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A Shell of a Person




“I would love to get hit by a car; not die, but just hit by a car and then I would have to be out [of work].”

Julia Klein left the news industry after 10 years, which she says was five years too late. She started in a small town not far from her alma mater, where Julia says she felt more like a teenager than an independent woman with a college degree due to the amount of support she still required from her parents in order to survive the low pay of a multimedia journalist.


From being a bubbly, outgoing person pre-newsroom to feeling like a “shell of a person” by the time her tenure in broadcast news ended, Julia says her mental health took a massive hit. In fact, she day-dreamed about getting in a minor car accident or getting hit by a car that would leave her in the hospital with minor injuries for a few days so she would have a reason she would have to be out of work without any other options.


As of this interview, Julia had only been out of the news business for two months, but she says she has already seen a positive change in her health - mental and physical. And working from home with real paid time off available and time to get projects done? Something she’ll have to get used to, but won’t take for granted.


Read her entire interview transcript below.



Julia Klein

My name is Julia Klein. I was Julia Rose on-air. I was on air for ten years which is crazy. I started as an MMJ, worked my way up to a reporter and then anchored a little bit at my last station. So, I’ve done a lot of it, and when I was an MMJ, I was also producing and was literally a one-man band doing everything

Molly Casey

What inspired you to get into the journalism industry?

Julia Klein

So, my family always had the today show on. When I think back to eating breakfast every morning, the today show was on and, so, I always loved that and it was always kind of on my mind. But in high school I did my - our high school’s morning announcements and I did it not as a joke but it was just a hobby and something to do. And I remember the teacher that ran the program said, “what are you doing for college? Is this something you would consider?” And I was like, “well can't really do math. Science and I aren’t friends. I like to write…” and it was like, “cool, yeah.” So, it wasn't this thing that I wanted - I think it was always in me but I wasn't like, you know, one track mind, always wanting to do it. But the experiences I had a long way kind of just added up into it

Molly Casey

Tell me about your first role out of college in the journalism world as an MMJ.

Julia Klein

Oh, no one prepares you for that. So, I went to Syracuse University and was in their broadcast journalism program. My first market was Utica, New York - I think it was like market 174, don't quote me. Very small market but not far from Syracuse, so a lot of the broadcast students, we started there. I was a night side MMJ and I just remember coming in and them handing me this massive tripod and big carrier case for the camera, and I was like “what?” I was there for a year and a half, amazing life experience, amazing career experience, but it was rough. You know, I did not make the most money, I think I made 20 thousand dollars, so I was not paid well. And I’m from Philadelphia, all my friends moved to Philly or New York city, these big cities and I was in a really small town; which it was a great place you know, it just wasn't home. So, I was homesick and I feel like - just kind of taking it one day at a time.

Molly Casey

Talk about what it was like to go from college where - I don't want to say we're in a bubble, I know when I was in college, we didn't really cover hard news. And even when I was an intern, I think the closest that I got to, you know, hard news was seeing it from the live stream of a helicopter. So, I wasn't ever actually on scene for anything that was up close and personal in a traumatic sense. What was your reaction when you kind of had that first introduction to something that maybe you weren't prepared for

Julia Klein

I had a similar college experience. Nothing, you know, that serious that we covered. It was so traumatic. It was a house fire probably like a month in and I remember seeing firefighters pulling people from - it was an apartment complex, so, pulling people from high up units. And not to be graphic, but a body like coming down on the roof and I was horrified. Like jaw to the floor. I'm not even sure if I hit record because I was just so shocked and stunned. And I think what struck me more, because I’ve never forgotten that day, was there was a photographer from another station that said something along the lines of, “oh, this is a good one.” And I was like “a good one?” And that was my first moment of, you know, if it bleeds it leads are good news days. I was like “my gosh this is what they mean.” It was horrible. I mean, it was more than a decade ago and I can still remember the day.

Molly Casey

Did you get any type of help after that? Was any type of mental health talked about after that first experience or were you just like “this is part of the job?”

