The worst jobs in 2017—and an opportunity for PR

by | Jun 22, 2017 | Analysis, Public Relations

It’s official, at least according to HR Magazine, the monthly publication from the highly influential Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)—the No. 1 “worst job” is newspaper reporter, followed by broadcaster.

The first reaction of many of us in the public relations field is to chortle and think, “serves them right,” but that would be a mistake—and result in a missed opportunity.

First, the reasons behind the ranking: CareerCast used a broad range of criteria: income, job growth outlook, working environment and stress to measure which jobs were “most appealing” and those that were “unappealing.” (The headline writer obligingly supplied the “best” and “worst” summary.)

Those of us who rub up against the media regularly and are obsessive followers of media trends have no trouble figuring it out.  All of us know highly talented broadcasters from prestigious journalism programs and universities working for $25,000 a year (or less) in “starter” markets from which they might never emerge given criterion number two, job growth outlook.

Reporter is the worst job

Our estimate is that the last decade has seen a reduction of approximately 50 percent in reporting and producing jobs in news media. Everybody knows where they’ve gone: websites, blogs, social media and a fake news diaspora. All these trends are stressful indeed. Every week brings news of more layoffs or downsizings in the media. While there has always been heavy emphasis on getting a story rather than just facts—and getting it first—we think the trend has intensified over the last decade.

Although the survey separated newspaper reporter and broadcaster, we know that the line between the two media is blurred and all-but-disappearing. Reporters for my local paper, the Dallas Morning News, are expected to do a 90-second iPhone interview and post pictures that support their story. Venerable print publications like The Wall Street Journal carry as many videos as they can. An interview on Fortune TV is considered as important as a full profile in the magazine—and a lot less time consuming for the interviewer and executive.

PR professionals should use the news to further our mission. Let’s reach out to industry or beat reporters (who are also disappearing as quickly as rain puddles in a Texas summer) to commiserate and assure them that we value their role and mission and volunteer to supply industry or company news, scan trade publications and share newsletters (highlighted for key points).

PR staff members are also highly likely to follow analyst calls, industry conferences and other frequently neglected sources of information. We can convert ourselves into the eyes and ears of our associates in the media and spot what they no longer have time to research.

We are also much more likely to pour over news reports and spot incorrect facts or conclusions. If we resist the temptation to sound superior and maintain an attitude that conveys we empathize with a topic’s complexity, we can pass along fact-checking nuggets. Years ago, when I was Director of Public Affairs for one of the main Washington regulatory agencies, The New York Times reporter used to check regularly to make sure he understood the implications of a case or ruling.

We confess to some reservations about this list. The other three “worst” jobs are logger, enlisted military personnel and pest control worker. We understand there may not be a rush to any of those fields, but the No. 1 “best” job was statistician. As a Columbia Business School graduate, I can assure you that the personnel pool in this rating was heavily skewed to finance and the definition of working environment in the list of criteria should be re-examined. Other “best” jobs were medical services manager, operations research analyst, information security analyst and data scientist.

Years ago, Texas Monthly, the highly-regarded, Austin-based monthly magazine whose articles and writers have won every award in the field, had a “best” and “worst” article. One of the worst jobs was “chicken de-sexer” (and I admit that I’ve forgotten the details of the job) and another was “living in Wichita Falls.” A successful businessman in Wichita Falls was outraged and hired us. We arranged a speech to a business group in Austin and invited the Texas Monthly staff. The speech gave us new challenges in using humor, but our client pulled it off. The magazine ran a nice piece about citizen enthusiasm and can-do spirit in Wichita Falls.

We’re sharing this poll in hopes of reaching out to our colleagues in the media since, in the end, we’re all in the communication business.

This article originally appeared on the Spaeth Communications site; reprinted with permission.

Merrie Spaeth
Merrie Spaeth is founder and president of Spaeth Communications, a Dallas-based strategic communications firm currently celebrating its 30th anniversary. She previously served as a special assistant to FBI Director William Webster, special assistant to President Ronald Reagan, and director of media relations at the White House.


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