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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 how it’s been to kind of think through slowing down, if that’s been a challenge.

Julia Klein

Huge challenge. Huge challenge. I only have one pace right now and I think you're conditioned in news to – well of course there are the obvious deadlines but it's also like there's no down time. If you're not doing something you could be doing something else. You could be writing a web script, you could be updating people on social media planning ahead - I just never, ever was sitting still and so this has been crazy. I mean I’ve never sat at a desk. I’ve never not had someone respond to me quickly - internally of course, I’m not trying to reach out to people for stories but because everyone is just working under these tight deadlines. And so I feel crazy. I answer people's emails in five seconds. People give me something to do and I complete the task in five seconds and they're like, “well, you really kind of had all day, end of day tomorrow would have been fine.” And I’m like, “oh…” So, I think I need to pump the brakes and it's just hard because it's deeply, deeply ingrained in you and you're conditioned to go at one speed for a long time.

Molly Casey

When you said I never sat behind a desk and I was like, “well you kind of did, you - you were an anchor for a hot minute.”

Julia Klein

Yeah.

Molly Casey

Talk about what the difference is in head space and, you know, the mental space of being a reporter or an MMJ and then also – or compared to being an anchor and being behind the desk.

Julia Klein

I loved anchoring, I really did. For me the biggest thing, if I’m just being honest, was not being out in the elements. I hated covering snow. I’m in the north east. I hated covering snow and I hated standing outside telling people to stay inside. It really sounds so simple, but that was the bane of my existence. And just to be, like, shallow, sitting inside the warm station and tossing to a reporter out there it was nice. I felt for that reporter because that was me one time, but it was really nice. But it wasn't enough, I don't think, to keep me.


Molly Casey

And that makes sense. And, you know, it is funny to sit there and be like, “oh, I’m in the studio” and then somebody outside is standing there in frozen pants.

Julia Klein

Right and I think that's exactly no one mentioned to anyone of us offering mental health service or anything. But weather like, “hey, are you physically okay? It's been eight hours. You're in a snowstorm. Can we relieve you?” Because I, just not to make it sound like I need to be coddled or have my hand held, but just I just felt like there was no other humans checking in on me except my mother who was far away and couldn't do anything.

Molly Casey

Okay that's a really good point and that I would love to hear more about that because it's true, you get sent, especially as an MMJ and, you know, maybe as a reporter with a photog, you're sent out and you're expected to stay out especially if it's something like breaking news or it's a wild weather situation. You're not relieved, you don't get to have that break, and it's not at all being coddled, it's kind of just, like, health responsibility.

Julia Klein

Right?

Molly Casey

Talk more about maybe the challenges or the emotions you felt when you were like, "okay, I get to stay out here for eight hours and nobody's asked if my feet are frozen yet."

Julia Klein

I was angry. I was really angry and I think that goes back to like what I said earlier more about - like a depressed. Like I just didn't feel like myself, like I’m by nature really happy and positive and go lucky and I was so negative. And I just remember, like, just not feeling like myself. I was angry. Like no, I don't - I shouldn't be out here. This is wrong. I know at my core this is wrong. I’m going live at this point just for the sake of going live and I was angry. That was the overwhelming feeling and I, you know, there's such a stereotype type of people in the “house cats” just send the people out and they don't know how they feel, but I really felt that way. I was like, “you know, is no one taking a step back? Our jobs as reporters, storytellers, MMjs is to put ourselves in other people's shoes, it’s how you tell a good story. It’s how you connect to an interviewee or…” you know the whole gamete. And I just was like, “is no one else in this station able to do that?” Take a step back, put themselves in someone else's shoes and say “maybe this live shot just to kill two minutes isn't worth this person's physical health.” And that's you know it's easier said than done. I'm not a reporter or I mean I wasn't a producer or a news director or whatever so, you know far be it from me to tell anyone how to do that job but I just didn't think there was a lot of empathy.

Molly Casey

Speak to what it was like to not feel like you had leadership that felt for you or that may be checked in on you? Because I can't - I know what it's like to feel like nobody cared, nobody's asked and why doesn't my EP understand that this isn't worth a live shot? But what toll did that take on your mental health when nobody was checking in on you?

