How a Primetime News Producer Downshifted to Happiness

Here’s the key: finding work that excites you and a pace that works for a growing family

Emily Kaplan once ran style coverage for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and served as a top producer for ABC in New York, covering crime and working with Diane Sawyer. Now, on the cusp of 40, she runs, a curated news site for busy women from an office in her suburban backyard, and News Not Noise, a news show that she produces in her home studio. Here’s how the mother of two down-shifted for more happiness and fulfillment than she ever could have imagined.

“I knew I needed to find something that I was passionate about, so that I would be willing to work on it at 3 a.m. instead of sleeping. The other key was that I needed to do something a little different than what I’d ever done before. I’ve never done any on-camera work, so with News Not Noise, I’m totally out of my comfort zone—but it’s the part that makes me desperate to improve and grow and learn, and hence keeps my attention, even when I’m exhausted.

“I’ve had a few offers to work for big companies or news agencies, and I just didn’t think the timing was right. I needed something that was flexible. I know myself. When I work, I become myopic. If I was accountable to someone else, a boss or sources, I would have a hard time balancing. I would never have been able to have dinner with my kids. I needed something that stimulated me beyond childrearing, but I’m not ready to miss dinner with them yet.

“I also have a fear that time is passing and skills are changing, and I didn’t want to be out of the workforce for too long. A lot of the social media stuff (and certainly SEO stuff) is new to me, but I’ve had to learn it all, which makes me feel like my resume won’t be stale.

“It’s a switch for me. I went to Northwestern University for my master’s degree. As a part of the program, I covered Congress. I loved it. I loved the idea of not knowing where I’d be the next day. The instability was enticing. From there I moved to Las Vegas, worked as a business reporter, and I was covering technology and development, cultivating sources, immersing myself in that world. Congress was actually reading my stuff, figuring out how to write the laws!

“From there, I was at the Las Vegas Review-Journal, one of the only women in the newsroom, and the only female business reporter. I then launched the style section and wrote 90 percent of the copy. I was writing on this crazy world of Vegas fashion and beauty.

“Meanwhile, a friend had met Diane Sawyer on a plane. Yup! It turned out, she’d actually read my stuff and liked my take on being a young woman living in Las Vegas. She and I started emailing back and forth about my column. She actually invited me to come to New York, and in the course of a couple months, I ended up going to work at Primetime and 20/20 as a producer.

“That was insane. I kept a suitcase in my office. I was single. I would meet someone and say, well, I don’t know if I can have drinks tonight, I might be on my way to JFK. I never knew where I was going, and I was probably on a plane twice a week.

“My beat was crime. I spent a lot of time listening to people being arraigned in courtrooms. Lots of men who’d murdered their wives. My nickname in the office was Murder Girl. Nice, right? I found the whole thing stimulating and fascinating. I have this driving interest in how people make decisions. When people are in crisis, their decision-making process completely changes. Your brain goes haywire.

“There, I met and connected with all sorts of people, on a personal level. I felt really good at my job. I felt really genuine and alive.

“I left ABC to move back to Boston and partnered with another businessperson to run a company, Prep Cosmetics. We rebranded it, expanded it around the country, launched an online store, partnered with other businesses. That was a major shift from this idea of being really interested in how other people make decisions to then being the one making them.

“Now I’m married with two children, and I have a new mission. I have my show, and I’m trying to launch my online platform for busy women, offering them the best news of the week, curated. I kept talking about it with other women, who always said, I haven’t had time to read anything! So now I’m filtering news and being an editor. I don’t know that I could do that if I hadn’t run a business or worked in news.

“Ultimately, I realized that I need outside stimulation. It was hard: I had a wonderful mother who stayed home and made food from scratch and made us feel like we were her world. So this is a balance. Now, I enjoy other things more because I feel energized by my work.

“My advice: Don’t do something that you think will make a ton of money. Don’t do what your friends believe you’re good at. Do something you really care about. My work gets done at night when the kids go to bed.

“Realize that sometimes it’ll be hard. And sometimes it will be great. Make the commitment and follow through. Keep working until you’re not learning anymore. Keep pushing yourself, so you do feel a little stretched. You don’t learn anything when things are easy.”

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