The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

April 10, 2014

Newspaper reporters join birds, fish on endangered species list

By Jeff Mullin, columnist
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — I’m beginning to get a complex.

Every time I begin to think I didn’t make a serious mistake when I didn’t follow my junior high inclination to become an attorney, I read something like the item I saw on the Internet the other day.

The article was titled “5 jobs nearing extinction — and what’s taking their place.”

No. 2 on the list? Reporter.

Oh great, now my chosen profession has been labeled endangered. That means my colleagues and I are in the same category with, say, the black abalone, the greater adjutant and the Rio Grande silvery minnow, all species that have been labeled endangered.

And, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, we could someday find ourselves joining the ranks of the California tapir, the Florida spectacled bear and the woolly mammoth — species that are now extinct.

I knew I should have listened to my mother and married a wealthy heiress. Instead, my bride was a teacher, another profession not exactly at the top of the economic heap.

In junior high, I was leaning toward become an attorney. I even did a report on the legal profession. I was one step from a judgeship. Where did I go wrong?

All I’ve ever wanted to do was write, at least after I figured out becoming a professional athlete, a movie star or a male model were beyond my reach.

I like what I do. Writing has always come easy to me, I enjoy telling good stories and, besides, the job entails no heavy lifting.

I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have this job. Fortunately, the people who put together this article offered alternative careers that those in danger of losing their jobs just might transition into.

In the case of reporters, the alternative given is public relations specialist. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, reporting jobs are expected to decline by 8 percent between now and 2020, resulting in a loss of some 3,900 jobs.

The PR specialist field, however, is expected to expand by 23 percent between now and 2020, a gain of some 58,200 jobs.

The only trouble is, being a public relations specialist is a bit like being a merry-go-round operator, it’s all about the spin.

I don’t want to do anything other than what I’m doing. I love writing, and, besides, my job allows me to provide an acceptable public forum for the voices in my head.

The newspaper business has a long and storied history, dating back to Julius Caesar’s Roman Empire, which published something titled Acta Diruna “Daily Acts,” that consisted primarily of government pronouncements. These were carved in metal or stone and posted in public places, which is the same fate that would befall anyone trying to publish anything critical of the Caesar regime.

Newspapers have long been muck rakers and pot stirrers, beacons that have endeavored to shed light on the darkest recesses of human greed and corruption, but also to chronicle the height of human achievement.

Newspapers are a vital part of the communities they serve. Newspapers often stand on the sidelines, in turn cheering or chiding, but more often they get right in the middle of issues that affect the lives of their neighbors, their readers.

Newspapers offer a wide variety of news and information, from reports of a murder on page one, a scathing editorial about a potential tax hike on page four, a lemon meringue pie recipe on page five and a high school no-hitter on the front page of the sports section.

The medium is changing. Increasingly, newspapers have a presence on the Internet and social media, Facebooking, tweeting and text-alerting breaking news throughout the day.

But the traditional newspaper that lands on your driveway in the wee hours of the morning is far from dead. Milestones marked in the paper are still clipped out and mailed to grandma back East, or hung proudly on the refrigerator.

 But now I am told my beloved profession is dying. You don’t have to hit me over the head more than once (or twice) to get my attention. I have thus begun the search for alternative employment.

First, I had better decide what kind of work I am qualified for. Doctor? Too much blood. Teacher? Too chicken. Firefighter and policeman? Same answer. Rocket scientist? Too dumb. Jockey? Too big. Football player? Too small. Criminal? Too smart. Career politician? Same answer. Entertainer? Too dull. Wealthy philanthropist? Too poor. Male stripper? Too shy.

OK, after careful consideration, I have come to the conclusion I am qualified for only two other jobs — professional cat litter box cleaner, or human doorstop.

I’d better hang on to this newspaper gig as long as I possibly can.

Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at