A break from the newsroom

Out of the newsroom for over a year, for the first time Fort gives an account of where she stands with her career in journalism.

A month before I moved back home to Minnesota for a morning anchor gig in Duluth, I was in Columbus, Georgia sitting in the living room with a dear friend of mine. She had played a huge role in making my transition from radio to news successful and she was instrumental in helping me get a job back home.

She asked me if I could see myself retiring in news. I was slow to respond because I didn’t want to disappoint her but I had to be honest. I didn’t know if I would want to work in news for twenty years. I told her that I was enjoying it and I would continue to do it as long as it brought me joy.

You see, a year prior to transitioning into news I deliberately said I didn’t want to work for a news station. I felt that news journalists were too serious and after years of being expressive and animated on the radio I didn’t know how I could keep it together “like those people on the news.”

I also had a history of exploring different mediums. In college I performed spoken word pieces, I was hired as an actress for several different theater productions, I was hired consistently through a talent agency for a variety of modeling gigs and at one point I was independently publishing my own music.

I set aside my different passions when I accepted my first job at a commercial radio station because I wanted to put all my efforts into it, I wanted to succeed. Not knowing my seventh year in radio I would become burnt out and unfulfilled.

In search of something more, I found journalism.

It was tough. Making the jump from a hip hop radio station where I predominately followed entertainment news into a realm driven by hard facts and credibility. I was up for the challenge. I worked on my days off, filled in for anchors on the holidays and consistently delivered exclusive and top stories. I earned a promotion within a year.

No matter how hard I had worked however some people felt my past would never allow me to be a “real journalist”.

An article was published the day my promotion was announced internally. One of my colleagues dug up dirt on me and leaked it to a blog that focuses on defaming news reporters.

The article dubbed me as a rapper and hyperlinked the word to a music video I published back when I was in college. It highlighted my career as a hip hop radio personality in efforts to diminish my credibility even further. Yet that’s not what I struggled to overcome. As a survivor of domestic violence I had never been accused of being the assailant but that’s just what this article tried to portray. It was a very re-victimizing experience for me. Ten years back I was assaulted. During the assault I tried to protect myself and injured my assailant. Police took me in to question me about what happened. With visual signs of abuse on my body along with a number of records in their file accounting a history of violence with this individual the police determined I was telling the truth. I was trying to protect myself and I needed help escaping a very abusive relationship.

No matter the embarrassment or shame I felt, I still had to move forward.

It was hard. My credibility took a major blow. My colleagues all read the article and no one treated me the same. I was reluctant to apply for other jobs thinking this article would follow me and no one would ever hire me again. But God had other plans. When you are qualified by God, no person or circumstance can disqualify you. No man can shut a door that God has opened.

Thankfully, just a few months later I was given a fresh start. A better position, a better salary and I was only two hours away from home.

In the process of moving back to Minnesota I reconnected with a man I met in high school, we got married and found out we were expecting. I felt blessed. Life was really coming together for me.

Unfortunately the timing didn’t align with Federal Laws. My doctor recommended I stop work a few weeks before my due date which was only 11 months into my employment. Since I hadn’t worked for the company for a year I wasn’t eligible for maternity leave.

A few weeks later we had a healthy, beautiful, sweet little girl. Six weeks after she was born, when I wasn’t able to return to work, I became depressed.

The more time that passed the harder it became because I have been accustomed to always working. I got my first job when I was 14, working one job after the other, so this time period become my longest stint of unemployment. My resilient nature gave me the hope however that the whole situation would work out in my favor and I would land a job in my hometown.

Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

A few months after my daughter was born I interviewed at every station in the Twin Cities. They said I needed more experience.

I can’t lie, that was another blow while I was already fighting relentlessly to find joy.

I’m not sure if it was postpartum or if I was just sad that my dreams felt like they were becoming further away from reality.

Desperate to get back to work, an offer finally came through but it was at a station in Charlotte, North Carolina which is Market 20. I was frustrated. How could I get an offer in Market 20 with my level of experience but not in my own hometown which is market 15? That’s not that far off. If I’m good enough for them, why wasn’t I good enough for the stations back home?

Despite owning a business in Minnesota my husband was on board to move. He was going to spend six months in Minnesota and six months in Charlotte with me and the kids. It didn’t sit well with me and I didn’t cope well with the uncertainty of how it would all work out. I made some poor decisions during this time that I’d rather not discuss but ultimately I ended up flying to Charlotte in my best effort to move forward.

I loved Charlotte. I was on air in the Charlotte market for a week before I found out we were expecting again!

At that point I realized I needed to go home and focus on my family. It was an easy decision but that didn’t make it any less painful.

I’ve worked so hard to get to that point in my career I really felt I deserved it. I overcame an abusive relationship. I continued to press forward after the death of my first daughter. For years I was a single mother living in a town where I had no family. I was working three jobs. Then when I transitioned into news I had to downgrade my life so I could support my daughter on just one income. I think about all the holidays she spent with me in the newsroom and refuse to believe it was all for nothing.

Its been tough, putting my dream on pause to cater to my responsibilities as a wife and a mother. In my free time I work as a freelance journalist.

It’s like they say, don’t wait on someone to give you an opportunity. Go out and create your own.

And at the right time, I do want to get back into the newsroom.

As hard as this entire journey has been the one thing I learned is how much I truly love journalism. It took all of that for me to see that this is the profession I want to retire in. I guess sometimes you have to lose something in order to see how much you really value it.

I feel that I have odds stacked against me now but I know my God is bigger than any obstacle I have ever faced, so in faith I believe if it’s meant to be it will be.

In the meantime I have continued to use my journalism and video production skills to create and contribute to a number of different projects which you can find detailed on this site. The Rondo documentary in particular is one that makes me proud.

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