Julia Klein

It's just really - you feel really isolated and really lonely and again it's almost like your mind gets – you’re like brainwashed into thinking that if you complain or speak up, you're lazy or you don't want to work hard. And I remember that being really hard for me because I have a really strong work ethic. You have to if you're in this world. And I always felt misunderstood of standing up and saying this isn't right or I don't want to do this because - or when I was on the morning show, “please, don't you know I’ve been up since 2 a.m.? Please don't send me somewhere to do a live shot at noon an hour away. I won't get home till 2 p.m. and then I have to go to bed at 7 p.m.” And that felt like it was okay to say no but then I always felt like it was misconstrued for me. “Oh she just doesn't want to go to this story. She just doesn't want to go live.” It's like, no, that's not what I’m saying. I’m just asking if you could take a step back and think about how this will impact my day. Period. You know, I would say of all the shifts I worked, the morning show was really the worst because people would come in at 9 a.m. and not be able to understand that you had been there since 3 a.m. and would send you out on these crazy things. Like you - while you were sleeping sir or ma'am I was at a murder scene and I’m sorry I need to I need to go home it's time.

Molly Casey

I never worked mornings. I never want to work mornings. I am not a morning person, so things would have gone south quickly.

Julia Klein

Yeah

Molly Casey

But speak to the idea of, “Okay I’m kind of on my own I’m taking care of myself. Where do I find resources? How do I find resources?” Because I’m sure you've seen in the group, people are constantly saying, “I don't have enough money to get tampons this month.” “I don't have enough money to buy all the groceries I need.” Or “I’m falling behind on rent.” Was that ever a struggle that you faced and was that something that you felt like you couldn't bring up because you would be that failure?

Julia Klein

I’ll be honest I was very lucky – I – I’m fortunate that I did have to lean on my parents for my first job. Really, like I had a credit card that my dad and mom paid for me. I mean I didn't use it to go out or anything, it was just for groceries. And I said from day one, I do not know how I would do this if I didn't have the support of my family. At the same point, it was not a great feeling to not feel independent, you know? I had graduated college, I got my first job that I couldn't support myself, I was no different than my 15-year-old sister at that point. So, that's two fold: I was lucky but I also felt really stuck and self-conscious about that. And again it didn't match the “I felt like I got hit by a bus at the end of every day” and then my paycheck would come in I’m like, “well this certainly doesn't reflect how hard I worked or how I feel.” That's something I look back and I kind of wish people someone would have told me. But then yeah the mental health resources - I think that, again, you're just in this bubble and like in this world. And I would talk about it with my coworkers. That I think - that's the thing. There's management but then there's, you know, especially in your first market, it's a lot of young people that just kind of come together. And misery loves company and you know that's my closest friends now, some of them are from my first market. So, I would talk to them a lot but I never thought about reaching out to a counselor or a therapist or anyone because no one around me was doing it. And everyone was just doing this. Everyone was just going to these crazy scenes and trying to normalized them in their head. And so not only are they not available, it's not something that's talked about. So I just think it was - it never crossed my mind which makes me upset.

Molly Casey

Was it ever spoken about in your news room that you had employee assistance programs where you could go and use the three or five or seven free sessions that the company would cover with - mind you it was a company chosen counselor - but a counselor that you could speak to because of maybe what you were feeling from work?

Julia Klein

I never heard that, ever. I remember the day the reporter and photographer were killed on TV; do you remember that in Virginia or West Virginia? I remember that day our news director saying if anyone needs to talk, we can arrange something but that was the most extreme circumstance and it wasn't a clear-cut option but no not for the other days that I could have used it.

Molly Casey

Would you have appreciated it or what do you think it would have changed your experience as a journalist if you had a newsroom or if you had a culture of "hey, here's some health resources here are some mental health resources you need to talk about it."

Julia Klein

Yeah I do. I think it would have really humanized the experience. And people say you get desensitized. I heard that a lot and sure you do to some extent but you're still a person who has feelings and who are - you're seeing people at their absolute worst. That is what unfortunately we cover, is people's very worst days of their lives. And I do think - I hope - I would say I don't know what I would have done but I’d like to think I would have utilized the resources or, at least again, felt like someone was recognizing whether I used them or not that this can take its toll and it's here if you need it. Because no one said that and it's funny because we covered - I remember I did stories on first responders needing resources and I probably did several packages on this is being offered to the men and women on the police force and the fire department because what they see and da-da-da-da. It's like, by no means am I comparing myself to a first responder, but we're at these scenes too. We see them and sometimes we would get there before police and we would see bodies on the ground. I have images in my head that are burned there forever. So yeah I think you can't change the nature of news, like news is news ,it needs to be covered. If it's not for you, you get out and someone else will cover it. But I do think there's a way to pad the situation and give people the, you know, the help and the resources they need because the job is the job. I’m not saying we shouldn't cover anything. it needs to be covered by someone. but there could be a lot more especially for young-young reporters. It's just - they’re babies, we’re babies right out of school coming off of a college campus where the worst thing you see is, like, someone spray painting something on a wall and then you're at a murder scene it's just like complete 180. For me anyway I was really sheltered.



