A Life-Saving Decision

There is no time like right now to make a great decision. One that will improve your life, lift your spirits, and put you on a pathway to success.

I’ve done that by resigning my job as a morning news producer in the 22nd largest market in the U.S.

For just about anybody else, this would have been a dream job. Great station, great support, lots of fancy tech tools, great team of anchors, reporters, editors, video journalists.

Problem was, it was not for me.

I Was A TV News Producer
When I arrived at the station in June, I had not produced a TV news program for nearly 30 years. To say the industry has changed in the past three decades is like saying civility is dead in D.C. Pretty obvious.

Many layers of jobs have been eliminated in the newsroom. Fewer eyeballs are on the television these days as more are staring into their iPhones and iPads for personalized news and amusing animal videos.

In the old days, a producer would “stack” a show, i.e., identify stories, place them in sequential order, assign times for each. There would be a team of people to help get the show on the air. Someone would create chyrons, or fonts (video identifiers) for stories. Maybe there would be a writer or two to help prepare the program. There would a director, an audio guy and others in the control room to broadcast the news

Today, it’s all on the multi-tasking producer: format the show, assign the live news crews, write the fonts, make video editing instructions, write the stores, teases, all while implementing popular social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Not that there is anything wrong with that. It’s the new reality. Like having only a director in the control room these days, who’s responsible for switching the show, with audio, graphics and fonts coded into the electronic rundown.

In one of the top, competitive markets in the country, you can expect to have talented, qualified journalists gathering, updating and reporting the information. Feeding the news beast never ends.

It takes experience and knowledge to coordinate so many sources, while keeping an eye on updates to breaking news stories like hurricanes, earthquakes and Donald Trump tweets. For someone living in the African bush and out of the business for as long as I have been, gaining command over all these elements would take many months. In retrospect, I should have gone to a smaller market to update and refresh my game. Walking into the big leagues was a big-time mistake.

Must Know What I Don’t Know
It was an uphill battle from the moment I sat down. So much to learn, including trying to know what all I didn’t know. I’ve learned things in the past 10 days that would have been helpful to me three months ago. At this level, one is expected to have been around the block a time or two with the technology and to feature social media. For me, in Africa, having electricity was a luxury most days.

TV news remains a dynamic, exciting, fast-paced job. I no longer live and breath it. I don’t need or even want constant updates. My focus is elsewhere.

I left the industry in the late 1980s after about a 10-year run, then moved into civil service work. That helped make for a work-family life balance. There were no demands to write 20 stories, three teases, and maybe 10 news summaries in two and a half hours.

After more than 22 years in a state-run cubicle farm, I set out to find my life’s work in the mission fields of Africa. Never have I felt more focused or secure in my calling. It revealed the authentic person I am, one without walls or defenses. I discovered my voice and my passion. When I returned to the US in April, I thought I might want to stay stateside for a time and make a living again.

I could not master producing programs of breaking and trivial news, to engage audiences at an early hour. What I love to do instead is build relationships with strangers, speak their language, listen to their stories, and enjoy fellowship over a meal. What I found out in the past three months is there’s no time for that in the newsroom.

My Life’s Work
I have much to share with the ambitious but desperately poor people in Uganda and East Africa. They have great dreams for careers in many professional fields, from accounting, to IT, to business administration. They have no family capital or resources to help pay for tuition or tools. I’ve done all I can through my charity, teaminfaith.org, to provide opportunities that impact the neediest of students.

As I walk out of the newsroom for the last time again, I will leave an operation that’s in very good hands. Energetic, driven, experienced men and women striving to be leaders in the community.

I’m no longer working to help a corporation’s bottom line. Like much of the audience, I’m distracted…but by real-life issues. My decision was made to focus on lifting lives and raising hopes of real, lovely, wonderful people. Where life is simple, but hard. It’s a great life. Time to get back to that.