Is your job the worst job in America?

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This is me, at my job, the worst job in America.

Is your job awesome? Like, actuary or dental hygienist awesome? Well good for you because mine is the actual worst job in America! And here I thought we humble ink-stained newspaper wretches would at least have a leg up on drunken crack whore, but oh no: this ranking of the 200 Best and Worst Jobs of 2013 puts “newspaper reporter” at dead last, right below lumberjacks, who are probably consoled by all the logs they get to roll into those flannel groupies, and actor, which is inaccurate, as everyone knows that is not a real job.*

Meanwhile, at the top of the list are actuary, biomedical engineer, software engineer, financial planner and other jobs so boring-sounding I have fallen asleep several times in my bowl of Apple Jacks just writing about them. The rankings factor in physical demands, work environment, income, stress and hiring outlook. So brokesters, let’s have some fun with this: how terrible is your job according to this list, and do you agree? Full-throated defense of working at a newspaper in 2013 below:

I am currently in my fourth professional stint as a newspaper journalist, if you count my years working at my college paper (which I do, because it was better than so many “real world” newspapers), a weekly paper outside DC, a mid-sized paper on Hilton Head Island, SC and now this latest run on the features desk of a small under-the-radar start-up paper here in New York.

These rankings are laughable because no one who truly loves newspaper reporting, or journalism in general, cares a damn about the criteria: physical demands mean being pulled out of happy hour to go chase down a fire across town or being jolted out of bed in a cold sweat in the middle of the night terrified you got a statistic wrong in the paper the next day. Income is a hilarious standard, as anyone who thinks they’re going to make money in journalism goes into TV, which is largely (though not always!) glorified acting. Stress chases you around like a giant anthropomorphic beast of a printing press, demanding to be fed every day, its gaping newshole maw always biting at your heels.

And work environment? I doubt you’d find a better one, or, at least, a stranger one full of characters who collect anecdotes and unprintable stories like your actuary coworker collects Troll dolls. You get into journalism because you want to make a difference, sure, because you feel some higher calling or some rampant curiosity to peek behind all the doors and under all the beds of the world. But you also get into it because you can’t stand the idea of doing the same thing every day. Kudos to you office workers who can punch the clock and face the same tasks day after day, always knowing what to expect. My average day can range from touring a cemetery, profiling Brooklyn witches, interviewing the Spider Woman of Broadway, going snowtubing, getting chased out of a homeless encampment, searching for missing people on a yacht or hunting down catfishing victims. This is not a humblebrag; it’s a job description. Even as my current paper has taken its share of licks this week, it still feels great to be in the trenches of real life every day.

The archetype of the ink-stained wretch is certainly disappearing. Those were the guys crowded around midtown bars at happy hour drinking away a day’s deadline pressure and sharing war stories before showing up hungover at the newsroom to do it all again in the morning. The last run in I had with guys like that was at a previous job, where our two crime reporters were up late drinking when they got the call from a city editor that someone had fallen off a hotel balcony, probably to her death. They sprung into action — which to them meant blowing a few lines of coke, cracking open some fresh beers and turning on the police scanner. The story they banged out in a few hours was top-notch. Then they blew a few more lines and went to the bar to celebrate.

That’s not an endorsement or even wistful pining. But it is a thing your average dental hygienist doesn’t deal with. Maybe lumberjacks.

*I keed! I keed! There is a special place in hell for creative people who don’t support other creative people.

Follow Tim who sounds like he is 30 years older than he actually is: @timdonnelly.

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  1. To be fair, very few people have the rare mix of talent and insanity to land a gig like that. The rest of us struggle with mediocrity and bills while still trying to hold on to the high-falutin idealistic j-school dreams of making a difference and doing something important like interviewing friggin witches and chasing ghosts through cemeteries while working those boring actuarial jobs so we don’t end up living in vans down by the river (or worse, home with our parents plus 30). Seems like maybe the survey talked to more people like me than you.

    • I think it looked at cold hard numbers instead of talking to warm bodies. Numbers make this job look shitty, but no one does it for the numbers. Except for lumber jacks, they do it for the lumbers.

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