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  • Writer's pictureDanielle Waugh

TV News: One decade down

Late July marked ten years "in the business " and I think milestones are best celebrated with a bit of reflection. One decade ago, I was a few months out of college, getting settled into my new one-bedroom apartment in Hampden, Maine (rent was something like $500 a month!). I literally moved with little more than the clothes on my back. I didn't even come with a bed (only an air mattress). I packed up a little Ford Focus and drove by myself from Pennsylvania to Maine to start my first reporting job in Bangor. I jumped at the opportunity to work as a multimedia journalist for NEWS CENTER. It wasn't the biggest market, but it was the most appealing place out of the job offers I had at the time (only two). Plus, the salary seemed great compared to other small markets -- $27,000! (At 22, I had no idea what it would be like to live off of that).

There are reasons to complain about this industry... the low pay when you're starting out, the odd hours and demanding schedule, the stress... and yes I've experienced all of those things. But I've always felt like the good outweighed the bad. I'm not sure how many other jobs would allow me to exercise both the creative and analytical sides of my brain, teach me something new every day, let me witness history and meet people from all walks of life, provide the daily adrenaline of a deadline and live newscast, and offer the satisfaction from seeing your work truly make a difference. Being a news broadcaster has always been what I wanted to be "when I grew up," and every day I get to live my dream. I still feel it is a privilege, and haven't seriously considered doing anything else.

The last ten years in this line of work have come with some of the highest highs and lowest lows. Like most people, I prefer to talk about the highs. But also like most people, I've had lots of struggles, set backs, and periods of self doubt. I've learned to withstand a lot of rejection and criticism. And frankly, my proudest achievement in my career so far is simply making it this far. I have seen a lot of people burn out -- people who were good, and smart and talented -- leave the industry altogether. I'm not sure how long I'll be doing this job but I do think and hope I have quite a few more years left in me. And that's why my focus lately has been on preservation, resiliency and longevity.

In my 20s, I wore my stress like a badge of honor. I had to be busy and I thought running myself ragged was how I showed I was a hard worker. I had no concept of caring for myself physically -- and certainly not mentally. Most days I would drive home from work with a pounding head ache and sometimes I would get so stressed I felt dizzy. I thought this was NORMAL. I would react very strongly and emotionally to situations and circumstances that were completely out of my control. I thought this was how I showed I was passionate. My boss once told me to not be so stressed, and I replied that stress is what motivates me. I can't pinpoint to one specific thing that made me change, but rather it was a cumulative effect over time that reached its peak during the pandemic. I guess I just got worn down, and I knew living and working like this wasn't sustainable in the long run.

That brings us to today and my ten year anniversary. No longer an MMJ shooting all her own video and at times running her own live shots, but an investigative reporter with a dedicated photographer, making a decent living in a great city, telling stories she's truly proud of. The job is still tough, and all the same stressors are there, but I'm learning to manage them a lot better. A really helpful tool has been meditation. Taking even a five minute break to focus on breathing can totally reset my heart rate and headspace. In general, I'm trying to just be more mindful of my mental health and taking stock of how I'm doing. Prioritizing relaxation on the weekends has been beneficial (and moving to a house with a pool has been heavenly). I've also tried to expend my energy more wisely. Industry gossip, office politics, playing the comparison game with your peers -- I don't find it worth my energy or deserving of an emotional reaction anymore. These days, I'm just trying to stay in my lane, focus on me and my job, and not worry so much about everything else.

It's all a work in progress of course, but it will hopefully help me maintain a balance as I invest more into my family life. I have a husband now (!) and we bought a house. At the beginning of my career, I felt like I could move anywhere and do anything, but now I have someone else to prioritize and consider with every choice. He's been 100 percent supportive of my career and didn't think twice about moving with me to Florida --- but I also know he, like most people, wouldn't want to pick up and move every few years either. While I used to think the ideal career meant moving up the markets (and by necessity, re-locating every few years), I now understand the benefit of putting down some roots and becoming an expert in your community.

From Bangor to Lewiston and Portland -- to NEWS CENTER Maine to NECN and NBC 10 Boston -- every stop in this industry has challenged me and taught me new skills, preparing me for my current role at CBS12 in Florida where I'm still constantly learning and trying to improve. I've met some of my best friends in newsrooms, interviewed everyone from little kids and lobstermen to Governors, criminals, and celebrities. When people ask about my favorite story I've done, I always say that's an impossible question to answer: I care about every single one.

So as I head into my SECOND DECADE doing this job, I'm trying my best to live a balanced life that will give me the endurance to stay in it. I feel it is more important than ever to keep telling honest, straightforward and important stories. This career can take a lot out of you if you let it. But it can also give a lot back.

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