Jobs in America, Updated

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Just to remind everyone, here’s the list of jobs from yesterday that I found a bit odd:

  • Fisherman
  • Teacher
  • Ferry boat driver
  • Hydroelectric mechanic
  • Rancher/Rodeo organizer
  • Minister
  • Barber
  • Tribal chief
  • Cinematographer
  • Football coach
  • Peanut farmer
  • Boutique owner
  • Blackjack dealer
  • Bing Kong elder
  • Case manager at refugee agency
  • Barbeque owner
  • Manager at lunch meat manufacturer
  • Hotel worker, aspiring comic artist
  • Oil field worker
  • Airplane mechanic
  • Volunteer hotline operator for transgender peer support
  • Bakery operations manager
  • Border patrol agent
  • Wildlife biologist

Surprisingly, you guys figured out pretty quickly what was strange here. After circling around the answer a bit, commenter clawback got it: “Seems like office work is grossly underrepresented here.”

Now, if your goal is to take pretty pictures and produce interesting vignettes, it makes sense that you might skip right past all the office jobs. But this kind of thing happens a lot, especially in pieces about what “real people in the heartland” are thinking these days. And that’s where it’s really annoying. I’m too lazy to look this up, but I’d guess that something like a quarter to a third of the workforce is made up of urban and suburban office workers: accounting clerks, web designers, paralegals, tech writers, telemarketers, stock brokers, financial analysts, DMV clerks, copy editors, etc. To read all these stories about wildlife biologists and tribal chiefs and barbeque owners, you’d think that all these ordinary 9-to-5 jobs either didn’t exist or were beneath notice.

Anyway, I recommend the Times begin a new project: Exactly the same as the old one, but consisting solely of “documenting moments large and small, quiet and indelible” in the lives of suburban office workers. Any photographer can take a great picture of a fishing skiff at dawn, and any writer can create a moving portrait of a middle school football coach in a low-income neighborhood. Now do the same thing for folks who work under fluorescent lights in glass and steel office buildings and spend their free time hauling the kids to soccer practice and making dinner. That’s a little more challenging, isn’t it?


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It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

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Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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