By Rebecca Coates Nee
September 10th, 2001
Here's something they don't tell you in journalism school:
If you work in TV news, chances are high that sooner or later,
you'll start thinking about a new career. And that's a daunting
notion when you're approaching - dare I say - midlife.
When I left my anchor job in Fort Myers, I was the oldest
woman on air in the market, at the age of 39. Only one female
anchor had children and she quit less than a year after I
A survey by Missouri School of Journalism Professor Vernon
Stone - keeper of broadcast statistics - found few women stay
in TV news beyond their 30s and only a quarter of the men
in the business are over 40.
But what else can they do? For my new book, "Leaving TV: A
Guide to Life After News," (available now at www.Booklocker.com)
I talked with and e-mailed dozens of current and former TV
news employees around the country to answer that question.
Some left big markets; others quit small stations. Some look
back; others do not.
Making that final decision to leave came automatically or
instantly for no one. I also interviewed career counselors
and people who do the hiring in the various fields that seem
to attract TV news types looking for "real jobs." And yes,
Virginia, there is much more out there than PR.
From "Bitchin' Betty" - the voice of the F-16 fighter aircraft
- to law student, entrepreneur, Web designer, firefighter
and financial planner - former television news anchors, reporters,
photographers and producers are successfully transitioning
into a variety of different careers once they decide it's
time to move on. But not everyone is happy with their move
out of news. The main reason? They didn't spend enough time
planning their career decision; they simply jumped at the
highest-paying, least-distasteful PR job that came along.
For as much as we gripe and complain about The Business, choosing
to walk away from a career in television news is not easy.
For many, it means giving up a life-long dream.
"I had to do a lot of soul searching," says Mary Hunt, who
left her anchor/reporter job in Asheville, N.C. at age 32
to become a pharmaceutical sales representative. "All my life
I wanted to be a reporter and I thought I would do that until
Leaving TV also signifies taking a huge risk and exchanging
the safety of what's familiar for something you may not like
at all, even if it does offer less stress and better hours.
"I wrestled with leaving because reporting is all I know;
it's in my blood," admits Jake Putnam, who quit reporting
after 15 years to work as broadcast manager for the Idaho
Farm Bureau. "But I knew if I didn't leave, they would have
to carry me out because of the stress."
It's kind of like a dysfunctional relationship ------ unpredictable
and abusive - but loads of fun. We don't always admit it,
but most anchors, reporters, producers, photographers and
assignment editors thrive on the adrenaline rush of a busy
news day, regardless of market size. Deep down we know that
life without the rush of live TV might be pleasant enough
but, well - boring.
That's why it's so important that you choose your career after
TV instead of it choosing you. Next week, I'll have some tips
on how to do that.