The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

January 5, 2013

What a mess, reporters in distress

By Jeff Mullin, columnist
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Stress. Everyone deals with it, in one form or another.

Among common stressors are paying bills, dealing with traffic, raising kids and managing relationships, not to mention work.

But let’s mention work, shall we? The daily struggle to please the boss, meet goals and quotas, navigate the rocky shoals of office politics and climb the corporate ladder without being stepped upon or pushed off raises anxiety levels tremendously.

But some jobs are far more stressful than others.

Employment website has released its list of most- and least-stressful careers of 2013.

The site ranks professions based on 11 stress factors — travel, job outlook, deadlines, working in the public eye, competitiveness, physical demands, environmental conditions, hazards encountered, own life at risk, life of another at risk and meeting the public.

By this measuring stick, says the least stressful side of the ledger is topped by university professors, followed by seamstresses and tailors, medical research technicians, jewelers and medical laboratory technicians.

I don’t know about the rest, but I question including seamstresses and tailors in this list. It seems all that inseam measuring could get a bit uncomfortable. And a tailor’s mistake was held up for ridicule in the 1940 song, “Sam, You Made the Pants Too Long,” written by comedian Milton Berle and later recorded by Barbra Streisand. The song reportedly referred to a New York tailor of that era named Samuel Beckenstein.

Not surprisingly, the profession deemed most stressful by CareerCast is that of members of America’s armed forces.

Military folks hold the top two spots, in fact, with No. 1 going to enlisted troops and No. 2 being held down by generals. That makes perfect sense. When the generals say jump, enlisted folks don’t even bother to ask “how high?” they simply say “Yes sir,” but only on their way down. Besides, generals make way more money.

Firefighters are third on the list. Not only are they called upon to risk their own lives by running into burning buildings to save others, they work long hours and often have to resort to eating their own cooking.

Commercial airline pilots are fourth on the list. Not only do they have the lives of hundreds of passengers in their hands, they work odd hours traveling across several time zones, and they often have to resort to eating airline food.

Public relations executives are No. 5. I guess trying to convince people your company is warm, fuzzy and people-minded, rather than cold, heartless and money-grubbing, could be a bit of a strain.

They are followed by senior corporate executives. I’d like to think it is because of the pressure they feel to take good care of their employees and their investors, and not because of the fear they’ll get caught cooking the books.

Next are photojournalists, a group which includes some of my colleagues here at the News & Eagle. CareerCast doesn’t specify whether photogs are stressed because they are artists driven to produce the best photo possible under any circumstances, or whether they are simply stressed about getting yet another stupid assignment from a numbskull reporter.

Which brings us to the No. 8 and most important spot on CareerCast’s top 10 list — newspaper reporter. Let me just say, we should have been higher on the list.

Do I sense skepticism? Let us review the criteria by which this list was chosen. First is travel. It’s a long way back to the bathroom, not to mention the coffee machine.

Job outlook? Increasingly, newspapers are fading away completely or reducing the number of times a week they are printed. That means less reporters and more stress.

Deadlines? Check. Every day brings a new deadline. Working in the public eye? Check. Every mistake you make winds up on the page, and on the bottom of some bird’s cage.

Competitiveness? Reporters are driven to be first when reporting the news, not to mention when someone brings a box of doughnuts into the newsroom.

Physical demands? Sitting on our butts all day is bad for our health. Plus, there’s always the risk of eyestrain, not to mention the occasional paper cut.

Environmental conditions? In the newsroom it’s cold in the summer and hot in the winter, or vice versa. And the roof has been known to leak. Besides, the newsroom fridge is filled with all sorts of noxious items that used to be food and now are merely science experiments.

Hazards encountered? See the aforementioned reference to paper cuts and the newsroom fridge.

Own life at risk? See the aforementioned reference to deadlines (our editors regularly threaten to kill us if we miss another one). Life of another at risk? Not unless one of our readers falls off his or her chair laughing, or becomes apoplectic over an editorial stand or a misplaced modifier.

Meeting the public? I have, on occasion, been approached by readers in public places. The exchange normally goes something like this:

Them: “Are you Jeff Mullin?”

Me: “Why, does he owe you money?”

Talk about stress.

Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at, unless, of course, he owes you money.