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From AJR,   June 1999  issue

10 Best/Worst Things About Being a Career Reporter   


By Lori Robertson
Lori Robertson (robertson.lori@gmail.com), a former AJR managing editor, is a senior contributing writer for the magazine.      

10 Best Things About Being a Career Reporter*

10. You never need to know anything. Just ask questions.
9. You never need to dress up or even shave. It's not expected.
8. You never need to grow up--you can be a smart-ass cynic for life.
7. You can call anyone in the world, demand info, and when you don't get it, call back, then write an accusatory, self-righteous so-and-so "failed to return telephone calls seeking comment."
6. You never need a license, certification, continuing education or even acceptable social skills.
5. You never have to sell anything, be nice to anyone, or buy flowers on Secretary's Day.
4. Even though you're in the thick of things--trials, campaigns, etc.--you risk nothing, have no stake, are not responsible for anything and have nothing to lose.
3. If you get a good beat, you get a front-row seat to history.
2. Attention deficit disorder is an asset. And if you get complaints, you can blame an editor--"I wrote it, someone must have taken it out."
1. If you can write, you'll never have to work again.

10 Worst Things About Being a Career Reporter*

10. You'll never be rich.
9. You never get invited to posh events as a guest.
8. Anyone in the world can call and bend your ear with wild stories that never check out; the best stories you hear can never be put in the paper.
7. It will never be your paper.
6. Because you're unlicensed and unregulated, no professional will ever respect you.
5. Because you're a reporter, most in power loathe you; as a result you never quite feel like an adult, or even comfortable in the presence of adults.
4. You sometimes have to interview people about their personal loss and bereavement.
3. No matter how good your beat, you'll never be more than a hired witness.
2. You never get to be boss of anybody; as a generalist, you never really become expert in anything for more than a news cycle.
1. If you get editors who think you can't write, you have to work like a dog till you die.

*from a recent lecture by John M. Baer to a Penn State journalism class. Baer, of the Philadelphia Daily News, is a career reporter by choice. He says he's happy but far from financially secure.