By: Jonathan Munshaw, Editor-in-Chief
Every year, some website or magazine releases a list of the best and new jobs to have.
The most recent list that news outlets picked up was from CareerCast.com. The list said that newspaper reporter was one of the worst jobs of 2015, just ahead of lumberjack, enlisted military personnel, cook and broadcaster (coincidentally, my backup plan in life is to become a chef, and when I took that awful career test in high school I once got lumberjack).
These lists always make me angry, though, for a number of reasons.
On CareerCast.com, the list states that factors into the rankings include stress, environment, income, the number of jobs available and the projected growth of that field in the coming years.
There are a few problems here.
First off, as far as stress on the job and environment go, student journalists should be realizing what they’re getting into.
It shouldn’t be any secret to any mass communication major that when looking for a job in journalism, the pay isn’t going to be great, the hours are going to be sub-par and it’s going to be a high stress environment.
Don’t get into journalism if you aren’t interested in those things. That’s why it amazes me “newspaper reporter” would be so low on this list. My personality is such that I would thrive in an environment where I’m on deadline, where every day is different and where I’m always tackling new challenges. Sure, the pay may not be great, but I’m a firm believer that you should do what you love.
If you’re a journalist, it’s ridiculous to me that you’d be asked to take a survey for CareerCast.com and say, “Yeah, it sucks.” What were you expecting?
That’s a problem I’ve experienced in all of my journalism classes.
Students all too often see a month as not enough time to complete a 1,500-word feature story with a picture. In the “real world,” you’d be expected to turn that around in a day, if not a matter of hours.
Part of job satisfaction has a lot to do with expectations. This year, an actuary (a person who deals with risk assessment by the numbers) was listed as the No. 1 job. Per CareerCast, actuary had the highest rated job satisfaction of any of the other professions.
My guess would be that actuaries, who are basically mathematicians, got into the field because they really love math. Over time, journalists get burnt out and likely aren’t as satisfied with the position.
I can certainly understand that. I’m sure there’ll be a point in my career when I want to move into public relations, communications or teaching when it comes time for me to start a family (that’s a scary thought).
But to me, the people who give the job of reporter a bad name are the reporters themselves. Don’t get into it unless you really love it are ready to make the sacrifices that come with the job.
The other problem I have is that “newspaper reporter” is such an open-ended title right now.
There’s basically no such thing as just a “newspaper reporter” in today’s media environment. If I were to go work for The Baltimore Sun tomorrow, I’d be doing much more than reporting.
It’d be part reporting, part photographer, part videographer and part editor (often reporters will work with designers on staff to come up with the look of their story on the website and what multimedia elements should/shouldn’t be present).
There are also other ways of exploring journalism today outside of working for a print newspaper.
If I were to become a full-time staff writer for SB Nation online, would that fall under the realm of being a “newspaper reporter?” I’d still be practicing journalism: Attending practices for sports teams, doing interviews and research, working with data and writing breaking news when necessary. But it’s not for a print newspaper.
That probably wouldn’t come along with the same levels of stress and likely higher pay.
The term “newspaper reporter,” gives off a bad vibe now. You can be a journalist and not work for a newspaper and be much happier at your position.
But when these eye-catching headlines say that being a reporter is the worst job for anyone to have, it could turn students off from continuing to study and practice journalism, which is a shame.
Being a reporter isn’t the most glorious position by any stretch of the imagination, but when the right kind of person takes on the challenges of the job, it’s anything but the worst job to have in 2015.