published Sunday, May 26th, 2013

Kennedy: Reporter worst job? Oh, please

OK, I've had it with lists that claim "newspaper reporter" is one of the worst jobs in America.

The latest ignominy comes from an outfit called Careercast.com, which recently ranked 200 careers from best to worst.

The website -- which interestingly competes with newspapers for advertising dollars and offers readers such dazzling self-help articles as "How to Avoid Getting Bored at Work" -- ranks careers based on environment, income, outlook and stress. Using these metrics, the analysts at Careercast.com have determined that the worst job in America is "newspaper reporter."

Really?

It is such a miserable job, apparently, that it's a miracle that the very newspaper you are holding doesn't burst into flames.

According to the list: Newspaper reporter ranks below tax collector, sewage plant operator and dishwasher.

What, I wondered, did Careercast.com's data-crunchers deem the best job in America? Let me guess. Brain surgeon? Astronaut? President of the United States?

Actually it's, um, actuary.

Huh?

Yep, actuaries: Those math wizards at insurance companies who study statistics and assess risk.

I immediately remembered a joke retold by our business editor: "I was at an actuaries convention once and the president stands up and says: 'I wanted to be an accountant, but I didn't have enough personality.'"

Bah-dum-pah!

Remember, this was an actuary talking about himself, so hold your emails. I'm sure actuaries are dear people who love their jobs, but I wouldn't trade places with one -- no matter how much they make.

I know. I know. Without actuaries, insurance companies wouldn't be able to determine the precise underwriting risk for things like death, property crimes and natural disasters.

But without journalists -- who put human faces on death, crime and natural disasters -- nobody would care.

I decided to dig deeper at the Careercast.com website to see what empirical data they used to determine that newspaper reporting is such a bad gig.

To boil it down, the statisticians at Careercast.com have determined that the best jobs offer low-stress, high pay and career security. It also helps if a job does not require competitive drive or physical exertion. (Heck, no. You wouldn't want any nasty competition or hard work to mess up your workday.)

To determine stress, the study looked at 11 categories. For example, two of the stress categories are "own life at risk" and "meeting the public." These two items had equal weight in the formula.

Hold on. Equating the stress of foot soldier and bank teller represents a rather obvious flaw in your methodology, guys. But then, what do I know, I'm no statistician.

I am however, a newspaper reporter -- as is everyone in a newsroom, no matter what their formal title. The reporters that I've been surrounded by for 33 years are gritty, productive people who love their jobs despite low pay and high stress.

In fact, the best reporters eat stress for lunch. They run smack into deadlines and bounce up asking for more. They run in the direction of death and destruction, not away from it.

What's more, they have a healthy gratitude for having a job that stimulates and invigorates them. They certainly don't troll the Internet looking for articles like "How to Not Get Bored at Your Job."

Sure, we've had our hard knocks, what with layoffs, furloughs and a general uncertainty about the future of the newspaper-industry business model. Reporters are a pugnacious bunch, though. Sometimes, I think these job ratings lists rate our career so low just to goad us into coverage.

The alternative is too ominous: That Americans today really do want to avoid tough jobs at all cost.

I don't believe that.

What's more, I'd like for the people at Careercast.com to sample the actuarial exams, which typically take six to 10 years to complete.

Who knows? It might help them make more accurate lists.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOL UMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedy columnist.

about Mark Kennedy...

Mark Kennedy is a Times Free Press columnist and editor. He writes the "LIfe Stories" human interest column for the City section and the "Family Life" column for the Life section. He also writes an automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for ...

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