Molly Casey

Would you explain to somebody what you had to do mentally to potentially compartmentalize what you saw just so you could get into the next day's work?

Julia Klein

I think I just had to like pretending they weren't people. I don't - I don't know. I look- I’m telling you, in reflecting I do not know how I did it. I think you go into auto-pilot. You’re under a deadline so you don't have a whole lot of time to really take in what's happening. But I think you're writing down what you're seeing and, in my head, I think I just didn't even process that it was other people. Like in my head, they were just things. I don't know I really don't know. And then I would get home and either tell someone about the day or unpack it in my mind and that - I would have delayed reactions to what I saw. In the moment, it was autopilot, adrenaline rush. This is really messed up but I’m just going to say what's happening and get through it. And then it was always a few hours later that I was like, “oh my god I just saw a mother in the street crying because her child was killed.” And like it was horrible.

Molly Casey

What was it like to go home and have it hit a few hours later when you were alone? Or even if you had a, you know, a roommate or significant other and maybe they don't understand the situation or they don't understand where you're coming from. What was it like to have that delayed reaction where you are now with your own thoughts?

Julia Klein

It was hard, like it was - it was hard. It was really sad. I would get sad a lot and, you know, when I was, at the time he was my boyfriend, we’re married now, and my husband like, I remember telling him about days and you like you know, “whoa that's crazy.” And it is crazy. Like it is crazy. And you kind of gauge other people's reactions who have a stronger reaction than you had earlier in the day and you're like yeah wow you're right that was a really insane day. And on the - on the flip side of it like a really cool thing would happen, I feel like I I’d be really calm about it like I’d be like oh blah blah blah like this – I don’t know - the president came to town and it's like “what? the president was there?” and it's like, “oh, yeah it was annoying. All the streets were blocked off. We couldn't get there.” So, I just think like you have to - you have to become so desensitized to the good and the bad and again, I didn't really ever feel like myself. Like I’m such an animated person. I’m either sobbing or, like, screaming-cheering, and you just have to stand there and be neutral. And that really wasn't me. So, later in my career I was in a role where I could show a little more personality on the desk in like more of a trending entertainment role but as a reporter, like, I was unrecognizable as myself.

Molly Casey

Now that you're out of the business and you can be yourself, are you discovering parts of you that you forgot? Maybe - were there - that you didn't get to show or kind of constantly experience while you were in news?

Julia Klein

Yeah, I think just more, like, personality and more so outside of the work day. Like I’m picking up, like, more hobbies - I’m just able to - I have more time on my hands and I was just so tired. Like my day was never eight hours; it was nine to eleven, twelve-hour days depending on the day and I think I’m just re-discovering, like, time for me.

Molly Casey

There is life outside of work.

Julia Klein

Yeah, right?

Molly Casey

It's wild to think about, kind of how you had to self-preserve to just get to that next overtime day.

Julia Klein

And I think also, like you said hoping for something to happen - like sometimes I get to work and there's not nothing for me to do but there's not something pressing to do and that's normal and okay my anxiety was through the roof. Like what if it's a slow news day? What are they going to make - what do I have to come up with? What do I have to create? I mean it was debilitating anxiety. Like talking about the Sunday scares, it was every night scaries, like if something doesn't break, what can I conjure up to put on the news? And it was so stressful.

Molly Casey

Can you dive more into that for somebody that maybe doesn't understand the idea that we kind of have to come up with this stuff if it doesn't just sometimes quite literally explode?

Julia Klein

Right?

Molly Casey

What is it… like, what were the feelings that you went through every time you realized I have to pull something out of thin air?

Julia Klein

A lot of it was my first market - I think when you're in a smaller place you know, if you're in a big city, there's unfortunately - there’s just going to be a lot of sad, bad stuff going on. But in those smaller markets, like yeah, then you don't - it's not like, “oh it's a slow news day, go ahead and go home.” Like you have to come up with a minute and a half of content. You just feel all this pressure and stress. And I know I just remember calling any contacts that I had and just being like, “you doing anything today?” Or you know trying to localize national things which were always really hard and dumb in my personal opinion. No, that was probably one of my least favorite parts of being an MMJ in that first market was feeling the pressure of coming up with a story when quite literally there was nothing going on. And there’s also other people - maybe something was going on but your coworker got the story and then it was like, “well, then what do I do?” You know, so again with a like comparison and competitive nature it's just really cut throat in all aspects of it.

