I like to post about projects and great resources and I also like to post about uplifting success stories!
When I met Sandi Craig in April to shoot her headshots, I thought she was the nicest gal I've ever met! Sandi is now trying her hand at acting and is in fact.. Surprise surprise... writing a book about her life and a screenplay.
I felt completely comfortable around Sandi and usually.. I am the one putting my client at ease not the other way around!
She's just so friendly and gracious and full of positive energy! And you know she'll start booking acting work because she's someone you'd love to have on set!
So...As in many shoots, we started to get to know each other and I found her story fascinating!
Sandy had married and started her family young. Fast forward through the years and she found herself at age 50 with her kids grown and in an unhappy marriage.
But... She had a dream of being a TV News Reporter.
And with no college degree, she knew she would have to act fast!
It's interesting... As I was getting to know Sandy, I thought... This lady is so great! I would totally trust her and tell her stuff off the record! I asked her about this and yes... I wasn't the only one. A lot of people felt this way and it's why she was able to get exclusive interviews!
Now at this point of the post... I am going to post an article Sandi wrote about her experience. It's exhausting just contemplating her schedule. When you read it you'll see what I mean. She would go to classes all day. Then work on her stories. Then come home rollerblade 4-5 miles around the lake and then eat dinner and then... Start on her studying again for her classes the next day!
Honey child...I'd be done by dinner! Lol...
And.. Sandi's great because she would say.. "Well I just knew that's what I had to do!"
So read on and enjoy! Because.. It just goes to show you... You're never too old to change your life and nothing is impossible! And we LOVE that, right?! #YES we do! Thank you, Sandi for being such an inspiration!
From Stay-at-Home Mom to TV News Reporter
by Sandi Craig
I was a news junkie, but, at 50, I didn’t even have a college degree. If I wanted to fulfill my dream of working in broadcast journalism, I’d have to act fast.
I can still hear all the comments ringing in my ears as though it were yesterday. “Are you crazy?” “What are you thinking?” “Why are you wasting your time going to college at your age?” And later came, “You’ve got it made.” “You’re a stay-at-home mom and housewife with a cushy life.” “Why would you want to give all that up?” “You’ll never get a job doing that at your age.”
It seemed as though everyone was questioning my decision to go to college and major in broadcasting, but then again maybe it was just my inner voice trying to cast doubts on my dreams. I just knew it’s what everyone was thinking and saying behind my back. After all, I was quickly approaching the big 5-0, so I was pretty much over the hill.
It all started when I was watching the news one day. I was and still am a “news junkie.” I could watch news 24/7. My youngest child had just left for college and it left me with an empty feeling, wondering, “What now?” I had spent the last 19 years as a stay-at-home mom, devoting my life to raising my two kids. As I fixed lunch, I looked over at the bubble-headed, blonde news anchor stumbling through a story about something insignificant, at least to me. I thought, “I could do that.” A light went on as it hit me—I really could do that!
I knew, if I were to pull this off, I had to be on the fast track and time was of the essence. The Nike slogan played repeatedly in my head, “JUST DO IT!”
I was still married then, but my husband and I had been having problems for several years. I had promised myself, and even told him, that when both children left home for college I would leave. I knew I needed to find something to fall back on. My husband’s job had moved us to Oklahoma just two years prior and I reluctantly went along, kicking and screaming the entire way.
We lived only about a mile from a state university, so I decided to find out what I needed to do to go to college—a dream I’d had for a long time. I’d taken a couple of courses here and there but nothing serious. I recall the counselor telling me to take the entrance exam to give them a starting point. What? Me take a test?!! I could barely remember how to add and subtract, let alone all the other stuff. I couldn’t even remember the difference between a dangling participle and a pronoun.
But thankfully I passed the test and got admitted to college. WOOHOO! I was so excited on the first day of classes, with school books, supplies and schedule in hand. I was ready to greet the college world with a big smile! Classes started on a Monday, but I laid out my clothes the Friday before.
