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updated: 5/6/2012 4:31 PM

Fifth-worst job? No way, our staff responds

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Stop the presses!

Did you hear the news? Being a newspaper reporter is the fifth-crummiest job -- behind waiting on tables, but apparently a little better than working on an oil rig.

Fortunately, many of us at this newspaper heard about the CareerCast survey detailing The 10 Worst Jobs of 2012 through a report in Forbes optimistically titled, "Forget That Survey. Here's Why Journalism Is The Best Job Ever." The writer detailed numerous reasons why -- despite the low pay, long hours, stress and frighteningly fast changes in the business -- it's still one of the coolest jobs going: meeting interesting people and celebrities; being a bit of a celebrity yourself; working in a place where reading the paper isn't goofing off; being on the cutting edge of an emerging technology; and so forth.

I immediately tried to recall my first brush with a celebrity. It occurred in my early reporting days when I was hunched over my manual typewriter (go ahead, laugh; it's true) and a hulking figure loomed overhead. I looked up to see that it was Gov. James R. Thompson waiting to shake my hand. I'd love to tell you it was for something heroic I had done, but truthfully he was just working the room, shaking hands with everyone who'd make eye contact with him.

Then another thought hit me: This crummy jobs survey would make a good column. Then an even better thought hit me: I'll make all those reporters do the work for me.

So, I sent out a note groveling for anecdotes about what they'd done in their careers that was especially noteworthy or poignant. Needless to say, I heard about the famous and influential people everyone has met. But, as I would have predicted, I also heard about the unbridled joy of making a positive difference. A few quick examples:

• "You get paid to change lives. A stroke victim went to my acupuncturist after my story and is able to start talking and walking again. That's cool!" -- Teresa Schmedding, assistant managing editor for online content.

• "To see the face of a young child when I help to put a Little League picture in the paper of the team that won the championship is awesome ... The team pictures are cut out, sent to Grandpa and tucked away in a scrapbook to enjoy for years to come." -- Kim Mikus, business writer.

• Christie Willhite, the assistant city editor who passed along the Forbes article, recalled writing about the tragic death of two Waubonsie Valley High School students killed in a crash in Aurora, and how she found a neighbor who had held the hand of one of the injured boys as he died. "Later, his family asked to meet with me," Christie said. "I immediately assumed the worst, that they were angry that we'd written about the accident or that I had made an error. But they wanted to thank me for the story, for honoring their son's life, for highlighting the danger at the crossing and, especially, for connecting them to the woman who comforted their son in his last moments. Emotional and humbling."

• "During our first go-round with the Hidden Scourge (our long-running series on the perils of drugs in the suburbs), I had several parents in tears thanking me for our coverage because it helped them realize they and their children were not alone in battling this addiction. Nothing beats that." -- Madeleine Doubek, executive editor.

I could go on and on, because the staff responded in droves. In fact, one of my first thoughts was, "What have I gotten myself into? How do I possibly decide what to leave in and what to lose?" Then I remembered my good friend, the Internet. So just go to to see what the staff had to say.

They're stories you won't get working on an oil rig.

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