Molly Casey

It really is. I’ll never forget the day there was literally nothing going on and I - there had been a report that came out that something like 17 percent of Americans believe that chocolate milk comes from brown cows.

Julia Klein

*laughs*

Molly Casey

And I was in a farming community and I was like, “alright this is at least something entertaining to do for the day. It's not at all news but like here we go.”

Julia Klein

Yep.

Molly Casey

You talked about the fact that you know have been to scenes where police maybe hadn't even gotten there yet and you were there or you got there and things were just happening. Research shows that between 80 and a 100 percent of journalists have witnessed, experienced, or been a part of a traumatic event. Also I don't know - you obviously worked through covid so that's got to be a whole new level of anxiety in the newsroom. But journalists - the mental health of journalists reflects that of the mental health of first responders from the period of covid. So, you're not completely wrong in saying that, you know, you're not a first responder. We are visual first responders as journalists but we're not given those same resources that you did stories on, that you had, you know, the ability to go and say hey I just interviewed this foundation that's providing mental health resources or therapy for first responders in this community. Why do you think it is that we're not looked at as reporters as impacted as first responders when we're there seeing basically the same thing?

Julia Klein

That's a great question. I don't know. I think there is a mindset or mentality, especially from up above, that you, especially as a reporter on the younger side, are lucky to have this job and we gave you a chance and you're just lucky to be in this role and on TV or whatever it is. And so I think that's really the driving force, it's like if they don't want to do it someone else will do it. They're quite literally lucky that we're giving them a job and I think you're kind of looked at as disposable and there's other people coming through the pipeline if you don't want to do it. And so I just think there's just a bigger issue of mistreatment. I don't - I don't think anyone puts any thought into, you know, how their staff is. Certainly, doesn't look at them as first responders but I think beyond that is just, like, they're not tough enough to do it someone else will.

Molly Casey

And I definitely - I’ve heard that. You're not alone in hearing that, as well, in that - that thought process. Obviously, majority of the stations are owned by larger conglomerates – Grey, Hearst, Sinclair - they make good money but reporters and even anchors, they don't see the benefits of that. And I know I don't want to sit here and say that we need to be making a ton of money as reporters or that you know we deserve to be paid a ton, but do you think that there's an imbalance between how journalists are seen versus how the companies that journalists are employed by actually act because journalists are seen as these people that are paid off or have these glamorous life styles, like you were saying? And then you get to go and burst people's bubbles and say, “no, I got paid 20,000 dollars a year and wore Wal-Mart makeup for ten years.” Like is there a disconnect that you wish would be dispelled because of multimillion dollar companies paying so little for the people that do the work?

Molly Casey

Absolutely. I mean I would be lying if I said my salary wasn't one of the driving forces for why I left. You know – yes, I mean you see people advertising on television stations, these huge companies, corporations. I worked for Nextstar at one point, Tegna, I mean these are huge companies and you're paid the bare minimum. And again, it's that mind set of "well, I’m just lucky to have this job and I’m going to get in and get out because my next market will pay me more." And sure, you do get these bumps but it's like you're either - you either make it big or you don't and if you don't you're not making money and it's really, really upsetting and really unfair. And again, it's - people don't realize how hard journalists work. Our day is a hundred miles per hour there are times we can't eat, we can't go to the bathroom, and I’m not saying that's right for all the money in the world, but for the you know amount of work I personally put in day in and day out, I was not compensated for it. And on the flip side, I’m making much more money right now and I’ll have days that are really slow and I’m like, “do I deserve what they're paying me? I didn't really do much today…” And so I just - I think yes, of course the money is there and it should be coming down, but from a work perspective, like, we are work horses and you're not compensated for it. And I used to say that - I used to be like, “you know what, this would be really hard no matter what but I think if my paycheck reflected it at the end of the two-week period it might make it a little easier.” And that never happen for me

Molly Casey

You talk about leaving the industry because of the pay. When you look back at, you know, what you lived off for the last ten years and you look forward to what you get to do in the life style that you get to live now, if another journalist was maybe in the same shoes that you were and didn't quite know if they should leave the industry what would you tell them?

Julia Klein

It’s so hard. I would never want to discourage anyone from following their dream. And it goes back to what I said, you have to love it with every fiber of your being because there's no not a lot of perks if you don't you know like.

