For the love of the job

AT RANDOM: Reporter Roger Knox says journalism and broadcasting jobs aren't as bad as they're cracked up to be

You might have recently seen on Facebook, or elsewhere on the Internet, a U.S.-based job search company called CareerCast.com  posted a column about the top-10 worst jobs of 2012, lumberjack being the worst of the worst.

For the first time, newspaper reporter and broadcaster made the list.

“As the digital world continues to take over and provide on-demand information, the need for print newspapers and daily newscasts is diminishing,” states the column. “To be sure, both jobs once seemed glamorous, but on-the-job stress, declining job opportunities and income levels are what landed them on our Worst Jobs list.”

Really, that’s no surprise to those who are newspaper reporters or broadcasters, especially in small towns. I’m lucky to have done both jobs in my 25-plus years as a journalist, all in small-town B.C.

I love being a journalist. It’s what I wanted to be when I grew up (the jury’s still out on whether I’ve matured or not). I love telling peoples’ stories.

The first interview I ever did was as a radio student at BCIT. There was this guy at the gym playing wheelchair basketball for his Lower Mainland team at the provincial championships, having just returned from Boston where he won the wheelchair division of the Boston Marathon. It was Rick Hansen, long before he conceived his Man In Motion world tour.

Being a reporter, you get perks like passes to concerts or sporting events to offset the low wage. In Williams Lake, I got to interview Maurice (The Rocket) Richard when he refereed an oldtimers hockey game, a career highlight for me, and had my picture taken with him.

In Vanderhoof, once home to a classic rock music festival, I was taking a picture of the guy who played drums for The Georgia Satellites, warming up backstage for his gig by twirling his drumsticks.  We ended up chatting. Turns out drumming for the Satellites was just a part-time gig. He owned a garage in Savannah, Ga., and worked as a mechanic.

In Fort St. James, one of the first pictures I took was of a B.C. Rail engineer taking his young daughter to work with him in the locomotive. I mentioned to him my lifelong love of trains and the next thing I know, he’s letting me drive the engine. How cool is that?

Also in the Fort, I did a story on a bunch of live turkeys who went missing from the back of a pick-up truck, and covered a low-speed golf cart chase in Salmon Arm after a guy stole a cart from a golf course and tried to outrun police in the cart. You can’t make that stuff up as a reporter.

I got to spend a day pretending to be an RCMP officer in training at the actual B.C. facility in Chilliwack. I was put in a scenario where an angry driver approached me with a baseball bat. He didn’t listen to my commands to stop and I ended up shooting him. Fascinating, sweat-inducing, nerve-wracking fun.

I just about didn’t write one of my all-time favourite stories.

My editor in Salmon Arm, a curler and curling fan, told me that a Salmon Arm pastor finished second at something called The Friar’s Brier and go talk to him about it. “The Friar’s Brier?” I protested, thinking this is going to be one of the lamest assignments ever.  Well, turns out the man  made it to the final with his three sons and lost. He was hilarious with fabulous quotes. When I asked him which team had God on its side in the final, he laughed and said, “Well I think God was on both sides but they had a third that shot the lights out.”

Low pay and high blood pressure aside, the best thing about my work is the variety.  Some of us newspaper reporters and broadcasters think we have the best job.

– roger@vernonmorningstar.com