In an age of declining newsroom budgets, some journalists are making career changes
By Patrick Wachter
Many journalists are leaving seemingly stable jobs in the profession to seek jobs in communications. Robin Gill, who had a prominent role as weekend anchor for Global News’ Global National show, left journalism in December 2021 to take on a new challenge as vice-president of Vancouver PR firm Talk Shop Media.
Despite being at the top of her game when she departed, Gill’s switch into communications wasn’t without reason.
Work-life balance is often difficult to achieve in journalism. News anchors in particular often have to work evening and weekend hours in order to accommodate the news cycle. Gill says that one of the most notable changes between her communications and journalism jobs are the work hours.
“I worked weekends for 15 years, and switching careers into communications allows me to finally have weekends and a social life,” says Gill.
Layoffs, budget cuts and newsroom closures have become common in modern-day newsrooms. Bell Media, which owns a variety of local news outlets including the Vancouver Sun and CTV News, shut down its national chain of TSN sports radio stations in early 2021—an abrupt decision that came as a shock to many of its employees. Gill says changes like this haven’t gone unnoticed.
“The monetary resources in newsrooms have steadily declined year over year,” says Gill. “As someone who worked as a journalist in the 1990s, it’s a frustrating industry limitation that all newsrooms face.”
Gill says that another reason why she was ready to move on from reporting was the increasing presence of people in management roles who were not ready to lead a journalistic operation.
“There are people who are at the top of the food chain who are not qualified to be leaders—managers aren’t qualified to be producers—and we put them in those positions,” says Gill, “because we can’t find people, or we’re not doing the right homework to find the right people.”
Given the state of the industry, other journalists have begun making the switch to communications as well. Mike Killeen, who was a broadcaster for over four decades, retired from his anchor job at CBC Vancouver in 2021 to join his wife in a position at Killeen Communication Strategies.
Tina Lovgreen also left a job at CBC Vancouver after seven years of employment as a multimedia journalist, and joined the TransLink communications team in April 2021.
Lovgreen’s career change from journalism to communications was made in part due to the current landscape of the news media industry.
“I think it’s a terribly difficult time for news,” says Lovgreen. “You know, we know that newsrooms are shrinking and budgets are shrinking.”
Despite imminent budget cuts in the industry, Lovgreen says the decision to leave CBC was a difficult one.
“I love being a journalist; it was such a privilege. And I really enjoyed doing that for so many years,” says Lovgreen. “But for me, it was just time to see what other opportunities are out there and to find something that I was passionate about, and transit was a great fit.”
(Some, it should be noted, also can’t stay away from journalism: Randene Neill, who spent 18 years at Global News, left for communications in 2016 before returning to CityNews 1130 in November 2021 as a morning radio co-host.)
Lovgreen now works alongside a number of people who also have backgrounds or education in journalism, which adds to the appeal of the new job.
As for Gill, she says that anyone can become complacent working the same job for a long period of time. Ultimately, she says, journalism and communications share many of the same intrinsic qualities.
“Change is good—and in a lot of ways, communications is very similar to journalism,” she says, comparing the two jobs. “I’m still trying to tell stories. So it’s similar, but it is making my brain think for sure.”
In her new role at Talk Shop Media, Gill says she’s found a much better balance between work life and personal life. However, the change has prompted her to reflect on the nostalgia she still feels for working in a newsroom. That feeling was especially strong during the first few weeks of her career transition.
“I missed the rush of filing a story with a deadline of 2:30 in the afternoon. And good luck finding an interview before nine or 10 in the morning,” says Gill. “So it was stressful for sure. But I do miss the rush. I miss the rush of breaking news.”