Writer’s Block: Do I really have the worst job in the United States?

Managing Editor
Mandy has been with ABC Newspapers since 2007, when she joined the staff as the editor of the Anoka County Union. She has been the managing editor of the UnionHerald and Blaine Spring Lake Park Life since 2014.

There is an odd feeling that comes with knowing what you do for a living tops a list that most people would consider a tip-sheet of careers to stay away from.

Mandy Moran Froemming
Mandy Moran Froemming

The annual “worst jobs in America” list was released by CareerCast last week. Newspaper reporter is at the top. Since I hold a hybrid position of reporter and editor, maybe I only have the worst job in America part of the time?

Negative growth (to the tune of an anticipated 9 percent job loss over the next decade), high stress levels and a lower than median salary have catapulted this job to the top of the list. Broadcaster is a close second.

Loggers once held the top spot, but that career path has been relegated to third place. I suspect those folks are too busy cutting down trees to do the kind of navel-gazing we journalists succumb to while surfing the internet for information.

hat are the top three jobs? Statistician, medical services manager and operations research analyst. All three are listed as being low-stress jobs with relatively high pay in growing industries.

I don’t know anyone who works in those fields, so it’s hard for me to corroborate.

Newspaper journalism is not lucrative work, but I don’t think that’s the reason why most people pursue it. At the point that I was taking those steps, I didn’t want to end my workday washing dishes and filling ketchup bottles anymore.

I had an aptitude for writing but not the stomach for living without a steady paycheck. So reporter it was.

I have done a few other jobs. When I was very young I babysat. I quickly learned small children en masse are not for me. Then I waitressed, both in a restaurant and a bar. I was good at that job and I mostly liked it until I got really tired of drunk people. For a little I quit and worked at a convenience store. I lasted two weeks until I could not stand one more mind-numbing minute.

I had a short stint in college at a book store, which mostly suited me because we could borrow anything we wanted.

But I have been working at newspapers full time since I was 21.

Those of us privileged enough are able to choose jobs that suit us, and I think I have.

Although I held onto that side gig waiting tables to cushion my bank account and feed my addiction to the hustle and chaos that comes with a busy night on the floor.

I’m not a job hopper. I tend to stick things out. This summer will mark 10 years at ABC Newspapers for me.

If this really were the worst career in the United States, I don’t think I would still be here.

I spend lots of time managing content, making rapid fire decisions and trying not to drown in the constant onslaught of email and reading copy. I don’t mind those things, except the email (my utopia is a place where email doesn’t exist or at the very least my address wouldn’t be accessible to anybody and everybody).

There are a few things that do concern me for the young people considering journalism as a career path.

College has become exorbitantly expensive and if you are relying on student loans, it isn’t the most promising return on investment.

I also worry about the romanticized notion most people have about being a writer. I’ve had several people ask about what I do while I am waiting for inspiration to strike.

I laugh, and then I tell them the truth. I just keep writing, because that isn’t how it works.

Being a reporter is much more akin to the work of a craftsman. We gather supplies in the way of background information and other people’s thoughts and then we build something with them. In the end it should look like a story.

We expect a lot from people who report the news, far more than we used to. They must be able to report across a variety of platforms, on numerous beats and sometimes in terrible circumstances.

Over the past couple weeks I have:

-Spent the better part of the day at the Capitol, meeting with Gov. Dayton and the leadership of both parties in the House and the Senate.

-Witnessed and recorded Anoka’s Tom Hammer put on a great show for preschoolers while planting a tree at Anoka-Hennepin’s Educational Services Center.

-Listened to a passionate discussion about the preservation of some historic buildings.

-Learned what does and doesn’t make for a good street sweeper and that they are very expensive to fix or replace.

That doesn’t sound like such a bad way to spend your time. Or does it?

Some days my work is wonderful and other days it makes me crazy. But I have never thought it was the worst.

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