Newspaper reporter is ‘worst job’ in 2013, study says

Newspaper reporters can add CareerCast.com to the list of sources telling them to flee journalism.

The group took 200 jobs and ranked them in order from most to least desirable, based on factors such as environment, income, outcome and stress. Add all that together and newspaper reporter rings in at a dismal 200 out of 200 – the worst job on CareerCast’s list, below lumberjack, janitor, garbage collector and bus driver.

“We look at a wide range of criteria, as analytical as we can be,” said Tony Lee, CareerCast’s publisher. “There are some subjective pieces but, frankly, it’s really driven by the data.”

The data come from sources such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration and trade associations.

2013 marks the 25th anniversary of the list. And while “newspaper reporter” has dropped down the ranks through the years, Lee said it’s been in the bottom half since the list’s inception.

“There are reasons why newspaper reporter is at the bottom,” Lee said. “Some of them are reasons that really haven’t changed in 25 years and some of them are new phenomena.”

Lee walked me through reasons old and new:

Reasons newspaper reporter was always a bad job

Pay: “It’s never paid terribly well compared to lots of other jobs.”

Stress: “It’s always been a relatively high-stress job. You’re working under deadline, which immediately makes it more stressful. You’re essentially in the public eye because others can read your work and take issue with what you write.”

Hours: “You’re essentially in demand all the time. Clearly there are times when you’re off, but if something happens on your beat or you’re in a small town, you need to drop what you’re doing and go to work.”

Reasons newspaper reporter is a worse job than it used to be

Fewer openings: “This is the first year of a negative hiring outlook. Between now and 2020, [the industry is] expected to contract. We have had, if you look back over the last year, more contraction in the newspaper industry. It’s been ramping up with more layoffs and more cutbacks.”

More demands: “The work environment has actually continued to worsen because newspaper reporters before, you were responsible for writing your article and having it in on deadline for printing the next day. But now, you’re also responsible for tweeting all day, perhaps writing a blog, perhaps taking video when you go to that school-board meeting. You’re responsible for doing more in the same amount of time. So the job has become significantly more demanding.”

Uncertainty: “Add on top of that the stress of the uncertainty of your employer. If you work for the Tribune Company right now, you don’t know what’s going to happen next. It’s clear you’re going to be sold. It’s unclear to who and what their plans will be.”

Last year, “newspaper reporter” didn’t do quite so badly on CareerCast’s list — it beat out oil-rig worker, enlisted military soldier, dairy farmer and lumberjack.

Allyson Bird, the young ex-journalist whose blog post on why she left the industry went viral last month, might agree with the ranking. But other journalists took issue with her position, and have now taken to Twitter to vent their frustrations over this latest perceived slight.

Here’s how some journalists have reacted to the news:

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Lange/100000489723304 Mike Lange

    There’s nothing more rewarding than being editor of a small town newspaper. Unfortunately, three out of the four weeklies I worked for during the past 32 years are now out of business.

  • @paulyanko

    Actuary is #1. Shouldn’t that tell us everything we need to know about this survey? Don’t ever let go of that dream of one day becoming an actuary, kids…

  • Tess

    Depending on how old your kids are, there may not be much of a field left to choose. I’m sure town crier was a great job for a lot of people, but that doesn’t mean it’s a sensible career track now.

  • JTFloore

    best/worst surveys like this are inherently stupid to begin with.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sam.roe.775 Sam Roe

    Good grief. The truth is that newspaper journalism is an immensely rewarding field. You get paid to write and make the world a better place. Hard to beat that. I hope my kids choose the profession. I think it will make them happy. Sam Roe, Chicago Tribune