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IKNEW IT was bad, but I didn't know how bad--until I watched the 11 o'clock news the other night.
Somebody had compiled a list of the best and worst professional jobs, and as the top five appeared, I noticed that none of my several professions had made it.
Then I saw the "worst" list and there it was, right down at the bottom.
I was at the bottom of the barrel. It was devastating. The worst professional job on the list!
The first job above me that I noticed was enlisted soldier. These guys have latrine duty and carry 80-pound backpacks on their shoulders for 20 miles.
They get shot at and have to take orders from second lieutenants who don't know north from south. And my job as a newspaper reporter was below that.
I looked up higher and there was "dairy farmer."
Dairy farming is a rotten job. I know because I have done it. You have to get up at 2 o'clock in the morning to milk those cows and sometimes you don't finish the second milking until dark--even in the summer.
And those cows have to be milked every day, seven days a week, 12 months of the year.
Dairy farmers are out there in the sweltering heat of summer and the frigid nights of winter milking cows and cleaning manure out of the barn. That ain't fun.
Why, I once had to cover a story about a dairy farmer who slipped into a liquid manure pit and drowned. What an awful way to go!
And my job was considered lower than that. Who woulda thunk it?
Then I started thinking about what I go through on a daily basis. I have to sit through government meetings that are more boring than dirt and struggle to come up with a story when almost nothing happens.
I have to listen to retired people come to public hearings and whine about not wanting to pay higher taxes because they are on fixed incomes.
I have to listen to reasonably intelligent people come up with off-the-wall reasons why this or that shouldn't be built in their backyard.
I have to listen to politicians who promise things that they know they can never deliver. And I have to write about them as if they actually might somehow do what they say.
I have to go out on a daily basis and weasel information from public officials who would often rather give me the runaround than spit out the whole truth.
I have to deal with police departments that won't release information that the public is entitled to know, and I sit through court cases where everyone who takes the stand seems to be lying.
Like dairy farmers, I am sometimes roused from my sleep to cover stories that occur in the middle of the night. And like enlisted soldiers, sometimes I worry that I'm going to get shot at when I print a truth that no one wants in the paper.
Yes, I finally concluded, this is a rough job and sometimes--especially at government and political meetings--I feel like I am drowning in a pit of liquid manure.
The worst professional job there is!
Finally somebody has recognized the sorry plight of the humble newspaper reporter.
Whoever made that list should have gone one step further. Being a newspaper columnist is even worse than being a newspaper reporter.
When I write an opinion somebody doesn't agree with, they don't want to shoot me; they want to lynch me. And I've got plenty of emails and letters to prove it.
I recently came home to find a voicemail message from a guy raving about what an idiot I was until the tape ran out.
Now that the worst list has come out, I hope you folks feel sorry for us reporters and columnists. We suffer daily to see that the truth (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) gets on your doorstep every single morning.
Like soldiers, we have to carry heavy loads and dodge (verbal) bullets. And like dairy farmers, we sometimes fall into manure pits.
I suppose that's why the guy on the voicemail began his diatribe with, "You really stink!"
Most of what followed is unprintable.
So think kindly of us. The newspaper business is rough. If you don't believe me, I'll show you a picture of myself before I became a reporter.
I had hair then!