By Camilla Capasso
Being a newspaper reporter is the worst job of 2013 according a recent survey. Print journalists are facing low pay and higher levels of stress than ever thanks to budget cuts, longer working hours and the pressures of the internet.
The study carried out by US jobs website CareerCast ranked Journalism lower than waiting tables, collecting garbage or dentistry, deeming it the most stressful job out of 200 professions surveyed. The study took into account pay levels, stress, working environment, physical demands and career prospects.
Freelance journalist and BBC broadcaster, Gavin Evans, was not surprised by the findings. Financial pressures on newspapers are taking their toll he told London Journalism Centre.
“Journalism has always been a stressful job,” he says. “One difference is that journalists tend to get out of the office less than they did before because employers have cut down on staff. Going out of the office to investigate a story takes longer. That means that journalists are doing more stories in the same period of time.”
When the survey was first published 25 years ago, print journalists fared much better – the job was ranked 126 out of 200.
According to Jill Insley, freelancer and former head of The Guardian consumer team, the advent of the internet may go some way to explaining the CareerCast survey results. The web has had a big impact on newspaper advertising revenue, she points out, which, in the last decade has shrunk by 60%.
“Newspapers have still not learnt how to make money out of websites,” she says. “All the advertising is just disappearing off there at appallingly low rates and that means that print newspapers are all losing money and that the staff have been cut as a result.”
The Internet has resulted in an explosion in online versions of newspapers. As a result, in the past five years, print newspaper daily circulation has fallen by 22.5% .During the past decade, journalists have been trying to adapt the format of standard newspapers to the demands of the web. This has strongly altered the traditional roles of reporter and editor as online journalism places more power in the hands of the user, allowing the reader to take part in the process of news production
Evans, however, argues that the internet is integral to journalism.
“I’m not sure we can talk about competition of the web because journalists are part of the web,” he says. “You might say that there is competition from citizen journalists, people in the streets taking pictures and reporting stories”.
Thanks to new technologies, citizens can now play an active role in the process of collecting and reporting news stories. The survey report by CarrerCast says that the growing ranks of “citizen journalists”, who do it for free, are putting traditional journalists under pressure.
According to Evans, however, citizen journalism can be a positive factor for traditional journalists: “They force newspapers to offer something different, they force journalists to offer something more, something better and it serves as a additional means of news gathering which didn’t exist before,” he says.
In the past ten years, journalism has faced drastic changes. But for those who truly love the profession, the job is still rewarding.
“Being a journalist is still incredibly interesting, it gives you an enormous amount of freedom to explore avenues that you wouldn’t otherwise get to go down,” Insley says, “It’s intellectually demanding and stimulating. I can’t think of a batter job, to be honest.”