Each spring, a few high school students visit the newspaper for career day, curious to experience the world of a photojournalist.
Recently I had a nice ninth-grade girl from Baldwin High School shadow me. In addition to news photography, she is considering crime scene investigation and storm-chasing as possible career paths. She loves taking photographs of storm clouds, so the photojournalism and weather-spotting might pair well.
I believe most students shadow me because they like photography and the thought of taking pictures for a living sounds neat. It is. Or I thought it was, until I discovered that it's 189 on a list of the 200 best and worst jobs in the U.S. in 2009. Joining the photojournalist near the bottom were taxi driver, mail carrier, firefighter, dairy farmer and roustabout at dead last.
The study, from job site CareerCast.com, based their list on five criteria: environment, income, employment outlook, physical demands and stress. Photojournalists were identified as having higher-tha- average stress, lower-than-average pay and only moderate job opportunities. But 189 out of 200? I might caution a young photographer about pursuing a career as a newspaper photographer today, but I would also inform them of the satisfaction and rewards. I get to take a camera out into the world and in a creative and visually interesting way, document subjects and events that others may never witness.
Why just Tuesday night, I got to go out in a bad Kansas storm, feel the rain soak my clothes, experience the lightning strikes nearby, all while attempting to find inventive ways of photographing the storm's destruction and all on a deadline. But seriously, what really makes my job unique is that I get to spend my life participating in everybody else's life. I'd estimate that I've photographed the majority of the other professions on the list, plus bison herd caretaker. From butcher to baker to candlestick maker, I've framed them all as subjects in my camera. Each encounter increases my knowledge of the world and widens my appreciation of what everybody else does. It also broadens the appreciation I feel for being a photojournalist.
Yeah for 189!