Taking the leap: Why I’m leaving TV news after 24 years

LB’S NOTE: This one’s up on TVWriter™ in honor of some friends of mine, Nancy Bliven, Ryan Cowan, Mary Munford, and Tom Zapiecki, all of them honorable veterans of the TV news wars. But everybody should read it because if you read between the lines you’ll learn a lot about the workings of all TV.

by Lori Bentley Law

Republished in part with permission. See the full version posted on the author’s website.

In order to make big change, you have to take a big leap. It’s scary, especially when you’ve had security and a rewarding career for 24 years, starting in 1994 at NBC affiliate KSBY in San Luis Obispo, California, and ending at KNBC Los Angeles.

I’ve been contemplating this decision for a long time now, ever since my shoulder issues in January 2017 which put me off work for four months.

It’s part of why we’ve been living vagabond for the last year, not wanting to settle in case I made the jump. I tell ya … pulling the trigger has been the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. But I’m making it.

I’m moving on from my career as a photojournalist for NBC LA.

I wrote this post in September just to see how I felt writing those words. They made me sad but also excited about the possibilities. There are several factors that led to this decision.

Physical health is, of course, a consideration, especially after my shoulder issues. A retiring news photog with a bad back and knees and shoulders once said to me, “Don’t work so long you drive your body into the ground like I did.” Those words have remained in the back of mind.

Carrying the amount of gear we do takes a toll on the body, and while I’ve strengthened my shoulder to the point it feels good as new, I don’t want to push it.

But that’s not the only reason I’m moving on.

I’m a happy, positive, optimistic person. I don’t want to be immersed in sadness every day. I don’t ever again want a cute little girl in pigtails to look up at me and say, “We hate you.” I don’t want to hear “Fake News” shouted at me anymore. Or to be flipped off while driving my news van. Or worse yet, to have the passenger in the vehicle pacing me hang their naked butt out the window and defecate. Yes. That happened.

When I see my job impacting who I am, it disturbs me. I hate when cynicism and grouchiness creep in and I find I go there far more than I’d like in response to the onslaught of negative news coverage.

Don’t get me wrong. There have also been a million positive things over the years, which is why I’ve stayed for so long. I have truly loved my career. It’s taken me around the world and introduced me to extraordinary people.

Like covering the Olympics in Sydney, Greece, Salt Lake, and the preview for Torino.

And being in St. Peter’s Square for the Papal Conclave in 2005. I still get goosebumps when I remember the roar that went up when the puff of smoke appeared.

I’ve been strapped and hung out the back of a Chinook helicopter for a story on the National Guard, and sat one-on-one with a First Lady about education issues.

I’ve met presidents and celebrities and average people with beautiful stories to tell and some really nice goats.

I love the process of what I do: Shooting, editing, doing live shots, being in a different place every day, seeing and doing things I never would have been exposed to, telling stories that make the heart soar.

And I love finding creative ways to shoot a story.

But lately, the negatives outweigh the positives.

Sometimes the universe kicks you in the pants. As I said, I wrote this post in September. I’d been talking to my boss about my transition for a while, and he very kindly counseled me through (and tried talking me out of it). We tentatively settled on my leaving in January or maybe on my NBC anniversary in February.

But then a week later, I had three incidents that pushed my decision.

While waiting to go live, a woman attacked my reporter and me. We weren’t hurt but the woman kicked over equipment and threatened to kill me with her weapon. When my partner got on the phone with Santa Ana PD, the woman then turned on her and got aggressive, screaming expletives and pushing her with her back

We got in the news van and the woman clung to the passenger door, spitting and pounding on the window. Finally, she let go and stepped into the street to stop traffic so we could go.

This kind of thing isn’t an anomaly, although most times we can de-escalate the situation. This one, we couldn’t.

Two days later, a man in a Mercedes paced my news van for several miles flipping me off and blocking me from exiting the freeway. I missed my exit by three.

Finally, I arrived at our location. We were covering reaction to the Brett Kavanaugh hearing and my news partner found a man listening on a radio in his small store and asked me to join her. When I walked in with the camera gear and NBC mic flag, his tone changed. He said we were all liars, he didn’t trust us, and told us to leave.

That was my final straw….

Read more at Poynter.Org

And read it all, including a ton of fascinating pix, at Ms. Law’s website