By Eve Gumpel
When momentous events are happening, Wendy Gillette is in the thick of them. Gillette is a freelance correspondent, producer, writer and editor for CBS NewsPath and WCBS. She’s a correspondent for NBC News and an anchor for Verizon’s new network, FiOS1 news.
She’s covered hurricanes, flash floods, the attempted bombing in Times Square, former President Bill Clinton’s heart attack and the 2008 presidential election, among other breaking news events.
Gillette says she fell into freelancing when WCBS in New York offered her a job as a freelancer six years ago. She has family in New Jersey, so she jumped at the opportunity to move East again.
For Gillette, being a freelancer means more money, more freedom — and plenty of vacation time. “I take three and four weeks at a time” for travel, Gillette says. “Last year I was off three months of the year.” Travel destinations included New Orleans, Hawaii and San Franscisco.
If you’re just starting in the broadcast business, you’ll have to pay your dues, Gillette says. You’ll want a full-time position, with benefits, probably in a small market. Even if you’re lucky enough to get hired in a big city, it will take a couple of years to establish yourself, she says.
The key to success as a freelancer is being willing to do a variety of things. Gillette says she wouldn’t have gotten as far as she did if she was married to the idea that she could only do on-air work. By learning to produce and edit — as well as anchor and be an on-air reporter — her opportunities multiplied, she says.
Full-time jobs are available in the industry, but the workload today is increasing, Gillette says. One needs to be a jack-of-all-trades, able to shoot video, tweet, update a facebook page and blog for the organization’s website. “They want you to create a face for yourself,” Gillette says.
“I think that’s a lot to handle,” says Gillette. Especially when you also have to worry about how you look on-air. Gillette describes herself as a one-man band, but she doesn’t shoot video.
As a freelancer, Gillette has set hours, planned in advance. But if you’re in the building stages of your career, you might be called on for any shift — and news is a 24-hour commodity.
The important thing for a freelancer is benefits. Gillette gets coverage through her membership in the Writer’s Guild.
“I love New York,” Gillette says. “It’s a great place to live and a great place to report. She calls it “a hotbed of stories” that are interesting and exciting.
Gillette warns, however, that news is the kind of career that takes all of your energy, time and attention, and requires strange hours to boot. “News is a beast that always needs feeding,” she says. “I do love it,” she concludes. “That’s why it’s sometimes a battle to have a personal life.”