Reporters have worst jobs? Depends on POV
Monday, April 29, 2013 10:00 PM
Two national stories came out last week that wound their way right back into good, ol' Montgomery County.
First was a report from some company called CareerCast. The report said being a newspaper reporter was the worst job in America. The second story detailed a plunge on Wall Street after an erroneous tweet said two explosions at the White House injured President Barack Obama. Two explosions at the White House just days after the Boston Marathon bombing? No wonder the stock market panicked.
So how do these seemingly unrelated events connect here? Through the medium you are now reading. Let me explain.
This print product has very little raw material in it. Paper and ink. Truth to tell, no newspaper has all that much of either. No one's buying newspapers for the raw materials. What we really sell is one thing, credibility. It's something the Internet has precious little of.
Let's go with CareerCast first. Isn't it at least a teeny bit interesting that a company that offers web-based service on job searches details how a newspaper reporter is a dying breed? Hmmm. Let's see. What's a revenue stream for newspapers? Employment ads? What does CareerCast want? Employment ads? Interesting, huh?
It's also interesting that six of the top 10 worst jobs are repeated from last year's list and some of those were repeated from the year before and some of those . . . you get the idea. If the jobs were that bad how are they still around?
Let's just focus on newspaper reporter. CareerCast said it's a low-paying and not very exciting job. When I got into this business more than 30 years ago I started out as a reporter. Know the downside? It was low paying and not very exciting. Oh sure, some newspapers try hard to make it exciting. I was reading The Indianapolis Star on Thursday and saw a story in the sports section that had this: "Hart was fired in 2010 after The Indianapolis Star reported a long pattern of player abuse and NCAA violations."
Gang, that's part of the problem with my industry. We've gone from being your trusted friend and community partner to the post-Watergate era of going "after" those who make their living in the public eye. Don't get me wrong, if there is abuse or wrongdoing, a newspaper ought to help shine the light of day where needed. But to keep bragging about it years after the fact?
What a lot of us got into this business for was community news. Whether it's a story about the Youth Service Bureau's Dancing With the Stars or MUFFY or how everyone is buzzing about planning and zoning, we didn't get into this for the excitement and the money.
Let's talk about the tweet that roared. Amazing how 120 characters could send the stock market into a sudden tailspin. Turns out that in spite of the information being blatantly untrue, it was computer programs that helped accelerate what turned out to be a plunge to the tune of $200 billion. Nothing untrue about that. It all came back by the end of the day but what a rollercoaster.
Everyone seems to want to push newspapers straight into the obituary column since we're obviously dying. Really? Has anyone told billionaire Warren Buffet that? Didn't he spend more than $300 million buying newspapers last year? How about billionaires Charles and David Koch? There was a report last week that they are looking at buying the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun, the Orlando Sentinel, Los Angeles Times and Hartford Courant.
Don't know about you, but I tend to think billionaires know a little something about making money.
Look, no doubt and no argument here that the Internet is changing the world. A lot. It just isn't changing the fact that there are serious credibility issues with the web and it surely isn't changing the fact that hometown newspapers that offer local news and community partnerships are doing just fine.
Maybe we need to hire a French model to spread the word?
Two cents, which is about how much Timmons said his columns are worth, appears periodically on Tuesdays in The Paper. Timmons is the publisher of The Paper and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.