Newspaper reporter is worst job? Nah.

Columnist Beth Kassab takes on CareerCast.com, ranking newspaper reporter as "Worst Job of 2013"

I have the worst job in America.

According to a new ranking of 200 occupations, newspaper reporter (sure, I'm technically a columnist, but still a news gatherer and writer) came in at No. 200.

Dead last.

Worse than dangerous jobs like enlisted military personnel and oil-rig worker. Inferior even to the hopelessly mundane work of a meter reader.

And the best job? According to the folks who came up with this list at CareerCast.com, it's an actuary — someone who often works for an insurance company, crunching numbers to calculate the risk of getting hit by a bus or a Category 5 hurricane. The ranking was based on high pay, low stress and encouraging job prospects.

Clearly, excitement and personal fulfillment weren't part of CareerCast's criteria. How else do you explain management consultant ranking ahead of surgeon?

CareerCast is right about the newspaper industry's struggles. Being a reporter has a reputation as a high-stress, low-pay job even in the best of times. It's no wonder newspaper careers sank lower than lumberjack, now that we've seen papers in Denver, Seattle and New Orleans close or stop printing daily.

A new business model for the industry? A new owner for the Orlando Sentinel and other Tribune Co. newspapers? There are a lot of open questions. But the work itself, writing for a newspaper, is still a great job. Here's why:

10. Variety. At what other job can you write about backyard chickens, gun violence and teacher evaluations — all in one week?

9. Adventure. It's not climbing Mount Everest, but I've been on manatee rescues, toured a nuclear plant and watched adults wrestle in coleslaw — all in a day's work.

8. Fascinating people. Not just the celebrities or politicians. But the mother who is endlessly devoted to her sick daughter. The teacher who starts her day before the sun to tutor struggling students. The doctor who treats some of the area's youngest concussion patients.

7. Digital transformation. The Internet is hammering traditional newspapers. That's old news. But people are hungrier than ever for information. And we're charting new territory on the Web. Today we can roll out headlines, photos and video any time of the day. No more waiting for the 5 a.m. driveway drop, though I still love my morning paper.

6. Work environment. The newsroom is windowless and drab. The booze and the cigarettes are gone, but the swearing remains. It's chaotic, messy, loud and wonderful.

5. Readers. This may seem like a one-way conversation, but it's not. I hear from people about everything. In a column about how Gators boosters are dropping their season tickets I made a crack about lousy home matchups against the likes of North Dakota Scuba Academy. "Just for your information, North Dakota State University has a very good football team," wrote one reader. And the online comments on this column will be merciless.

4. Front-row seat to history. This has been said many times about the news business and it's true. Sometimes that seat can be a little close for comfort. Like sleeping on the concrete floor of an emergency operations center during a hurricane.

3. Really good excuses. Didn't make it to day care on time? I was trapped on a press bus waiting for the president of the United States. True story.

2. You get to question convention. Like insisting that a job in a declining industry is actually a pretty good gig.

1. Making a difference. Two recent examples: The Sentinel's reporting on hazing at Florida A&M University led to the university president's resignation. More recently, a judge suspended Orange County's home-confinement program after our report of repeated violations by a man accused of committing murder while under program supervision.

I'll take this job over an actuary any day.

bkassab@tribune.com

CHICAGO

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