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Sidelines: What it's like to have the second-worst job in America

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

A survey came out earlier this year by a group called CareerCast, listing the best and worst jobs in the country right now. The group bases its findings on a number of factors, including salary, job market outlook, stress, etc.

Topping the list of good jobs is mathematician, up from No. 17 in last year’s survey. Among the reasons listed are “good work environment, high income and outlook, low stress.”

Rounding out the top 10 are, in order: tenured university professor, statistician, actuary, audiologist, dental hygienist, software engineer, computer systems analyst, occupational therapist and speech pathologist.

Some of these are self-explanatory. In case you didn’t know – I had to look it up – an actuary is a person who determines how long something is going to last. Typically, they work for insurance companies, estimating how long people are going to live or the statistical likelihood they’ll get a certain disease. I wonder if actuaries – who must be a load of laughs at a party – saw their own demise coming, since they sank from No. 1 last year to fourth this year.

In descending order, the 10 worst jobs are: correctional officer, firefighter, garbage collector, flight attendant, head cook, broadcaster, taxi driver, enlisted military, newspaper reporter and lumberjack.

Again, some of these are pretty obvious, mainly the ones that involve people shooting at you. As a longtime reporter, I can honestly say no one has ever fired anything at me. And, although some may have been tempted, I’ve never had anyone throw a Slurpee at me like what happened to Nicolas Cage’s character in “The Weatherman.”

In explaining the low rating for reporters, the survey said: “Reporters have always had long hours and tight deadlines with low pay, but with the move to digital, the hiring outlook is brutal. In fact, between papers shutting down, consolidating or moving exclusively online, newspaper reporter is the only career on the list to have a negative outlook. From 2013 to 2022, the number of jobs is expected to decline 13 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

All I know is reporting isn’t for everyone, especially those who don’t like to work nights, weekends and holidays. It can be especially taxing on young families, and it’s often difficult to plan anything since you never know what your schedule will be from day to day. It’s also very stressful, always worrying you got everything right.

What the survey didn’t convey is what it’s like being paid to write for a living. (The fact I consider that a plus must be news to my old English teachers.) An even bigger benefit is that you’re always learning something. There aren’t too many assignments I’ve completed without seeing something in a new light.

Plus, you meet a fair amount of celebrities. With the exception of former Bears quarterback Bob Avelini, who told me to write whatever I wanted because no one was going to read it anyway, most are very cordial.

Being a reporter can also be exciting at times, seeing things and being exposed to people and situations you never would otherwise. Daily reporters are often in on events as they unfold, making them a part of the action.

I’ve heard for years how the newspaper business is going to fold. And perhaps it will, but I frankly doubt it. Twenty-five years from now – maybe even 10 – newspapers won’t look like they do today. But I’m pretty sure they’ll still exist, even if it’s only online. (Even if they don’t, I should be retired by then, so what do I care?)

I honestly think community papers such as the MidWeek and our sister paper, the Valley Life, will have a much longer shelf life than dailies competing with 24-hour news programs. Where else will local people get news about community events? Is CNN going to report on this year’s Pumpkin Festival theme? Will Fox cover the Castle Challenge?

According to the survey, newspaper reporters moved down a notch from last year. At this rate, we should be last by this time next year. That’s probably not something to look forward to. Still, being on the bottom means the only place you can go is up.

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