Life changes drastically when you leave a long-term job in the TV industry. In particular, a news-reading job. One day you’re in the spotlight, working to deadlines and feeling a sense of doing something ‘important’ – the next, your life is untethered and all the choices that open up seem overwhelming as you search for a new identity. It’s a little frightening after twenty years.
But the freedom is also invigorating. As one friend describes it, ‘You were a battery hen and now you’re a free-range chicken.’ Travel opportunities take you abroad to explore the real world instead of endlessly looking at places in news stories.
You stop watching the news religiously and wonder why it ever seemed so important. You take up a course, write a book, invent a product, write interviews for a newspaper, spend more time with family and friends and generally fill your life with stuff that runs you through a gamut of emotions. Some exhilarating, some hurtful, some challenging and some disappointing. But all experiences that make life seem fuller, brighter and more tangible. The rewards are deeper as your brain is forced to think on new creative levels. You no longer feel that you operate merely on a robotic level. Because there is a repetitiveness about news-reading that can be a little mind-numbing.
The years roll around quickly and suddenly we’re covering the Spring Carnival again, and yep, it’s time for the annual ‘Santa training’ for Myer, Red Nose Day, or the tragically predictable Easter road toll story. Turn to camera one. Look at Mal. Ad break. Five, four, three, two one – you’re on!
But after six years of freedom, there are days when I miss it. Right now, it’s 5.40pm and if I were still reading the news at Channel Ten, I’d be looking over to Stephen Quartermain as Mal Walden ‘throws’ to sport. The Olympics are on. It’s always when there’s something amazing happening in the world that a small dose of emptiness washes over me. That I’m missing out on that front row seat in the making of history — the excitement that comes being live to air, when every second counts.
There’s an adrenalin rush that comes with reading the news — being involved in major events affecting people around the world and delivering them live to an audience.
Another reason that wistful feeling revisited today was because an email arrived from a policeman, Chris Scifo, who’d read my Blog. He reminded me that we met when I was an on-the-road journalist for Ten and was sent to cover a double fatality in Thomastown. It was his first day on the job as a police officer. No wonder he remembers. A horrific introduction to his new career. As Chris said, he didn’t know what he was doing at the time. Funnily enough he remembers me as being very tall. I’m not really, but I guess everything must have felt overwhelming for him on that day.
He ended his email with this:
‘I always thought and maintain you are the best female anchor Aussie TV has ever had.’
Wow. High praise indeed and one of the loveliest compliments I’ve ever received. That’s the other funny thing about not reading the news any more. I never expected anyone to know who I was then, so am even more surprised now when I am recognized. And even after six years, I still have people approach me in the supermarket saying they miss me reading the news. And occasionally I get emails like this, from my policeman friend from so many years ago, that take me back to the newsroom and make me feel all nostalgic. So even if I don’t achieve much more in this life, it’s nice to know I was appreciated for what I did then and that I was good at something.
Now, let’s get this Blog cracking!