Tuesday, 12 January 2010

We're No. 184

Newspaper reporters and photographers rank in the dungeon level in a Wall Street Journal "Best and Worst Jobs 2010" report.

Reporters ranked 184th, between seaman and stevedore, and photographers ranked 189th, between firefighter and butcher, for 2009.

Publication editors are 65th, between electrical engineer and electrical technician.

No. 1 on the best-to-worst list is actuary. No. 200 is roustabout.

It is a U.S. report so Canadian reporters and photographers might fare better in a homegrown study.

But how the Front Page workers have fallen in stature since the glory days of journalism.

The criteria mentioned in the Journal report on the CareerCast.com study: Environment, income, employment outlook, physical demands and stress.

Paul Berton, editor-in-chief at the London Free Press, looks at the positive side of the poor newspaper job rankings in an LFP blog posting.

"Despite all this, and despite the fact that many reporters have been jumping ship at an unprecedented rate in recent years, I think most find the unpredictability, stress, chaos, insanity, creativity, lunacy and other immeasurables of the industry exactly to their liking.

". . . most days. Or at least some . . ."


  1. There’s no way on God’s Green Earth that the outlook would be any better in Canada if such a study was conducted here.

    That said, Mr. Berton is correct, to a point.

    There are some, myself included, who do miss the creativity, lunacy and unconventional atmosphere of working in a newsroom. It’s a lot of fun when you’re young and working at a newspaper. But, sooner or later, you realize that creativity and lunacy and newsroom hijinx won’t count for much when you’re 65 and you’ve been getting by on pauper’s wages for 40 years.

    Yes, I’m sorry. It’s about the money. I wish it wasn’t, but it is. Somehow, some way, newspapers and radio and TV stations have to figure out a way to pay their reporters better, or, at the very least, make all that hard work and toil worth it.

    I bailed out of journalism two years ago. I was only in it for 12 years or so, but even I could see that there was no way that I was going to have any type of comfortable retirement – or any type of a fruitful life before then – by devoting my productive work years to Quebecor, or any other media company. Working 60 hours a week and only getting paid for the first 35 or so (and not well) is no way to make a living.

    I found it somewhat interesting that No. 200 in the U.S. study was “roustabout.” If you look it up, a roustabout is an unskilled labourer, usually someone working in shipyards or warehouses or drilling rigs. I don’t doubt that if you described your journalism career to a roustabout that he’d consider trading jobs with you … right up to the point you started talking salaries. One look at your pay stub and he'd turn tail and run back to the shipyards like a scalded dog.

    It’s my belief that wage stagnation has been the silent killer in the journalism field for at least the last 15 years. Low wages don’t just cause the 30-something and 40-something reporters/editors to bail for PR, they also scare away a lot of young people shopping around for careers.

    On the gainful-employment scale, journalism has sunk well below rig-hands, forklift drivers and the folks who shovel asphalt into potholes. Don’t get me wrong – any and all labour positions are honest, necessary and often dangerous jobs not everyone can do but must be done.

    But journalism is supposed to be a profession. That’s the claim journalists like to make. That’s the way it’s sold to J-school students.

    But, unless you’re working for a newspaper or TV station in a major market (or for CBC, anywhere), it never feels like a profession on payday.

    Yeah, yeah, I know. Journalism isn’t about the payday. But, unfortunately, the rest of life is.

    I tip my hat to those who choose to stay in journalism. I'm one of your biggest boosters. You’re performing a valuable service for the communities you live in and for society, in general. And, if you’re working for Quebecor, you not only have my respect, but my sympathy, as well.

    But I don’t blame you if hate it. And I won’t blame you if you pull the ‘chute.

  2. Reporters aren't jumping ship because they can't take the job or don't like it any more....It's because they like to eat more than once a week.

  3. I'm fortunate I have an understanding wife. Her initial shock when she learned how much I was...wasn't making nearly sent her packing!

  4. LOL. When I was getting divorced (*hands up everyone)my ex's lawyer was so convinced I was hiding money that she made it a sticking point.
    Even after she bailed on my ex and there was a new lawyer in the mix they were going after it tooth and mail
    First, they said, my bonus was too low. I had to be hiding money.
    Second, they said, my pension value was way too low. After 12 years employment it should be more than $5,000.
    On the second point they demanded an actuarial review and nominated an acturary from Mercer and Co. Turned out to be the same guy who gave the original estimate.
    On the first point, I showed them to pay stubs.
    D'uh redux.
    No, being a reporter has never been about the money.
    It's about the thrill of the hunt, the deadlines, the competition, the boasting, the ego, the belief you can do almost anything, about comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable, as that first Sun editorial famously put it. It was about being a voice.
    Money can't buy that; And yet there's a point in your career where you see contemporaries moving past you into six figures, jumping ship and going into the corporate world and starting to pull serious money and you think....what's it really worth?
    And then, of course, as too many of us know, the decision is thrust upon you.
    "Sorry to tell you this but we have to make some budget adjustments. Your services are surplus to our budget so we'll be letting you go. We wish you every success. Here is your package offer. Please clean out your desk and return all company property in the next 30 minutes."