Remember When Journalism Was a Happenin’ Career?

One of the quirky things about my sub-generation is being just old enough to remember when journalism was an extremely “hot” career choice. This was particularly true in the wake of Watergate, when Metro reporters for WaPo were being played by Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffmann in the movies, and journalism schools were teeming with kids determined to “make a difference.” It was well known that you weren’t likely to get rich in journalism, but today’s world, where journalists are competing with unpaid Trust Fund babies and tenured professors for print space and bandwidth, and otherwise rational people work for free to “promote themselves,” wasn’t even a waking nightmare yet. I guess the apex of the Age of Journalism As Sexy was the publication of David Halberstam’s 1979 book, The Powers That Be, which was sort of an extended hymn of praise to the glory of four media companies (CBS, WaPo, TIME, and the L.A. Times) and their executives and employees.

My college didn’t have a journalism program, so even though one of those high-school occupational path tests showed me as off-the-charts fated for that metier, I waited around and conducted the world’s most laughable late-career transfer to the profession, at exactly the worst possible time. And now it’s gotten worse, per Jim Romanesko:

Newspaper reporter lands on the bottom of CareerCast’s Jobs Rated list for 2015. Last year, it was #199 out of 200 occupations. Today’s press release says:

Newspaper reporter, which displaced lumberjack as the worst job of 2015, has a negative growth outlook of -13.33% and an average annual salary of $36,267. Broadcaster and photojournalist, with mid-level annual salaries of less than $30,000, also ranked at the bottom of the list. However, those with good writing skills often can find new employment in public relations, marketing, advertising and social media, where the outlook may be brighter.

Other rankings for 2015: Broadcaster, 196 (of 200 jobs); Photojournalist, 195; Author, 153; Public Relations Executive, 121; Publication Editor, 137; and Social Media Manager, 101.

“Blogger” or “Bloviator” doesn’t seem to be a job category, though I guess I am finally an Author, up there at number 153.

Used to be good writers would occasionally look at their student loan debts or other obligations and think about “selling out” to do public relations or advertising work. Now even those professions don’t look all that flush. Yet us gabbers are invariably called “elites.” Isn’t there a minimum income level for that?

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.