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posted: 4/28/2013 5:00 AM

Newspapering hardly deserves its 'worst' label

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I knew it was bad, but I didn't think it was the worst.

I'm referring, of course, to the survey in that ranks newspaper reporters, and implicitly everyone in the business, as having the worst jobs in the nation.

As the survey noted, our industry has suffered mightily the past five to seven years or so: Revenues nationally are less than half what they were in 2006, and thousands of jobs lost; growth prospects aren't good and the stress level was tops (worst) among all careers.

But I was thrilled that Daily Herald Columnist Burt Constable explained why he'd rather be a newspaper reporter than an actuary, which was deemed the best job.

As Burt put it, "The Society of Actuaries is based in Schaumburg, and one of my very first columns in May of 1988 was about how being an actuary was deemed the best job in America. During those interviews, I remember thinking that I'd still rather be a newspaper reporter interviewing an actuary than to be an actuary." Burt pointed out actuaries make a boatload more money, have low stress and great working conditions, but also noted, "But if you are stuck next to a stranger on a four-hour flight and ask, 'So, what do you do?' your time will pass quicker if you are sitting next to a newspaper reporter."

People like Burt are a big reason why this industry -- or perhaps better put, this newspaper -- is a great place to work. To be sure, I wish I had more staff, and I have days where the workload seems overwhelming, But far more often than not, I leave those exhausting days with a strong sense of accomplishment and worth. Some examples:

• For weeks, the mantra was "Just get through the election." The day-after result in the April 10 editions was 128 stories and 41 pages devoted to coverage of races for mayor, municipal, school, park and library boards. Community journalism at its finest. The last part of that mantra was, "And then things will settle down a bit."

• Wrong. The week after the election came news of the Boston Marathon bombings. Our role when something like this happens is to find the local angles. Throughout the day we looked for locals who were in Boston and witnessed the tragedy. Staff writer Susan Sarkauskas told the gripping tale of a runner from St. Charles who approached the finish line as the first bomb went off. All told, we posted 22 local stories that day. And for all the bylines that appeared with those stories, there likely were more people behind the scenes working on our coverage of a national disaster. Two quick examples: Local News Editor Renee Trappe stuck around until the wee hours, converting 20 of those stories into shorter vignettes so all would fit in the next day's print editions. Another member of our editorial board, without prompting, put together on the fly a moving editorial about the harsh reality of what has become the "new normal" in this country.

• Then came the rains. This time the big story was in our backyards. Our flooded backyards. Again, time to do more than document how many inches of rain fell, when the Des Plaines, DuPage and Fox rivers were cresting. We needed to tell the story of the drama and heroism in our midst. Two of my favorites: Lenore Adkins' tale of Barrie Komorski not wanting to abandon her year-old dog, Roxi, being carried to safety along with Roxi, a tiny chorkie, by four off-duty East Dundee firefighters. In Lisle, Justin Kmitch reported on the person-by-person evacuation of a 51-bed nursing home surrounded by water that also was rushing through the front door. Just as significant in our coverage were the outstanding photos of those rescues by Brian Hill and Dan White.

I planned to tell you last week about all this in-house heroism, but I got backed up editing stories that I just ran out of time to do a column. No one here complained.

Yep, worst job ever.

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