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Category: Art and Entertainment, Media

Finding a Media Career that Suits Me—Not My Image of Myself

| March 3, 2009

From an early age, the author had a particular kind of career in mind. And, rapidly, she was realizing her dreams working in network television—until she stepped back and took another look at what she wanted in life.

In a falling-apart scrapbook I made when I was ten years old, there’s a photo of me with my “briefcase.”  One of my favorite games was to pretend I was someone a lot of little girls dream about becoming: a professional, tidy, business lady.  My aunt had business cards made up for me, and I carried them around with a determination to make my presence as someone to take notice of.

That early childhood ideal stayed with me, and as a young intern and then employee at CBS, I felt I had arrived in the real world.  It never occurred to me that it wasn’t that permanent of a stop.

I grew up when “Take Our Daughters To Work” day was just one example of how girls weren’t to be raised as housewives.  I played “office,” not house. I owned my own business.  Liz Goohog was my made-up professional name. Don’t ask how my eight-year-old mind came up with that.

My parents nurtured my ambition, which is why one day when I was still a kid my dad pointed out to me that sitting nearby at the Subway restaurant was Carol Jenkins (now Women’s Media Center president, then evening news co-anchor at WNBC-TV).  We went over and talked with her, and a few weeks later her assistant called up and arranged for me to “shadow” Carol for the day. The first time I walked into NBC’s building, the atmosphere of the newsroom captivated me.  This was where I wanted to end up.

My luck continued when, as journalism major at the University of New Hampshire, I landed an internship with two of Ed Bradley’s producers at “60 Minutes.”  With them, I tackled the reopening of the pivotal Emmett Till case—a story that won the legendary correspondent one of his last Emmy awards.

With my degree in hand, I worked for over a year as a production secretary at the “CBS Evening News with Katie Couric and then broadcast associate for the very talented feature reporter Steve Hartman on his “Assignment America” segment.  I organized scripts for Katie and kept notes for producers from video feeds during breaking news stories—such as the Amish school shooting. Some days I woke up in disbelief at my good fortune at landing a network news job right out of college. What else could I ask for, besides a better salary so I could actually afford to pay my bills?

I felt blessed to have a job. Even before the economy went berserk and people started losing positions they had held for years, journalists faced cutthroat competition because of the nature of the business. It was this environment of mentally backbreaking work that made me second-guess what I was doing. And here’s a little secret I learned: You don’t have to stay at a job just because it looks good on paper or sounds impressive. You can still find a way to incorporate your love of journalism into a passion that you never thought would make a career.  For me, that transferred to moving back to New Hampshire and running events at an independent bookstore where I worked during college, RiverRun Bookstore.

In this day of Twitter, blogging, Facebook, and e-mails, it’s entirely possible to have just as successful of a career in a job outside the corporate structure.  When I announced to my family and former co-workers my decision to leave, and what I was leaving to do, most of them couldn’t believe it. But some of them, including seasoned reporters, supported my decision to follow my heart and choose a less glamorous job that I was more excited about.

I’ve learned that I can still channel that inner businesswoman in me in a more creative and constructive way.  Five years ago, I would have laughed at the idea of a future me living in New Hampshire and not being a full-time journalist.  These days, I feel more in control of my own destiny than ever before.  I’ve become the successful person I always wanted to be.