It’s been one year since I quit my job, left the TV news industry and ran away to South Africa for wildlife photography. I like to think that my life has settled into a nice holding pattern until I decide to blow it up again.
So many people were surprised that I would give up a successful TV career. I have gotten dozens of messages from people asking me why and how I got out. I miss TV; but I feel like the industry needs to start treating its people better before I go back in. Many of the messages I’ve received have been from younger journalists struggling or drowning in depression, anxiety and frustration.
I thrive in controlled chaos and I believe that if we want a change, we can make it happen – we’re not trees, if you don’t like where you are, move. So here’s a little insight into how I made the switch from being a reporter and multimedia journalist on television to now being a video journalist with San Diego Humane Society. If you want more background into what led up to my decision to quit news, read this.
I made a lot of contacts while I was reporting here in San Diego, which I think is key to being a good reporter, but also important if you want to find a good job out of news. While I was lying in bed at night in South Africa, a friend texted me that they saw an opening at San Diego Humane Society for their first ever multimedia journalist position. I e-mailed the Public Information Officer that I had done stories with through the years and asked her if she thought I should apply. It turns out they had already closed the job and were in the process of deciding who they would hire, but she sent me an application and told me to e-mail my resume and application in ASAP. I filled it out in the airport in London on my way back to California and the next week I went in for an in-person interview. They offered me the job the next day.
Since then, I’ve been able to buy and build my own gear for SDHS, find and track amazing animal stories and get trained in disaster and emergency response. I’ve already told hundreds of stories about the amazing things SDHS is doing for our community and animal welfare, with some of the most intimate access to things I’ve never seen before as a news reporter.
I know I’m lucky to have landed this gig; my boss later told me more than 200 people applied, but they wanted me. Journalists have a lot of qualities companies crave because we’re required to be efficient, excellent, tough and compassionate. Anyone worried about not being able to find a job outside TV news – STOP. All of the skills you use as a reporter or MMJ are totally transferable to pretty much anything else. It might look a little different, but you’ll figure it out fast (because isn’t that what we do on a daily basis with our stories?).
I will say, it was a hard adjustment at first to leave my “on-air persona” behind…I think so much of our identity can get wrapped up in being an anchor, reporter or MMJ because we’ve fought so hard to succeed in those roles. I definitely struggled in the beginning because I had the sinking feeling I was taking a step down and was a lesser person since I wasn’t on TV anymore. I can now say that my job doesn’t define me, and it’s been an amazing year discovering who I am, raw and unfiltered, without anyone telling me I can’t wear certain dresses, need to cut my hair shorter, be more polished and I need to work the next three weekends in a row.
I now get to focus on the thing I love most: shooting. I also get (most) weekends off, holidays off and (get this) my birthday off. I have a healthy work/life balance, and I haven’t had a single anxiety attack since I left news, which I think speaks volumes about how important it is to put your mental health first. My Xanax prescription is collecting dust in the back of my medicine cabinet.
BONUS: I was actually just nominated for an Emmy for one of the last stories I ever did in news. It seems like a fitting swan song.
Will I ever get back into news? Yes. No. Maybe. Who knows? Right now I’m so happy I get to build the real Bree; whatever happens next doesn’t really matter because I’ll be ready.