Julia Klein

No. No, not a murmur of it. I mean I remember coming back and the news director being like “good job” and not one person asked me if I was okay, or you know, “hey, was that hard for you? This might have been the first time you've ever seen anything like this.” And, no, I just remember going home and I felt really sick to my stomach. Home to my - like I was alone - I went home to my apartment and just remember telling myself like, “I guess this is part of the job,” and that was it. Like I just - I never thought about it more. It's not until ten years later and doing a lot of reflecting that I’m like, “wow, there was no one or nothing there to help with that.”

Molly Casey

You even mentioned that you now are at the point where you’re reflecting and looking back on what your career brought you and I’m sure there's a lot of really great times and I’m sure there's also not great times mixed in there. What for you has been the biggest impact throughout this experience? Was it just what you were doing or was it what you saw and what you've carried with you since?

Julia Klein

So, I just got out of the business, let me preface that. It's been two months, so this is new for me to be on the PR side of things. And my decision to get out was more based on work-life balance but I have been thinking a lot about, you know, when you make that - I don't know how your experience was, but when you make this big decision to leave you do a lot of reflecting and thinking back. So, I think that - that my career took me so far out of my comfort zone, which on one hand is invaluable life experience, on the other hand took me to places that I probably did not need to be in or see. I think the biggest thing that I - when I look back and makes me upset, is the safety issue. So, you know that was a burning building and I was safe. I was, you know, behind the tape and the firefighters were there; but there are so many shootings, homicides, murder scenes that we’re sent to alone a lot. And not only are you expected to be there, you're expected to knock on doors and you don't know how you're going to be received or if you're going to knock on the wrong door. And it's just not talk, like you're just supposed to do it and you don't ask questions. And you're just thinking about getting to the next place and this is what I have to do to impress this news director and then make a tape and then this will get me to the next place. And they say you don't ever want to become the story but I don't know how that - that's possible when you're just at these scenes. So that's really what I’ve been reflecting on. And if I sound a little angry because. I’m like my poor 22-year-old-self, like nobody had my back.

Molly Casey

And when you became a reporter, I know that people don't always understand the difference between MMJ and reporter and it's really entertaining to try to explain that to people…

Julia Klein

Right?

Molly Casey

…but when you even became a reporter and you had a photog with you and you had somebody that was with you on those scenes, did you still feel like nobody really cares that they're sending us to a place where there could still be a guy wielding a knife because they haven't caught him yet?

Julia Klein

Yes, and I did work my way up to becoming a reporter and I was the morning reporter at my second job. And so, I was with a photographer every morning, a male which was nice but yeah, no. And, you know, it's everything as extreme to stabbing, a murder scene where you don't know if that person has been taken into custody, or standing on the side of the road when it's dark and maybe you have a vest talking about a water main break or a car accident. It's dark and cars are whizzing by you and that's the shot that's the good place to set up. And I just think when you're in it you don't even realize how crazy it is and now, I’m like, “this was so dangerous. I wouldn't want my friend or my family member to have done this.” like I can't believe I did it and was lucky enough to never get hurt like it's crazy.

Molly Casey

When you look back and you look at your reasons to have stepped away from the industry, I know you said it was work life balance that makes a ton of sense…

Julia Klein

Yeah.

Molly Casey

…are there any other - I know you said you're only you've only been out for two months but, have you noticed any changes in terms of any anxieties that you had or maybe even symptoms of depression that you just didn't realize that you had while you were in news because you are so zoned in on “this is just what I have to do?”

