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Begging to differ with the job rankings

Mar 14, 2014 - By Chris Peck

Newspaper reporter is the worst job in America? A statistical analyst might say so, but that certainly hasn't been my experience.

Well, this is depressing.

The rankings of worst jobs in America came out recently, and my lifetime career ranked dead last.

That's right. After crunching some numbers related to salary, stress and future job prospects, the career guidance analysts at CareerCast.com determine that the worst job in America in 2013 was -- newspaper reporter.

The pay is low. $30,000 to $35,000 on average.

The stress is high. Deadlines, angry readers and sources.

And the jobs are disappearing fast. An overall drop of 6 percent in total reporting jobs last year alone -- and down nearly 50 percent over the last decade at legacy media outlets like newspapers, TV and radio.

And I've worked as journalist for 40 years now.

And honestly, it's been worth it on most every day.

And that's the strange part of surveys like this.

Yeah, there are tough aspects to being a reporter.

And there are challenges at the second worst job in America -- lumberjack.

And the third worst, being an enlisted man in the military.

Rounding out the list of worst jobs in America these are many careers familiar to people in Wyoming: oil rig worker, dairy farmer, mail carrier.

And, yeah, work can be hard, and keep you awake at night.

But if you work a tough job you know that it's not just the numbers, the salary, the future prospects that keep us getting up and hitting every day.

There are other things.

Good people you work with.

A long family tradition.

Not being sure what else you can/could/should do.

My brother Steven and I grew up in the newspaper business. Our dad, Bob, and our uncle, Roy, started working at the early days of what would become The Ranger, back in 1949. Our cousin David. who lives in Lovell, is a career newspaperman in Wyoming as well.

Honestly, we felt that we had ink in our blood as the cliché goes.

The newspaper has been central to our lives, our conversations, our family dynamics -- for all of our adult lives.

And it's tough to imagine not being all wrapped up in it.

Second- and third-generation farmers know the feeling. And families with long military histories.

You do what you do, because something felt right, with your personality and skill set, or important to the world, or destined in your family, or because somebody once said, "you'd be good at that.''

Which is not to say a moment won't come when you have to re-check your assumptions -- or have a boss or a company reset them for you in a downsizing, a new manager, or a merger.

Most people in this country today will work six or seven jobs during their lifetimes.

Some will be good. Some will be not so good.

And when times change, as has happened to the newspaper industry where more and more of what once was consumed as ink on paper is now ingested through wireless devices with a screen, well, you have to adapt.

Still, if I could, I'd write a letter to the editor to CareerCast.com. Or I'd post a comment on its website, to politely disagree that newspaper reporters have the worst jobs in America.

If you've got the curiosity and the grit to ask about the world, if you feel the burning need to look for uncomfortable facts that fly in the face of popular opinion, if you realize that an informed public is the best tonic for democracy, well, newspaper reporting is the best job you can imagine.

It was that way for me.

Even if the rankings don't show it in 2014.

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