At the advice of the counselor, I took an “Intro to Communications” class because that’s the area where I tested highest. I aced the class and my professor convinced me to take his next class. Little did I know I would actually be working on the campus newspaper as a “reporter” of all things. I nearly dropped the class because I hadn’t signed on to be a reporter—not just yet, anyway.
In the beginning, I majored in Journalism, thinking my dream of being a news anchor was frivolous and silly, not to mention impractical. But I found I had a competitive streak. I would go all out and find the best stories possible, while many of the other students took the easy way out and only covered college events and happenings.
I managed to get interviews with celebs like Christopher Reeve. I also got an exclusive interview with former Secretary of State Dick Cheney. I covered groups like the Rolling Stones. I even covered President Bill Clinton when he visited a nearby town which had been wiped out by a tornado. When I interviewed Christopher Reeve, I had my tape recorder running, was taking pictures, writing notes, and asking questions simultaneously. He asked, “Do you do everything?” To which I replied, “If I have to,” and he flashed me a big smile—a smile that seemed to make it all worth it. After that interview, I thought of him often and the challenges he must have gone through when times got tough.
I was promoted to managing editor after just one semester on the paper. I was climbing my way up the proverbial ladder.
One day I was working on a story for the campus newspaper, and I interviewed one of the broadcasting professors about their news team. They had recently been nationally recognized as the Best Broadcasting Newscast Among Colleges. He gave me a tour of the department and suddenly I yearned to be a broadcaster even more. That award was yet another reason to try the broadcasting game, but I was still apprehensive about the notion. I started entering some of my stories in the Society of Professional Journalists’ state competitions and garnered both local and state awards. The local daily newspaper called to see if I would work for them as a stringer, also known as a freelance writer. I quickly replied, “Absolutely!”
I also started working for an entertainment magazine, writing stories about local musicians. I was working three part-time jobs, going to school full-time and, oh, I forgot to mention rollerblading 6-8 miles at least five times a week.
After a couple of months as a stringer, the newspaper offered me an internship. This meant helping lay out a few sections of the paper, writing wedding announcements and obituaries and basically helping to get the paper out on time. I asked if I could have my own byline, and the managing editor agreed but only if I did the stories on my own time. I exclaimed, “You’ve got it!”
I had to prove myself as a reporter/writer, so I wrote my first story that the editor assigned—about a new priest in town. It was a pretty non-eventful story, but the editor liked it so I was in!
From there, I found my own stories, mostly features. After only two weeks, one of my stories landed on the Associated Press Newswire Service, which isn’t an easy feat. Soon, another story landed on the AP Newswire. My stories continued to capture the attention of the AP Newswire. I discovered that a few of my stories went on the international newswire. I got a call from someone I had written a story about and a friend of theirs saw my story in a foreign newspaper. I was slowly getting some recognition.
But something kept nagging at me. I still longed to try broadcasting. After six months of working at the newspaper I realized what I had to do.
I was in my junior year, but I decided to change majors. That would mean I needed about 50 additional hours and would have to double up on classes just to finish on time. I was already going to school year-round, but I had to “JUST DO IT!”
I worked my tushie off and barely slept. A good night was getting 4-5 hours of sleep.
As a broadcasting student, I went to classes in the morning and in the afternoon worked at the college TV station, which had a live broadcast every day at 5:30. I started out reporting, so that meant I had to grab a camera at 1 p.m., find a story, go out and shoot it, come back to the newsroom, and then write and edit it, all before 5:30 p.m. I worked many hours to get the stories. Then, I decided to do a set of three series—one series a month—which meant nine stories in addition to my daily stories. That meant I would have to spend even more time working on them. Talk about overachiever! One series was a set of three investigative news stories devoted to Y2K. Another series was about how the role of a police officer had changed during the past 30 years. I spent about 100 hours on that series. I later adapted it into a radio series.
On one of my few off days, I decided to drop by the newsroom. There had just been an explosion of an oil refinery, and the news director asked if anyone wanted to cover it. I immediately said, “Yes!” He said, “But it’s your day off.” I said I didn’t care and that I would do it. So, I grabbed a camera and trotted off to the scene of the explosion. Police were stopping traffic, warning people of the danger, and they wouldn’t let anyone within five miles of the explosion. But they immediately let me go into the area when I told them I was a reporter. Perhaps that says something to the media: “Sure, go ahead, get yourself blown up…see if we care.”
