January 13, 2014 edit: I’ve since transitioned into a job in communications. Recently, I’ve watched a very good daily newspaper (The Kamloops Daily News) get shut down because it wasn’t making enough money. I stand firm that newspaper reporting is not the world’s worst job, but I also affirm that it seems to be one of the worst careers for job security.
What comes to mind when you think of the world’s worst job?
Maybe flipping burgers and salting fries in a fast food restaurant? Or climbing into a city sewer to clear blockages? Or standing on rickety scaffolding 40 storeys high to clean windows? Or heading down a mineshaft day in and day out where sunlight is a world away?
I could probably go on and on pulling horrifying, disgusting and mundane work from the depths of my brain. Yet there’s a job that I’d never have guessed would be slapped with the dubious distinction of “worst job.”
Careercast.com, a website that crawls U.S. and Canadian newspaper, magazine, niche and TV station websites for job opportunities, has named “newspaper reporter” its No. 1 worst job of 2013.
The site describes reporting as “a job that has lost its luster dramatically over the past five years,” and is expected to plummet even further by 2020. It laments the decline of the industry — death by 1,000 cuts — the high stress, the lack of opportunities for advancement and the increasing competition from online news.
I work as an editor at a newspaper and thank my lucky stars for the chance to create a newspaper every day. Of course, I have stress. I worry about the future (three of the five news sources I’ve worked at over the past decade have shuttered). I work awful hours. I look around and see the empty chairs and wonder how many more talented people we can lose before the whole thing comes undone.
But I’m proud of the newspaper we put out every day. I work with people who love the news, who love to inform, who love to watch the next day’s edition — hot and sticky — roll off the press.
Journalists are a unique bunch; often, we can be a pessimistic and skeptical lot, but that comes from years of covering scandals and horrific crimes and tragedy. We laugh together, sometimes inappropriately, to keep from weeping. We are forced witnesses to many things that would cause others to turn away. And that ties us together. Not many other professions have such bonds. We are not blood brothers, but ink brothers.
Reporting connects us to the heartbeat of the world. Yes, we often end up in the midst of awful situations — trying to call the families of people just killed or sitting through a court case and being exposed to details we wish we could immediately forget. And, yes, we often end up covering dull events that make our eyes roll into the back of our heads. But the situations are secondary to the story. They story comes from people. That is what makes reporting such a beautiful endeavor: talking to people, pulling the threads of the story from them and weaving them into tales of humanity. We have the responsibility of everyday historians, documenting life for our readers. Informing, entertaining and enlightening. It’s a heavy responsibility.
Newspapers may be on their way out, but they’re not gone yet. Even if print is dead in 10 years, as NewspaperDeathWatch.com founder Paul Gillin says, journalists will be able to lean on their experience and skills to find work in the new media. There will always be opportunities for good writers and interviewers.
I count myself lucky for having worked at newspapers. It’s been the best job in the world.