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The Big Picture
Rebecca "Becky" Coates Nee, a veteran TV news anchor/reporter, is a professional life/career coach. Check out her website at to take the coachability test, subscribe to her free "Beyond the Box" newsletter and to find out if you're an adrenaline junkie.

Leaving TV
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 did.

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 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 I retired."

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.