Newsroom blues

Anyone who has worked out of a newsroom — especially at a big-city daily — can attest to how the job can simultaneously be both frustrating and exhilarating. Many a starry-eyed intern or cub reporter came into The Washington Times newsroom envisioning a career as a crusading investigative journalist or White House correspondent. The reality of the profession usually prevailed. While the work can be exciting, long hours and low pay are the norm for newspaper editors and reporters.

Here then, from around the web, is a fair warning to those contemplating a career as an ink-stained wretch in the digital age:

It pays how much? recently ranked 200 jobs from best to worst using five criteria: stress, income, physical demands, work environment, and hiring outlook. I knew that daily journalism wouldn’t fare well in the stress, income, or hiring outlook categories, but little would I have thought that newspaper reporter would come in at No. 196, slightly ahead of oil rig worker, but not quite at the level of butcher, dishwasher, meter reader, or waitress. No. 1 on the list was software engineer and last, at No. 200, was lumberjack, a telling juxtaposition regarding the future of newsprint. Here is the complete list.

Overheard in the Newsroom

“Overheard in the Newsroom” is a Facebook page where journalists post quotations they hear from their co-workers in the course of their work day. The overall tone correctly illustrates the character of a normal newsroom.

Here are some of my favorites:

Editor to newsroom: “If the end of the world is Saturday, we won’t be printing a paper. But we will be posting online until the power goes out.”

Reporter doing a phone interview: “Please slow down, professor. You’ve been researching this topic for a decade. I’ve been researching it since lunchtime.”

Editor: “If you’re still at work and they’re vacuuming, you know you’ve made the wrong career choice.”

Program Editor: “What did journalists do before Google?” News Editor: “Journalism.”

Reporter: “We should all get together and file a class action suit against all the guidance counselors who suggested a career in journalism.”

Assistant Editor: “The server just gave me a font error.” Reporter: “What in the Helvetica is going on?”

Reporter: “It’s not that journalists don’t care about money. We’ve just made peace with the fact we’ll never have any.”

Editor: “If you were a better writer, you’d be done by now.” Reporter: “If I was a better writer, I wouldn’t be working here.”

“And that’s the way it is.”

A Tribute

Let’s celebrate the exhilarating side of the profession by recalling the most prominent journalist with Austin connections, the incomparable Walter Cronkite. Here is a tribute to the 50th anniversary of Cronkite’s inaugural broadcast. I remember watching the CBS news anchor while growing up during that nascent era of broadcast journalism which produced giants like Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, Eric Sevareid, and Roger Mudd.

To think that in just a lifetime one can go from watching a half-hour evening news show on a small black-and-white television to today’s 24-hour cable and internet news cycle society is mind-boggling. And I still believe we should urge talented people to become journalists despite the frustrations. In my opinion, we need them more than ever.

Kenneth Hanner, a former national editor of The Washington Times and former managing editor of Human Events, is a freelance writer/editor in Austin, Texas.


PWA’s May/June 2012 guest blog guest editor is Sandra Kleinsasser.