Julia Klein

I was definitely depressed my first market. I think a lot of MMjs experience it unless you happen to be from somewhere that you got to go home to right away. you're in a city or a smaller community that you don't know anyone, so being alone and homesick and frankly just feeling really behind. Again, all of my friends were in or they're back home in a bigger city, you know, dating or making, you know, great strides in their career. And I felt really behind like I was like, “oh my gosh I’m alone living in this city, you have no one.” So, I would say I was definitely depressed there and my family was really worried about me. And I usually was just like a bubbly person; I just felt myself and was, like, deflating. I felt really flat and I would turn it on on-air and then out of - out of the station I was really depressed. That did get better as I did get closer to home and got a little bit older but anxiety and stress, oh my goodness. I was you know a shell of a person at one point. First of all, you're going a hundred miles per hour there's no break. I mean I was physically exhausted. I felt like I got it by a bus after every day and so I think the hours or something… people don't think about you’re scheduled for a certain time, but I mean if you're sent far away for a six pm live shot your shift doesn't end at six and ends at who knows, 7:30? And then if it's still an active scene, you’re still there. So, the stress of not knowing when my day would end has gone away and just the anxiety of not - you just don't know what you're going to walk into in a newsroom. And as a planner and someone who likes to know how the day is going to go I just - you didn’t know like one day it was very calm, easy breezy fun feature story day and then in the next you are God knows where for God knows how long. So, I think that aspect and that anxiety has gone away. And, just, you don't always get - by no means do I think everyone should get like a pat on the back or a cookie every day but, the recognition or just to, you know, you give a hundred and ten percent and don't necessarily hear anything, let alone a good job, that's gone away. In just my two months I’ve heard positive feedback in this new world. So, yeah, I think it's that you know, I miss a lot of the adrenaline rush and people don't think my job is as cool as they used to but I definitely don't have as much anxiety as I used to at all.

Molly Casey

You even mentioned it- you talked about how the job has a physical toll. You're carrying around equipment whether you're an MMJ or you're helping your photog, you're carrying around equipment that, you know, you sign the contract saying “yeah, I can lift up to fifty pounds,” but then you're like okay that's just the tripod.

Julia Klein

Yeah.

Molly Casey

And I don't think people quite understand that. But for you, did you - have you felt or seen change in yourself physically in terms of - I don't know about you, I often went days where I didn't have time to eat throughout the day or I was far from anywhere that had a stop that I could get food, so I wasn't exactly eating healthy. Has that changed? Have you kind of felt a more physically healthy side of you come out?

Julia Klein

Yeah, yes definitely. I was eating at gas stations for a solid seven years and you try to find a healthy option. I mean, no you're eating whatever you can find and going to the bathroom where you can find. That was always a big thing for me. I’m like, “I hope this gas station a has a) public bath and b) it's clean.” And I had a crazy shoulder pain from carrying that around. I remember someone asked me if I was going camping when I was holding all this stuff. I was like “no, I’m not going camping, this is my equipment.” So, to all of the above, yes. I feel that I am able to eat normally, like three meals a day and prep them and what not. it's just an overall better healthier lifestyle and I think a lot of that just comes with a job - right like it's – it’s news. you have to go where the news is and sometimes there's not going to be a lovely restaurant for you to eat at. I just wish someone would have told me, I don't know, like I just feel like nobody prepared me for that. Like “hey, here's a tip like this place is here or bring a sandwich.” I don't know, I was just like bopping around eating pringles whenever I could and it was just crazy.

Molly Casey

Pringles are a real thing. they're in the cans, you can throw them in the camera bag and they will not get crushed, it’s a hack.

Julia Klein

Pro tip.

Molly Casey

Life hack. When you kind of think about now, your experience in news, how do you think it impacted your mental health overall?

Julia Klein

I think a lot of people have anxiety, big and small. I think it brought mine out in a really big way. it made - I think it kind of impacted my self-esteem a lot because there's so much comparison and whether it's people that you work with or people in the business. And you see people moving and changing and getting new jobs. And I think part of that is mental health, like you know, trying not to compare yourself to other people and question where you are and where you should be and that got really bad for me.

Molly Casey

And speaking of self-esteem you also end up getting messages from viewers, and sometimes there are ones where you're like, “no I’m not sending you pictures of my feet,” which is both creepy and just weird…

Julia Klein

*laughs* Yeah.

Molly Casey

…and at other times it's like “wow, do I really look that bad in that outfit?” or “was that really a necessary comment?” Can you talk to what it was like to kind of constantly get criticism from inside and outside the newsroom?