The only spot to get a good shot was on top of a hill, so I clumsily climbed the hill wearing high heels, lugging a 15-pound camera and 10-pound tripod. That must have been a sight! I wonder how I ever made it up that hill. It had to be the rollerblading. I reached the top of the hill, looked down on the flaming oil tank and thought to myself, “What was I thinking? I could get myself blown up!” But somehow it didn’t matter. All that mattered was getting the story. It led the news the next day, and the news director said, “Good story.” That was like winning the lottery to me!
I tromped through rain, mud, snow, sleet and hail carrying heavy camera equipment just to get the story. Many times I returned to the newsroom soaked to the bone—hair dripping, makeup washed off, but I never missed a deadline.
It wasn’t long before I won local, state and national awards as a TV news reporter.
One afternoon as I walked into the newsroom, I pitched a couple of ideas to the news director. He shrugged off my ideas, but then he mentioned that there was a Special Olympics Competition on campus that day. I grabbed a camera, tripod and a couple of battery packs and headed over to the gym. They were wrapping up as I walked into the gymnasium, but a few kids were still competing. I got what we call “B-roll” (footage) of some of the kids competing. I looked down and saw one little boy who was grunting and groaning as he tried desperately to roll a few feet across the gym floor, because that was all he was able to do. Several of the other kids were cheering him on as he finally managed to roll across the finish line. It was amazing!
I called that story “Special Kids.” I interviewed the little boy’s mom and a couple of other parents and some of the kids. I loved shooting it, and my news director said, “Good story,” after it aired that night on the newscast. Little did I know he would enter it into a local Society of Professional Journalists’ competition. I didn’t find out until about a year later that the story went on to state and national competitions, finally winning first place nationally among all college-student entries. I was working at a CBS affiliate when I discovered the news, but my boss wouldn’t give me time off to go to Washington and accept the award. I never did get the award, but it doesn’t matter. The important thing is that it was a story that made these kids smile. That’s what matters. Talk about rewards!
It was in my senior year that I finally got to produce and anchor the college TV newscast. I swept the Society of Professional Journalists’ State Awards Competition that year, receiving six awards for stories I had written when I was a newspaper reporter. The following Monday, I got a call from the business editor of The Daily Oklahoman. He offered me a job as a business reporter. I replied that I wanted to try my luck as a broadcaster and see how that turned out. He said to call him if I ever wanted a job.
Finally graduation! I had achieved cum laude honors! Now, the search was on to get a job as a full-fledged TV news reporter. I flooded the market with tapes. I had some nibbles but nothing significant. I’d heard about a reporter job in Texas, so I called the news director. I said I would be in the area and asked if I could drop off a resume tape. He agreed, so I made the three hour trip to Texas. I actually wasn’t going to be in the area, but I was desperate enough to try almost anything.
He did a quick interview, I met the General Manager, and I was certain I had the job. He called me a few days later and said he had given the job to a younger female reporter also just out of college. Back to square one and sending out more tapes. About two weeks later he called and said the General Manager was so impressed with me that he was creating a job just for me. The only hitch was that I would be a one-man band, which meant I would shoot my own stories and write and edit them. Oh, and another thing…it paid less than the original job. (I later discovered it wasn’t enough for a chipmunk to live on, much less a human being.) That same day I also got a call from a station in South Dakota offering me a job there. I chose the job in Texas for the CBS affiliate because it paid more, or so I thought, and because it was closer, not to mention warmer. My first real job as a TV news reporter! I made it!!
Little did I know this was just the beginning of what would be some of the toughest challenges in my life. I eventually became a news anchor and news director for an ABC affiliate. I'm currently writing my autobiography, “Anchorwoman.”
It just goes to show you that anything is possible at any age, and if you want it badly enough, you can achieve your dreams if you “JUST DO IT!”
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