We’re number 22! (Or number 30. Or something.)

At work I get emails like this, from SafeHome:

new study released today found Wisconsin is the No. 22 best state for journalists to live and work.

Despite being the only industry outside of government mentioned in the Bill of Rights, the free press has been under fire in recent years including loss of jobs, decreasing print circulation and increasing anti-media sentiment.

SafeHome.org today released a study on The Best Places for Journalists to Live and Work using the latest data from the U.S. Department of Labor, Zillow and U.S. Free Press Tracker.

The rankings were determined by factoring in the latest statistics and trends in employment opportunities, median salary, cost of a living and safety concerns including attacks on media members.

Below are Wisconsin findings from the study:

  • Journalist Employment per 1,000 Jobs:.22%
  • Projected Change in Employment by 2026: 21.6%
  • Percentage of Journalist Attacks in Last Three Years: 0%
  • Annual Median Wage: $31,020
  • Median Monthly Rent: $1,000

Below are national findings from the study:

  • 26 journalists have been physically attacked in 2019
  • 5 best states for journalists are Oklahoma, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Delaware
  • 5 worst states for journalists are Oregon, Maryland, Tennessee, Alabama, and Iowa
  • 5 best cities for journalists are D.C., New York, Kansas City, Minneapolis and Louisville.
  • 5 worst cities for journalists are: San Jose, Nashville, Riverside, Baltimore and Buffalo.

I can understand Washington’s and New York’s listings. Any capital city of any state ought to be good for journalists. I am unclear about the other rankings.

Click on the link, and I find out, for starters, bad writing:

Low pay. Stressful work. Terrible schedules. People yelling “fake news!” at you — or worse. The modern American journalist has a largely thankless job, but it’s one that nonetheless is crucial to any functioning democracy.

Outside of government, the press is the only industry specifically referenced in the Bill of Rights, and throughout our history, many of the worst abuses of power have come to light only after dogged reporters and journalists got involved.

There’s no doubt that the past few decades have been tough on journalism in the United States. Newspaper circulation has plummeted, and newsrooms have shed thousands of jobs. In fact, between 2006 and 2017, employment in newspaper editorial departments fell by nearly 50%.

Adding to the average journalist’s stress over whether they’ll even have a job tomorrow is the continuing erosion of the public’s trust in news media. While the numbers have ticked up over the past couple of years, public trust in the news media fell to just 32% in 2016, down from a post-Watergate high of 72% in 1976.

All is not lost, though: Enrollment at many major journalism schools, including Columbia, USC and Northwestern has risen over the past couple of years, which would seem counterintuitive if, as people suggest, the industry is dying.

The U.S. is a vast and complicated country, and the day-to-day reality in one place may bear no resemblance to what happens elsewhere. So we wanted to explore where the young journalists who will soon be starting their careers should consider looking for work.

You can jump to the bottom to see our complete methodology, but our rankings of best and worst states and cities for journalists plots every state and the 50 largest U.S. cities on a scale based on how difficult the life of a journalist is likely to be. The calculation includes things like ease of finding a job, typical wages, how expensive rent is and how likely attacks against journalists are. In our scale, higher numbers equate to a worse outlook.

And now, fun with graphics, including a bad math error:

I’ve always said that journalism is the opposite of math, but let’s see if I can illustrate the error. Look at the top eight (and lower is better here):

  1. Oklahoma.
  2. Kentucky.
  3. Nebraska.
  4. New Mexico.
  5. Delaware, Maine and Rhode Island.
  6. Arizona.

Wrong! If Delaware, Maine and Rhode Island tie for sixth, Arizona is not sixth, it’s eighth. Therefore, Wisconsin is not tied for 22nd, it’s tied for 30th.

The news release says Wisconsin journalism employment is going to change 21.6 percent by 2026. The map says Wisconsin journalism employment is going to shrink 21.6 percent by 2026. I can believe the drop given that daily newspapers are cutting employment, including the state’s largest, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, due to its ownership for multiple reasons. On the other hand, it’s hard to believe Wisconsin would rank 22nd (actually 30th) with that much journalism job shrinkage.

(The writer’s answer is that the copy indicates change, not positive or negative change. My answer is that someone should have proofread this before it got sent to journalists.)

This is also missing an important feature that might be difficult to categorize, but is vital nonetheless — the strength, or lack thereof, of that state’s freedom of information (in Wisconsin, open meetings and open records) laws. Those are critical to a journalist’s being able to do his or her job. (Here is one ranking, which proves that it’s actually not that difficult to rank.)

This is also weak in another area by only comparing rents and not comparing overall cost of living. The states that pay the highest tend to have the highest costs of living, and vice versa. Housing costs are most people’s largest expense, but journalists do eat.

Time for the obligatory head-shaking because Orange Man Bad!

Even if you agree with his position, it’s impossible to argue that President Donald Trump does not see the news media as his enemy. And while it’s irresponsible to draw a direct correlation between the president’s rhetoric and every attack on any journalist in the United States, there can be no doubt that general hostilities against the press have heated up. So far in 2019, 29 journalists have been physically attacked and since 2017, 46 reporters have been attacked while they were covering protests. In 2018, five journalists were killed, four of them during the horrific mass shooting of the Capital Gazette newsroom in Maryland.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, a joint effort by the Freedom of the Press Foundation and the Committee to Protect Journalists, monitors attacks on the press, whether in the form of physical attacks, arrests, rhetoric or other attempts to restrain press freedom.

More than 300 incidents have been cataloged over the past few years, with the majority taking place or impacting journalists in D.C. and California.

“Chilling statement”? That used to be a memorable day’s work. (I’ve written here before that I once received a phone call at a TV station that someone was “going to blow up your fucking station” because it preempted Formula 1 racing for infomercials. And I’ve had interesting encounters with school board presidents and Catholic bishops, as you know.)

Remember the phrase “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”? It appears as though that is no longer the case for at least some journalists, who appear to have become as fragile snowflakes as your favorite millennial woke social justice warriors. Grow up, journalists, and grow a pair.

And now, the windup:

Without a free press, those who would seek to take advantage of the American public would likely be able to do so without fear of consequences. A strong, independent press holds those in power to account in a way that individual citizens cannot do.

The average American spends over an hour every day consuming news, whether in print, on TV or online. Behind each of those headlines and every one of those longform thinkpieces is a team of journalists who’ve decided to devote their lives to a job whose public perception ranks behind undertakers.

In this fractious age where news happens seemingly nonstop, it can be helpful to pause for a moment and consider that without a journalist, you wouldn’t even know that news happened.

Assuming that this news release is in fact news and not a PR factory’s self-promotional tool. I think a certain president would say …

You Are Fake News - Fake News GIF - FakeNews News Donald GIFs

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