Julia Klein

Yeah, I think that the people who do that behind their keyboards, they have so much cyber courage, don't realize that those messages - even if you don't respond or able to say you don't care - that they do stay with you and you think about them. I had people tell me they didn't like the dress I was wearing or you know that I pronounce something wrong, and sure that's helpful, like yes you should pronounce things right. but people's tone and demeanor is not always nice. But I think the wardrobe thing was really big, especially in my first two markets. I had no money so, I’m sorry that you didn't like my dress or that you've seen it a lot. I don't know what to tell you. and it stays with you. like while I would never respond or to anyone else - this person like whatever, what a weird… like no. like I always thought about it and I did think twice about putting on that dress again. So, it was really hard and you just - you open yourself up because you're on TV to receiving all the these messages and it's really hard. And I could not ever imagine being big-time famous, like movie star or celebrity because you know – Jimmy Kimmel or one of them does, like, the mean tweets and it's funny, but that - that's got to take its toll and you have to be really strong mentally to be able to blow that off.

Molly Casey

What do you wish you knew when you walked into the industry? I know you said that you've been in the industry for ten years, so you know it's a little bit of a ways to go back and think about that, but looking at the last ten years, what do you wish you had known before you signed that first contract?

Julia Klein

A lot. I wish someone would have told me that if it's not for you, you can get out, because I think going back to that sense of self-esteem and comparison, I really was unhappy for a long time. But it became such a mental game for me, like, “well, I put in this work in this small market and I have to make that worth it or I can't throw it all away now.” Like I put in so much. I just wish someone would have said, “give it a try. It's not for everyone and if it's not for you, get out of there and your skills will transfer into another place.” I mean, I left probably five years after I should have because I was so scared to give it up. Or on the flip side I think - I don't know if this was your experience, family friends are so, you know, interested and invested in your job. They think it's way more glamorous than it is, which I always feel bad, like bursting people's bubbles. But for me there was an element of not wanting to let other people down. Like everyone's been behind me since I was in all these places and they're going to be so sad. So, I just wish someone would have said, “give it a shot and if you don’t love it” - because you have to love it, it has to come from within can't be for the money or anything else – that “it's okay to leave” because it took me away too long to leave.

Molly Casey

You're not the first to say that, and when I chose to leave it was a struggle because it had become my identity. And I don't know if that's kind of something that you can relate to but I didn't know how to separate myself from my job because it had been something that was ingrained in me because my family was invested in it, my friends were invested in it. I thought I was invested in it. And the idea of leaving was terrifying because I didn't think I could do anything outside of news. I thought that this was this industry I had chosen and I was stuck there.

Julia Klein

Yeah.

Molly Casey

Did you experience any of the same stressors of, “I don't think I can do anything outside of news and this is who I am?”

Julia Klein

Yep, 100 percent. Couldn't have said a better myself and I did interview for a few places and that I didn't get. So, that feeling got amplified as there were a couple of jobs that I didn't get. And they weren't the right fits but in the moment you're like, “wow, I really am stuck.” And I remember my contract coming up and I’m like, “I’m going to have to resign because I’ve pigeon holed myself into this really specific niche industry.” And it's, it’s scary and it's - I think also things change along the way. Not sure about you when I was 22, I was like, “I don't care about working weekends or holidays it's what I have to do to get to where I need to be.” And I would watch Good Morning America and I’m like, “that's where I’m headed.” And then things change and you get older and for me I got married and I want to start a family and all these things. And I felt guilty that my goals had changed or that I didn't want to keep going or keep moving up. And yeah, it was a huge part of my identity and just a huge mindset. So, I feel like now in my two months in this new job it's not only a new industry and new role, like I’m trying to change my mindset trying to just slow down. I think we go at a 110 percent pace all the time and so it's more than just you're getting a new job, like you're getting a new head space.

Molly Casey

Talk about that more because that's exactly what I’ve experienced. I've been out of it for longer but tell me