that’s right. It shouldn’t just be about money.

In fact, they use four criteria:

• Income

• Environment

• Outlook

• Stress

Let’s break it down.

Income. Reporters are still poorly paid. Especially when you consider their education, intelligence and moxie. And that’s terrible. Still, reporters make more money than lots of jobs on the CareerCast list. So there’s more to being the worst of the worst on this list.

Environment. This essentially deals with working conditions. This could be physical or emotional. For reporters, it would mostly be emotional. It’s fair, for example, to say reporters regularly face emotional hazards. You are pretty well guaranteed, no matter what you write, someone won’t like it and accuse you of being one-sided.

It’s tough out there.

Outlook. This has to do with one’s prospects for the future. When I began, there always appeared to be a path forward in the newspaper business. You could stay at your paper and hope to move up the ladder and help manage the newsroom. Or you could move to a larger newspaper in your role as a reporter. Both are less likely today. The newspaper business is shedding jobs because of the economic free-fall we’re in. And that has to do with diminishing ad revenue, thanks in large part to the Internet. That ad revenue issue has also put the brakes on pay raises.

Stress. When you combine the above three categories, you can see stress. There are plenty of stressful jobs out there, but reporting is far from a walk in the park.

So, we end up stuck at the bottom of the pile. But if that’s the case, why would anybody want to get into journalism?

Good question.

There likely are dozens of reasons why, but when I’m out speaking to various community groups, here’s what I say:

• There are still college kids who love the idea that they can make a difference in this world by becoming a reporter. The idealism surrounding that concept continues to be a strong pull.

• Even if you don’t make a career out of being a newspaper reporter, there are plenty of employers out there who love picking off our best ones.

In fact, our county is filled with former reporters who end up in public relations/community liaison jobs. They mostly end up in government because, well, that’s where the money and security are.

So, OK, we’re No. 200 out of 200. But I’m still very much liking reporter over executive assistant (No. 62), janitor (No. 107), dishwasher (No. 153) and taxi driver (No. 192.)

Oh, and the No. 1 job in America? Data scientist. Hey, that sounds way too much like math for me. Give me a pen and a pad, and I’ll take my chances.

Columbian Editor