Molly Casey

*nodding yes*

Julia Klein

Yeah, there are cool experiences and what not, but I don't think that you can talk yourself into doing it if you don't love it. I would just say fight for what you want because I have learned, looking back and reflecting, that people do negotiate better contracts. So. you know I would say if you're going to do this and you love it don't take the mind set of you're lucky to have this job. Take the mindset that they're lucky to have you, this competent, hard-working, you know, dedicated person and fight for what you want. You're not going to get a million dollar contract but there is wiggle room Because these big companies do have money and I wish I would have gone into negotiations with more confidence because, again, I was always, like, just lucky that they want me. Like I’ll take whatever 2,000 dollar raise I can get like - no I should have gone in there and said I’ve done this this, this, this, this and I deserve this money. I don't know if it was being a female, I was young like I just never had that confidence.

Molly Casey

Do you think that people really realize that they can negotiate? I never really thought about it because I was in the same mindset of, "I’m just lucky to have gotten a job." Is that an entire industry kind of mindset change that needs to occur or that needs to be implemented before journalists even graduate school?

Julia Klein

Yeah, I believe so. And I think I - ’m all about climbing the totem pole and paying your dues, like by no means do I think I should have walked into the New York City market with a fat paycheck without putting my time in. That's not what I’m saying, but I do think the industry is just going to continue to suffer and not - people are - there's so many other ways now that you can be a journalist, digitally and doesn't have to be TV news and people… Who knows what you know who may look into it ahead of time are just probably not going to go into it. And so I think yes, something needs to change and there should still be, you know, financial rewards as you get up higher and gain more experience. But the base line should not be so thin and the skeleton crews and the skeleton paycheck. Like that - it's just going to continue to force people into other places, you know. I was really, like, one track mind. I was - I went to school for it, that's what I was going to do. But I mean if I wasn't like that and I was like, “let me just dabble in that…'' and then I probably would have been - gone running for the hills. And I think that's what's going to happen if they don't pay more and offer more resources all around. Monetary and mental health and even leaves you know you feel like you can't take a sick day.

Molly Casey

I know that there are some stations that, and I think this was something that happened either in 2021 or 2022, they didn't want to give newbies first year producers and reporters time off but they were forced by the state that the station was in to give a minimum of I think it was two days. They didn’t even want to give time off.

Julia Klein

That breaks my heart.

Molly Casey

And I think that's – I don’t want to say it's reflected across the industry but I never felt like I could take a day off. I never felt like I could be off and was always on, I was on my email, I was always checking for the next story or what was going on. Because if you walked into the news room the next day and you didn't know what's going on, what were you doing?

Julia Klein

Yeah, and it was the same feeling that I felt if I tried to stick up for myself - no I don't want to do this. I want to end my shift on time. It is the same way I felt about calling out sick. You were made to feel guilty or lazy or you know, I remember if I did call out sick or took a day off, I would stay off social media. Like it was just this really toxic mentality and it's, you know, my husband's in corporate finance America and he puts an out of office thing on his calendar and doesn't think twice about it. And I’m like, “I would never!” You know, so, yeah I hope for the future of journalists and our industry, which does you know have a lot to offer, that something changes

Molly Casey

Is there anything that I didn't ask or is there any kind of anything about mental health in journalism in your experiences that I didn't ask or that you would like to say?

Julia Klein

No, you covered a lot. I feel like this was a therapy session. This was awesome. No, I would just say that the golden rule, like, walk a mile in someone's shoes before you judge them and I just think that if you know any journalists or anyone, like, don't assume that they just want to be on TV. There's a lot of really hard-working, passionate people that are sacrificing so much of their personal lives of their, you know, income and anything just to tell stories for communities and I think that that really gets lost a lot of times especially with social media.

Molly Casey

There's a lot of people working on Christmas eve and New Year’s Eve and Thanksgiving and fourth of July and birthdays and anniversaries. And, you know you, think of nurses when you hear that you think of first responders when you hear that and you know that that counts for journalism too, we’re -

Julia Klein

Yeah.

Molly Casey

- the journalism industry doesn't turn off and we're there to be the on switch for it.

Julia Klein

And I really will never take for granted my holidays now and I don't regret going into news and it built so much character and it, again, took me out of my comfort zone but if I go down the rabbit hole too far, I get really angry and a little resentful for some of the things it took away from me.

Molly Casey

What would some of those things be? Just the time off and the ability to be with family and friends?

