Each year CareerCast.com releases the annual list of the best and worst jobs for the year.
The site ranks the jobs based on income, outlook environmental factors, stress and physical demands. This year’s report, released last week, ranked newspaper reporter as the worst job for 2015 citing poor job prospects, low pay and layoffs.
Sure, newspaper readership is shifting away from print publications and toward online formats and things are changing. But my experience as a newspaper reporter and editor has been far from the worst job I’ve ever had.
1. Oh, the places you’ll go. I have worked as a newspaper reporter in several different cities in the US. From college towns and rural communities to suburbia and Los Angeles, no two places are alike. Each community I have been apart of has taught me something new – pushed me to expand my worldview and experience new and different cultures, all here in the US. Earlier this year, I even had the opportunity to follow a story to Nairobi, Kenya – and it was thanks in full to my job as a reporter. Having press credentials has also landed me on the front lines of wildfires, car accidents, red carpets, celebrity homes, spelling bees, award shows, on the tarmac with Air Force I and more. Plus, even if you haven’t had the chance to travel on assignment, great journalism has the power to transport all of us anywhere in the world just by reading it.
2. And the people you’ll meet. In this business, the same as any, the “who you know” can play a major role your success as a reporter. But more importantly, the “who I know” is a long list of incredible, often times every-day people that have been willing to share their stories with me and my readers. Being a reporter has given me access to some of the most incredible and influential people I have met. Friendships and professional relationships have grown from many of my interviews and the opportunity to sit and listen to such a vast variety of people has been a powerful experience. Additionally, being a reporter means I get work with and interact with a whole realm of other talented reporters, PR reps, designers, photographers, editors and other colleagues who have provided insight, wisdom and support throughout my career. I’m glad to know you all!
3. From the bottom up. One of the reasons newspaper reporter ranked so low on the list was because of the grim future of the industry and general decline of available positions. If we’re sticking with traditional reporter positions, that seems like a fair assessment. However, it has been my experience that print publications are partnering with online tools to provide readers with enhanced coverage across both formats. Learning to use these tools while on the job has been a great exercise in patience and creativity. Being on the ground floor of an evolving new world of reporting puts us in a great position to learn and grown along with it with the added bonus of bringing our tried and true journalism practices along with us.
4. Never ending story. The potential for news to cover is limitless. There is always something new to cover AND a new way to cover something old. Being a newspaper reporter can admittedly feel repative at times; you follow the same story structure every time, you meet the same daily or weekly deadlines, you working with the same sources. But the challenge for all of us is to push through those cycles to find fresh content. When we explore new ways of engaging with our readers, new ways of approaching a tired story, we become better reporters and our readers get a better experience.
5. Narratives have power. Telling stories makes us human. For thousands of years, people have told stories because they inspire us, they unite us and they help us make sense of the world and our place in it. I knew I wanted to a be a reporter very early on and while my practical understanding of journalism continues to evolve, I still believe that when we report the news, when we tell people’s stories, we are sharing information that gives people a basis for which to make informed decisions as global citizens. We give those citizens a voice and public forum to feel heard and that validates people – it makes them feel heard and valuable and that’s a job I love doing
So sure, the pay is bad and the hours are long, but there is nothing like seeing your byline in print for the first time – and I can think of a number of worse ways to spend my day that doing all of the above.
Sierra Shafer, the lifestyle reporter at a weekly newspaper in Southern California, is most often found at trailheads, departure gates. To see what else she is writing, check out her blog and follow her on Twitter @sierrashafer.
Photo: Pile of newspapers via Shutterstock