TV - What Else
by Rebecca Coates Nee
everyone who works in TV news thinks about leaving the business at some
point. For photographers, the choice often is made to save their deteriorating
back, neck and shoulders.
But no matter how many aches and pains you have, the final decision
to break away from news is never easy. I left television news twice
over a 12 year period. The first time, I tried what everyone thinks
is the only option public relations. In just two years, I was
bored and frustrated. So I went back on air.
I left for the final time 18 months ago, at the age of 40, to finally
pursue a family and normal" life. I also decided to do what
was really needed: help other broadcasters make a smooth and satisfying
transition from TV to the real world."
I began by interviewing more than 40 ex-anchors, producers and photographers
for my book, Leaving TV: A Guide to Life After News." I found
some who made mistakes and others who were very happy. Most missed the
people in the newsroom and the adrenaline rush the most. Many were relieved
to be free from daily deadlines, odd shifts and working holidays.
The career transitions are as varied as the people. Some photographers
start their own production companies, others teach while still others
get completely away from the camera.
Here are a few examples of what some former broadcasters are doing now
and saying about it from Leaving TV:"
Former news photographer Al Shilling figures he's saved many parents
thousands of dollars through his rigorous broadcast news training program
at a public high school. Many kids who thought it was all glamour quickly
change their minds after taking his class.
Shilling assigns students roles you would find at any TV station - from
general manager to news director and even chief engineer. They put together
an eight-minute daily newscast in just 40 minutes.
Because of the teacher shortage, Shilling was allowed to teach without
a credential, as long as he completed 12-15 hours of education classes
within two years. Everyone knows the downside of teaching is the pay.
Starting teacher salaries are typically $25,000 a year - but remember,
that's for nine months of work.
Imagine a job where you have all the holidays off, you don't have
to work nights, you always have three months vacation, good benefits
and you have the power to be your own assignment editor, your own producer,
all in one," says Shilling.
Shilling owns a video production company on the side and says he's starting
to make more money from that than teaching. So will he give up the classroom?
I make a difference in about 50 kids' lives every day," he
To me, education is the last hope. Change is gonna
have to come from the outside and kids bring about the last hope to
get journalism where it needs to be."
Video Production Companies
Except in some large markets, gone are the days of large production
houses with multiple employees. Many video production companies now
consist of one owner and a few freelancers who shoot and edit.
But the cost of starting your own company is much lower than what it
was 10 or 20 years ago. Tom Kramig, owner of Pro Cam Video Productions
in Cincinnati, and Ken Sneeden, of Sneeden and Associates in Fort Myers,
each took out loans for $50,000 when they left TV to start their businesses.
Now they say all it would take is a $10,000 investment in today's high-quality
digital equipment. One key to running a successful production company
is to find a niche no one else is filling, then diversify, diversify,
diversify. Sneeden first took the niche route, offering animated graphics
to an existing video company (also owned by an ex-employee of his former
As technology advanced, so did his business. He now produces image and
sales videos, as well as computer and power point presentations. You
have to be able to follow whatever the changing trends are, adapt to
the changing trends and technology," he says.
Kramig also provides a range of services at his company. He noticed
a recent slowdown in the video market because many companies are working
on their Web sites, but the upside will be a greater demand for streaming
video on those sites and videos on CD-ROMs.
Where does he get his clients? Many are ex-TV news employees who are
now marketing directors for private companies in the area. Those are
the first people to approach as potential clients even former
competitors want to do business with someone who knows the industry.
As a producer/videographer/editor at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center
in California, former chief photographer Steve Parcel has exclusive
access to shooting shuttle landings at Edwards Air Force Base, as well
as new aircraft and other NASA projects. The video is then fed by satellite
to national and international media and often used live.
He found his job through Monster.com and says he nearly doubled his
salary. Some travel is involved for special assignments. Parcel spends
several weeks shooting in locations ranging from South Africa to Hawaii.
Benefits are good and so are the hours. But, as with most government
jobs, they expect you to be there all day, every day.
His advice for photographers thinking about leaving the business: Learn
all the areas around you, from writing to producing, to high-tech editing
and graphics. You can't count on somebody to teach you. You have to
make it a point to learn it for yourself."
The key to success after TV news is to identify your unique talents
and passions before you leave. Don't just get tired and miserable one
day and take the least distasteful job offer that comes along. That's
a formula for regret.
Think about which stories have intrigued you the most and why. What
did you want to be when you were a kid? What would you do if you didn't
have to worry about money? Clues can be found in the answers. In today's
job market, you may have to design your next position. Use your creativity
and intuition to craft it carefully.
The pros and cons of more than two dozen broadcast career transitions
are featured in Leaving TV: A Guide to Life After News."
Find out more about the book at www.transitions.tv.
Rebecca Coates Nee is a writer, speaker and personal life/career coach
specializing in broadcast transitions.