A new 2017 poll ranking the 200 best and worst jobs in America is out, thanks to research from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Careers in mathematics, such as statisticians, are the top jobs. Medical services managers in the burgeoning health care field are big, too.

A university professor is No. 6; a software engineer, 8; an actuary, 11; a dental hygienist is 14. Then there’s sewage plant operator, 118; insurance agent, 148; real estate agent, 155; farmer, 172; police officer, 178; garbage collector, 187.

At 199 is a TV broadcaster. Pity those nice people at 6 and 10. A newspaper reporter? Out of 200 jobs, it's at No. 200.

But don't feel sorry for me: As someone in the trenches now for more than 40 years, I can only suggest this: It's a great life.

Sure, it’s all gotten a lot stranger in the last five to seven years, as the uncertainty of where the internet is going has grown, advertising dollars have become more spread out, and social media has made transference of “news” unpredictable, to say the least.

And, the job?

OK, to begin with, the hours can be rotten.

Fires rarely are scheduled between 10 and 3. Criminals seldom call first to ask how our day is going and if we can fit them in. Basketball games seldom are played at 9 a.m. on a Friday.

The privileges of being a reporter or editor?

They include nasty phone calls, covering endless meetings no sane member of the public would ever actually want to attend, and frustrated marital mates irritated by the routine-less routine.

But, make no mistake, working in a newsroom is not like working in just any office.

There's a feeling of sitting on top of the pulse, of being near its epicenter, of having a constantly reserved seat on the curb from which to watch life's parade pass us by.

Reporters are the windows who type into Windows. And the views can be second to none.

In my own lifetime of viewing events, then asking questions, beating deadlines, sculpting stories and fighting large amounts of the necessary routine have been amazing experiences that — as trite as the expression —money cannot buy.

"Work" has taken me to a baseball benefit in Springfield where I got to stand in a batter's box against Bob Gibson, the Hall of Fame pitcher, and see the whoosh of a major-league fastball. I whiffed miserably.

A few years later, to my own amazement, I sat in the White House Oval Office for nearly an hour, one-on-one with Ronald Reagan, a grand old gentleman, as he regaled about his days back in Central Illinois.

Along the way, I've sat in the back seat of a parked car with Charles Kuralt as he autographed a stack of books. Had my loafers accidentally perspired upon by Larry Bird. Listened to Arnold Palmer loudly grouse about the slope of a Bloomington green. Stood on the 18th green at Crestwicke with rock legend Alice Cooper. Watched Barack Obama — he has some of the quickest hands I have ever seen — pluck a horsefly out of the air, literally, as he chatted to county fair goers in Olney back in 2004. 

I've scribbled notes in a dark Syracuse, N.Y., hallway as basketball coach Jim Boeheim gave his insights on the zone-and-one. Listened to Regis Philbin cast hysterical jokes while visiting here. Watched singer John Mellencamp chain-smoke Marlboro regulars on the porch of LeRoy lawyer Dave Dorris. By chance, stood in a urinal next to Sen. Edward Kennedy, in Urbana, where we exchanged pleasantries and then pondered the awkward post-urinal etiquette of just how to shake hands. 

I've watched women take off their clothes at a strip club in Kenney. Walked a teacher's strike line at the height of union discord. Stood next to the Secret Service guy at a Bill Clinton rally. Been backstage as the rock band Bad Company readied to go out. Written 25 inches on a preacher who stood in a Bloomington church and preached that he’d met Jesus over a double-cheese and pepperoni at a Pizza Hut in Madison, Wis., where Jesus told him the devil speaks backward on Beatles records.

Newspapering today?

In these drastically changing times of the internet, as we all wait to see how it fully shakes out, a job in the media can be a tough transition.

But like any other job, it has its moments.

I hope by next year it vaults up to at least No. 199.


Load comments