NASCAR, nudists, firewalking and the Green River Killer do not equal a bad job

firewalker

Being a newspaper reporter is one of the worst jobs you can do, according to a report released by Career Cast.

The report cites “fewer available jobs, a worsening industry forecast and paltry pay” as reasons for the ranking.

Those are real conditions and fears. Other studies cite the danger faced by reporters, some of whom are killed while doing their jobs.

I mourn them, and agree that the newspaper landscape isn’t as rosy as it once was. But even though I was in some dangerous positions and did deal with low pay as a newspaper reporter for much of 30 years, I am here to tell you, that job has been awesome.

There was the time I spent covering NASCAR for a small community weekly paper. Going to races, and being in the pits with the cars, drivers and crews, was so much fun. Tell me you wouldn’t have gotten a kick out of walking by drivers like Davey Allison, Darrell Waltrip, Ernie Irvan and Kyle Petty and having them call you by your first name.

There was the time I got to spend weeks with a police officer and his new K9 partner, attending their training sessions and learning about the bond dog and man form during that precious time before the pair puts their life on the line in the streets.

I even got to take my German Shepherd to a world-class K9 training facility and get instruction on how to teach my pup in German, something I have done with every one of my shepherds since.

The night R. Cork Kallen taught me about mind over matter, and I then walked on a bed of nails and on a bed of red-hot coals, changed my mindset about my limits. If I could focus and do those things without being injured, I could do anything. I still believe that to this day, and that one experience has allowed me to be brave enough to try things some people will never have the courage to try.

I was a “celebrity judge” at events too numerous to count, but they included pies, cakes and ice cream; singing and dancing; and counting nudists at a Guinness World Record attempt for the most people at a naked skinny dip.

I reviewed concerts and restaurants, and covered and/or met celebrities, rock stars and two presidents.

I got to try my hand at beekeeping, indoor skydiving, roller derby, race car driving (NASCAR again!), stand-up comedy, and making ice cream and butter just by using ingredients and a glass jar. I got to be the grand marshal in parades and the girl who waved the starting flag at a race. And I became what I call an expert for a day on many topics, including maple syrup making, cake decorating, quilting, base jumping, breakdancing and skateboarding.

I got to write about and participate in the search for a little boy who was missing in the freezing cold overnight. I cannot to this day describe the jubilation we all felt when he was found curled up with the family’s Golden Retriever.

I wrote stories about a man who lost his legs in a fire – how he lost his job and home after that and how he needed help. The day he drove up to my newspaper office and got down out of a van donated and equipped with hand controls by a local dealership, and came in to thank me for changing his life, still makes me cry.

I covered the aftermath of the Oklahoma City Bombing, arriving on the scene less than 12 hours after it happened, when you could still walk right up near the front of the building. No pictures, and not even video, ever did the destruction justice.

In my years covering crime, I got to meet and help many victims and/or their families with the way I treated them and my stories, and I was privileged to have their trust.

With much investigation and several factual stories, I helped keep a wrongly accused man from going to prison. And I will never forget him leaping toward me, picking me up in the courtroom and swinging me around, calling me his angel after the judge announced he was free to go.

I met and interviewed killers, some of them who had committed absolutely horrifying crimes, in my attempt to understand why such things happened.

I covered the entire case of Green River Killer Gary Ridgway, from his arrest to his sentencing. I even have a copy of the book I co-wrote about him with his signature and a message from him inside it.

So, when someone announces that the job of a newspaper reporter is one of the worst jobs, I just shake my head. In my opinion, it was the best job anyone could ever have.

 

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