Back in high school, I was a head-writer and co-anchor for our weekly high school newscast (“..Today’s top story: mid-terms…), which was broadcast over our local cable system. I reconnected with this work suddenly in 2003, when I appeared on the PIX-11 Morning News doing their “Friday Forecaster” segment. The New York City Marathon was that weekend, and I was running it dressed as Superman. They had me dress in costume and give race-day tips for viewers running in the race. Doing the segment LIVE, I was struck by how natural I felt in front of the camera – not acting, but being helpful and entertaining to an audience as myself.
I immediately began pursuing work as on-camera talent. I took courses from MediaBistro in TV news writing and reporting and also used my PR contacts to pitch myself as an on-camera guest whenever I was a legitimate expert on a subject, like when I appeared on Montreal’s English-language morning news program in 2004. I made multiple versions of a demo-reel, tracked on-camera job opportunities via local stations’ websites and TVjobs.com and sent them to news directors across the U.S.
Then on my 36th birthday, I was watching a local late newscast. The reporter was covering a fire, and I was critiquing him, imagining how I’d do it differently. And it hit me – just because I’m gifted with the skills to be on-camera talent, doesn’t mean I had to do it. Let’s be honest – I was talented, but out of the game long enough that I was going to have to work even harder to make this happen. Taking classes and sending out demos wasn’t enough; I needed the dedication to self-produce news stories and literally bang on news directors’ doors with the tapes….and I just didn’t want it that bad. I decided it was enough to know that I could do it, and I let the dream go that night.
I thought I would feel failure or disappointment from this decision, but I was surprised to feel….relief. I had been defining success for myself in such a narrow way, and once I decided to let go and move on, some wonderful changes rushed into my life – including a new PR job that reignited my excitement for the field.
The coda? Nine months later, I received a call from the news director of KBMT-TV, the ABC affiliate in Beaumont, Texas. He wanted to fly me out and test me for a weekend reporter/weeknight producer position. I declined the offer. A year earlier, I was committed to move to a small market, make a minuscule salary, and spend five years working my way back to a mid-sized market like St. Louis or Denver. But that window had closed. Still, it remains an interest of mine, and I have continued to appear on-camera when opportunities present themselves.