THE AL GILKES COLUMN – Frying pan to fire
Twenty-one years ago, I gave up a very successful career in journalism because it was such a stressful job. I felt if I did not end my life as a journalist, my life as a journalist might end me.
As an alternative, I opted for a related but what I believed to be a significantly less stressful job. The hours would be much shorter than the average 12 that were my norm. I would no longer have to live with the feeling that Harold Hoyte was waiting for my head with a guillotine any time I failed in the never-ending rush to meet deadlines.
There would be no phone calls in the middle of night pulling me from under my covers to cover some calamity. No more politicians, union officials, businessmen, professionals and ordinary folk would be on my case 24/7 ranting and raving or wanting to lynch me for something I had published that was not in their favour. And no more having to fly hither, thither and yon at a moment’s notice into an erupting volcano, a coup, a hurricane, or blood-stained elections.
I would also be free from the threat of libel and, worse than that, the possibility of having my tail end up in prison for contempt of court if I found it necessary to refuse to reveal a source of information.
I could go on and on and on.
So I resigned from Nation Publishing, walked away from 30 years in journalism and became a public relations executive.
Then last week, I had an eye-opener in the form of a report on the results of a study done in the United States by CareerCast.com to determine the most stressful jobs. It looked at 11 different factors that can cause stress on the job and ranked 200 professions by how significantly these demands factor into the average workday.
The factors that “weighed into stress” included the work environment, job competitiveness, the physical demands, the deadlines and the on-the-job dangers. Sounded a lot like working in journalism to me. Nevertheless, I was not surprised to learn that the job at the No. 1 spot on the Top 10 most stressful is that of commercial airline pilot.
According to the study, several recent events had exposed the extreme stress under which those men and women in the cockpit work while we, as passengers in the cabin outside, stretch our legs, relax and even fall asleep without a care in the world. Among the factors given for them working with the highest level of stress was the incidence of air traffic controllers who fall asleep on the job leaving the pilots with no option but to risk landing without any assistance.
Now guess which job is at the No. 2 spot of most stressful?
I couldn’t believe it, but it happens to be that of public relations executives like me. It, therefore, would seem that 21 years ago, I was wrong, wrong, wrong and that what I really did when I went into PR was to jump out of the frying pan into the very heart of the fire.
So am I thinking about turning it all around and returning to a job in journalism? No way. I not only love PR but being at No. 2 has a strangely nice feeling about it.
Al Gilkes is head of a public relations firm.