Julia Klein

Yeah, I missed a lot. Which, again, was when I was like, “I want to get out.” I was like, “I can't get out. I missed blank-blank-blank” and all these things. It has to be worth it. And so yeah it took away a lot of personal experiences. And you know I had some really dark days and I think it kind of stripped away my innocence and self-esteem and there were some really low points for me definitely.

Molly Casey

When you were at those low points, did you just kind of wither through them on your own or did you have a support system you could reach out to?

Julia Klein

I’ve relied heavily on my parents and friends but I mean, I remember thinking, “I would love to get hit by a car not die but, like, just like hit by a car and then I would have to be out.” I remember thinking it - it is horrible - this is, again, I was just not myself. I was so miserable. I’m like, “okay, if I got in like a minor car crash and I was in the hospital for a few days I really couldn't go to work.” And that was just awful, awful, like I don't know. And I’m sure there are other people that have had far darker thoughts than me and I’m really lucky that I had my family to pull me out. And I didn't stay anywhere too long. I was in and out year and a half, two years and… but yeah, I was just never the full version of myself.

Molly Casey

And you aren't the first to say something like that in your experience, in what the moments that you were in and you had, those are just as valid and just as worthy as somebody that may have thought about something a step further. It's - in the end it's you, it's what your experience was and it's just as valid. And it goes to show that this isn't an easy industry. This isn't an industry you just kind of float through and get your hair make up done or show up on TV. This is an industry and this is a job that pushes you past your limits and doesn't have any network to bring you back down to ground level.

Julia Klein

Amen. Yes and I think that's why it's so easy to connect with anyone that has ever been - I mean, I feel like I’ve known you my whole life and I literally just met you. But the group that we're in, anyone I meet I feel like you're part of this underground society that like only the people in it really know how hard you - you're pushed and what boundaries you have to cross and test yourself personally and professionally in. And I’m grateful that anyone I meet validates usually what I experienced and I hope I do the same for other people.

Molly Casey

I’m sure you do because like you said it is an underground society and once you're in it you're, it's like a lifelong key holder like, "oh yeah, I remember those days."

Julia Klein

Yeah, it's a good conversation starter but, yeah.

Molly Casey

It’s definitely - I’m sure you've done this but, when people are like oh your former news reporter and then you tell them what it was actually like and they sit back and their eyes are that big and you're like…

Julia Klein

Yeah, I feel guilty. My new job, like, people were asking like why did you leave and I was like…

Molly Casey

*laughs*

Julia Klein

Do you want the politically correct answer or do you want the like, “it was miserable” answer?

Molly Casey

I’m sure you've had the experience of when there's something that happens and you're the first reporter you're the one that really covers, it you're just expected stay on for that ten days straight and you don't get extra two days off, you don't get your weekend isn't made up, they're just like, “oh great, you get over time, there's your compensation.”

Julia Klein

Yep and your weekends became - for me they weren't like the most social weekends. When I was in these places but it was just time that you weren't at these scenes and they're stripped away from you constantly. Or it's like, “oh you want to anchor the weekend?” And it's like they jangled the carrots like, “yeah so, will I be off Monday?” Then, “oh no.” It’s like oh… but again you're like, “oh, it’s what I’ve got to do I’m lucky how lucky am I they're putting me in this seat and i have to be in at…” you know whatever time. It was just such a mind game.

Molly Casey

It was. It was - it was a toxic relationship, is what it was in the end.

Julia Klein

I have said that so many times it was like an abusive relationship that you wanted to leave, you knew it wasn't good for you but you couldn't. I don't mean to I hope that doesn't offend anyone that you know in a you know domestic whatever but I really felt like I was just abusive pull

Molly Casey

Yeah, they mind trick you into thinking that you're only good for what you're doing. And it's kind of this weird, unsung industry, you know, siren song that you fall into the trap of, “I’m only good here. This is the only place I can - I can be and I’m lucky if I’m seen so…”

Julia Klein

Yeah.

Molly Casey

You're completely right.

Julia Klein

I have a therapist now that I see just kind of for general stuff but we talk - it's funny no matter what I think I’m going to talk about going in, the conversation shifts somehow to news and either leaving or what I experience. So I’m doing a lot of backtracking so I think what you're doing is going to help a lot of people.

Julia Klein

Julia Klein, reporting live on mental health.

Molly Casey

Thank you so much for tuning to today’s episode of Reporting Live on Mental Health, a Mind Over Media production. If you are looking for mental health resources or support, more episodes, or would like to purchase merch to support future episodes and the creation of a fund to help fellow journalists afford mental healthcare, please visit mindovermedia.org.


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