TV News A Bad Job? Not To Many On The Air

Responding to a survey that ranked TV and radio news as one of the 10 worst jobs in the country, many broadcasters say they love their work despite the stress, falling salaries, cutbacks and little growth potential cited by Careercast.

A group well versed in deciphering bad news, TV news pros aren’t buying’s report naming broadcasting one of the 10 worst jobs in the country.

“Well, I burst out laughing,” says Hank Phillippi Ryan, an investigative reporter with WHDH, Sunbeam’s NBC affiliate in Boston (DMA 7). “I love my job as a TV reporter.”

“I get to reveal when the system doesn’t work, help the good guys win, search for justice and try to change the world a bit. That’s not worst — that’s best. “

“Yes, it’s incredibly high stakes and high stress. I can never make a mistake, never choose the wrong word, never miscalculate, never call someone the wrong name and never be even one second late. So, maybe that’s what’s bad?”

Fred Cunningham, an anchor at WSPA, Media General’s CBS affiliate in Greenville-Spartanburg, S.C.-Asheville, NC (DMA 37), puts it this way: “That list is nuts.”

“We get a daily outlet for our creativity, and we don’t know what the topic is going to be most mornings when we arrive.


“You never know what we’ll learn, who we’ll get to meet and when it’s going to happen,” he says. “There are days I can’t wait to get on the air and stories I can’t wait to read.”

Broadcasting — defined as preparing and delivering news over TV or radio — was named the 10th worst job (or 190th best) on a list of 200 jobs in the country ranked best to worst by Careercast, a career-guidance website.

Take heart in the fact that there are still nine jobs that rated even lower — including a few that could lead to some serious bodily harm. At least broadcasters are faring better than enlisted soldiers, oil rig workers, dairy farmers and lumberjacks, who have the dubious distinction of holding the worst job of them all.

Oh, yeah, and newspaper reporters. Their job was named the fifth worst, making being a butcher, a dishwasher or a meter reader better career choices.

It was the first time two media jobs appeared in the bottom 10 on the ranking, which is determined by an analysis of measurable factors such as income levels, on-the-job stress, hiring outlook, physical demands and work environment, says Publisher Tony Lee.

The only white-collar jobs in the bottom 10, broadcasting and newspaper reporting are not typical of the jobs that show up on the low end. They usually require no more than a high school education and are physically demanding, Lee says.

Broadcasting, however, has never ranked as a particularly desirable job, Lee says. This year it sank even deeper due to a number of factors — stress, falling salaries, cutbacks and little growth potential — being exacerbated by economic conditions and competition over the last few years, he says.

“The No. 1 factor is the retrenching of the industry,” Lee says.

Careercast’s research shows “that hiring is almost nonexistent” and that the average salary, listed as $27,324, “keeps falling,” Lee says.

New job seekers who, at other times, would be looking for a paying gig “are fighting each other over unpaid internships,” he adds. “The work environment fares better than most but everything else is falling.”

The people who work in TV news balk at broadcasting’s lowly designation, especially since many of those in the TV news business thrive on realities of the industry — the fast pace, constant deadlines and irregular hours — that, analytically, factor in as negatives.

“Yes, it’s a stressful job. But there is nothing life or death here,” says Magee Hickey, a reporter at Tribune’s WPIX, a CW affiliate in New York (DMA 1).

“We don’t have as much stress as, say, a brain surgeon. We are not saving lives,” she says. “There are people who have really stressful jobs, like firefighters going into burning buildings.”

(Being a surgeon is the 45th best job in the country, according to the list. Firefighting is near the bottom, ringing in at 185.)

As Mark Saxenmeyer, a reporter at KSTP, Hubbard’s ABC affiliate in Minneapolis-St. Paul (DMA 15), says, “If you love what you do, how could it be one of the worst jobs?”

It beats a lot of the other jobs higher on the list, he says. “For me, sitting in a cubicle all day would be slow death. Every day I get to go out and meet new people and go to new places, ask new questions and actually learn something that I can then share with thousands of other people. What’s not to love?”

Doug Friedman, creative services director at KSUI, McKinnon Broadcasting’s independent in San Diego (DMA 28), says the Careercast report isn’t fair.

“’Broadcasting’ is too broad a field to be listed as a single category in a study like this,” he says. “You can consider yourself a writer, a salesman, a reporter, a cameraman, a research analyst. The fact that you are doing it in the broadcasting field is incidental.”

The way Laura Clark, a Frank N. Magid Associates SVP, sees it, rankings like Careercast’s don’t tell the whole story about the state of broadcasting.

“If you think of it in a very literal way, there might not be quite as much demand for newscasts and newspapers,” she says. “But there has never been a greater demand for news and information and there have never been more ways to get it. And newspapers and broadcasters have the opportunity to use everyone of those digital outlets into people’s homes and lives.

“I still think there are way worse jobs and a lot that’s important about what we do.”

Lee, however, stands by his researchers’ assessment of the state of broadcasting, noting, “we put a lot of criteria into measurement.”

And he says that what is worst to some is best to others.

He says he met a lumberjack who had broken several bones and cut off the end of his left pinky while on the job.

“But, [the lumberjack] said: ‘I don’t care. I love what I do.’ “

Read other Air Check columns here.

Comments (5)

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Hope Yen and Charles Babington says:

May 1, 2012 at 12:57 pm

You think COPS make much money? And stress? Dangers? Yet ask most cops about why they keep doing it, and they’ll almost all tell you that they can’t imagine NOT being a cop. Like being cops, broadcasters do it because they LOVE it. duh.

alicia farmer says:

May 1, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Certainly network and cable news ranks higher than local. 30 years ago a good local TV station was a dream job. Now it’s mind numbing “time to make the donuts”. Would you like sprinkles on your crime, mayhem, car crashes, and weather hype?

Jaclyn Hansen says:

May 1, 2012 at 3:41 pm

If you like riding around in a van all day long just to stand in front of crime scenes or burned out buildings, or pretending that the news your station just “learned” wasn’t ripped off from the morning paper, then being a TV reporter can’t be beat..

Jamey Garner says:

May 2, 2012 at 2:39 pm

In what other job could someone get paid for flying with the Blue Angels, talking with world leaders and going backstage at the circus? I love it!

spike spike says:

May 6, 2012 at 10:19 am

Dick…right on!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And flying with the Thunderbirds ain’t no bad deal either!