Lyons: Tough jobs and worst jobs not the same thing

Published: Thursday, May 2, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

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Like people in many professions, journalists enjoy a chance to talk shop.

Not everybody does and not everyone else enjoys listening to someone prattle on about the intricacies of one’s profession, but some jobs are more than just jobs and they get into your bloodstream.

Just like everyone else, I don’t want to talk about it every day. Sometimes my wife asks me how my day was, and I grunt just like one of the kids when asked about school. That’s why they call it work. I grunted most days about school, too.

But particularly if you work in a field that demands a manic pace, there is benefit to stepping back periodically and being forced to consider what it is you do. You remember why you do it and remind yourself what you’ve already accomplished and hope to accomplish in the future besides living off your meager 401(k).

For the most part, I enjoy hearing firsthand accounts from people in interesting professions. I’ve been in hundreds of those conversations with cops, lawyers, teachers, and others and learned a great deal about how the world functions and why.

This week, my wife, also a writer, and I got to speak with a few English and journalism classes at Woodstock High School about careers in writing. I also had a chance to meet with Karthikeyan Kuppuraj – a journalist in India who was visiting through a Rotary International program.

These opportunities landed squarely after Careercast.com last week rated newspaper reporter as the worst job of 2013. Where’s the glamour? Stress. Bad pay. Hard to find a job. Unpredictable hours. 

None of that has changed since Mike Royko was in short pants. But this industry and many other industries are rapidly evolving as technology and economic realities change. Riding those waves of change can be difficult for everyone.

It’s a hard job, and it’s going to stress you out. News doesn’t care about your desire for an even flow to your workday or about what your Outlook calendar says.

Despite industry challenges, there’s certainly been no decrease in news appetite, and a need for skilled people to gather it will remain. When you add our print circulation to our online readers, there are about 100,000 sets of eyes looking at Northwest Herald products each day.

In the meantime, jobs are scarce, the pace is frenetic, resources are thin, critics are hostile, and thanks are few and far between. But if you can handle the stress, weren’t looking to get rich, and hope to make a difference in the world or at least in your community, then reporting is a uniquely fascinating profession for unique people.

While I’m Catholic by birth and practice, for more than 20 years journalism has been my secular religion. Just as one’s religious faith seeks to make sense of the practical and spiritual world, journalists try to put the events of the world into their proper context and offer explanations.

The desire to do that is intrinsic and uninterested in what some career website says or even what the market says. Maybe someday, like other professions that don’t compensate for their overall value, the market will catch up.

If not, count on many to do it anyway.

• Kevin Lyons is news editor of the Northwest Herald. Reach him at 815-526-4505 or email him at kelyons@shawmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinLyonsNWH. 

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