When I was 16 I started working part-time during the summer for my dad. At the time he was the street commissioner in Leesburg. I’d get up at 6 a.m. most days and drag myself into his red work truck. We’d pick up brush and grass clippings people set out, run the street sweeper, lay asphalt and empty the trash from the town-provided bins.
My least favorite part of the job was those days the town’s catch basins needed emptied. I was tasked with taking a post-hole digger and extracting all the leaves, muck and God knows what else that found its way into those basins.
For my dad, the job served the dual purpose of keeping me from lazing about all summer while more importantly teaching me that I should look for a career outside manual labor. For me it was a way to make $7.50 an hour at a time when all I needed for was gas money (Note: When I was 16 in 1997, gas on average was about $1.30 a gallon)
My dad worked in Leesburg until he was 66. Before his time in Leesburg he spent 28 years as a Chicago police officer.
There’s nothing wrong with being a garbage collector or construction worker. There’s honor in breaking a sweat and earning a day’s pay. I would see my dad come home with a broken hand or busted up shoulder. In his later years he had trouble getting off his shoes because his feet were so swollen. Seeing that I knew I wanted something different.
I always gravitated toward newspapers. I got a job as a stringer for my hometown paper the fall after my first summer working for my dad. I feel in love with it instantly.
The business is so much different now in the span of 17 years. It’s harder to work at a newspaper. Demands rise, pay remains static and newsrooms shrink. But I still love being a newspaper guy. So it always annoys me to no end when these “Worst Jobs” lists come out and year after year newspaper reporter is at or near the top.
The website CareerCast recently compiled a list based on different metrics, including pay, work conditions and job growth. The worst job in 2014 according to this website? Lumberjack. That seems like a sensible pick. It looks like hard work, it’s certainly dangerous and nobody’s getting rich doing it.
No. 2? Newspaper reporter. It ranks as a worse job than enlisted military personnel, garbage collector, firefighter and corrections officer. I was quite frankly embarrassed about this list. I have friends who have been in the military. To say our job is anywhere near as tough as theirs is insulting to those who served.
There are some dangerous assignments in this business. AP photographer Anja Niedringhaus was killed in Afghanistan earlier this month. Being an embedded journalist is quite dangerous. But that’s not the life of most reporters.
A list like this only emboldens an all-too-large segment of our profession. I’ve ran into a substantial number of reporters on both the news and sports side that act like they’re curing cancer. They’re easy to spot, they’re going to tell you in excruciating detail how demanding their job is. They just need a minute. They’re winded from a third trip to the hospitality room for hot dogs and cookies. I would imagine there are people like this in all walks of life. Too miserable for words.
I’m lucky here at The Goshen News where those people don’t exist. The pay isn’t great, the hours are long and we often work nights and weekends, but this job isn’t drudgery. It’s a privilege.
Here's a link to that Worst Jobs list
Daniel Riordan is night editor at The Goshen News. Follow him on Twitter at @DRiordan_TGN. Check out this and more TGN blogs at www.goshennews.com