After a two-decade career with ABC and more than 4,500 bulletins, Juanita Philips will leave the network.
On Monday, Philips wrote about his decision to retire after 21 years of hosting 7pm News, with no “immediate plans” for the future.
Phillips joined ABC in 2002 as the weekend presenter of NSW 7pm News after other roles at CNN International, BBC World News, SKY News Australia and 10 Network.
She became a co-anchor later that year, and in 2003 she was named the solo anchor of 7pm News.
READ HIS FULL STATEMENT:
My kids set the house on fire only once, and luckily I wasn’t at work that day.
Running toward the flames with a blanket and a pan of water, I thought, “If this doesn’t work, I need to get them out of the house, and where the hell is my daughter?”
She was hiding under her duvet, hoping the fire would go out on its own.
As time goes. That house has long since been demolished for a McMansion. My little firefly is now 18 years old and studying for the HSC.
My son has flown the nest. My partner recently started a new job, helping Australia’s economic transition to clean energy.
And ABC is undergoing the biggest transformation in its history, moving from traditional broadcasting to the great unknown, the ever-evolving digital future.
Change is in the air, so the time seems right to take the next big step in my own life.
After 21 years presenting the 7pm newscast, I have decided to leave ABC and take some time off.
It’s my choice, and I’m excited to start the next phase of my life. My final newsletter will be on September 10th.
It has been an honor to serve the people of New South Wales in this role, and I’m sorry to say goodbye to our 7pm viewers.
I’ve talked to thousands of them over the years, and I know they love and value ABC (although they don’t hold back if they don’t like something).
Some tell me that listening to the Majestic Fanfare is one of their earliest childhood memories and that the 7pm newscast is part of that lifelong bond they have with ABC.
It is a privilege to have played a small part in something so important in people’s daily lives, and I am grateful for the warmth and support I have received from them over the years.
At public broadcaster, I have been fortunate to work alongside the best people in the business.
Broadcasting live TV is a huge team effort, and I couldn’t do my job without the skill and support of my colleagues: producers, editors, directors, studio crew, auto-cue operators, and makeup artists, to name a few.
It’s been an extraordinary time in history to be in the news business.
If I had to sum up the last 21 years in five words, they would be: terrorism, Trump, COVID, climate and equality.
Those are the chapter titles of the stories that define our time.
I am grateful to the frontline ABC journalists who risk their lives and mental health to tell you, particularly the foreign correspondents who put themselves in harm’s way, the investigative reporters who courageously hold the powerful to account, and the general reporters who strive in the field during natural disasters.
I can do the easy part – presenting your hard work from the comfort of a studio.
However, telling people bad and scary news five nights a week leaves a mark.
It has made me a very anxious mother to begin with: I know everything that can go wrong, from freak accidents to existential threats to humanity.
People often ask if reading the news bothers me. Sometimes it does, especially those stories that reveal the worst of human nature and the suffering it causes.
There are some stories that I can’t see when they air, and my ability to tune out of them is waning. It’s a part of the job that I’ll be relieved to leave.
But there’s so much I’m going to miss. The camaraderie of the makeup room. Newsroom electricity when big news breaks. The stillness of the darkened studio before the lights come on. The countdown to showtime: “On the air in 5, 4, 3…”.
Listening to the calm voice of the director in my headset and knowing that everything will be fine, because I am in good hands.
I have no immediate plans, and that feels great. I have spent the last 42 years, my entire adult life, working full-time in newsrooms, here and abroad.
For the past 20 years, I have also been running a family home and raising children, mostly as a single mother. The prospect of freedom is exhilarating.
It’s been a long road, and a lot has changed. When I started out as an 18-year-old cadet journalist in Brisbane in 1982, we used manual typewriters and took notes in shorthand.
Newspapers ruled the media landscape, flushed with money from the “rivers of gold” of classified advertising.
Reporters were smoking and drinking in the newsroom, and there was a lot of what these days would be considered verbal abuse and sexual harassment.
People generally had three sources of news: the morning paper, ABC radio, and the television bulletin of their choice in the evening.
When a middle-aged media figure named Rupert Murdoch bought the newspaper he worked for, he introduced computers.
The new machines annoyed the journalists so much that they paid us a “disability allowance” to make up for it. That was the first major technological disruption I was a part of, but certainly not the last.
Fast forward 40 years, and the digital revolution has changed the industry almost beyond recognition.
People get their news from so many sources that traditional media are struggling to survive.
Artificial intelligence and misinformation are emerging as an existential threat to journalism. The smoky, smoky newsrooms of the past have been replaced by a young, diverse, and tech-savvy workforce.
I am thankful for all the opportunities I was given along the way. From newspapers I went to television, which took me to Sydney and then to London.
On my second shift at the BBC, Princess Diana was killed in a car accident. A week later, I hosted some of the coverage of her funeral, broadcasting it to a global audience of hundreds of millions.
From there, I went to CNN, the original 24-hour news channel.
On the last day of 1999, as the clock ticked down to the new millennium with the global threat posed by the Y2K bug, I helped present one of the biggest live news events of the 20th century: 24 hours of continuous coverage from every location. corner of the earth, using bulky satellite phones the size of a suitcase.
These days you could do the same with a smartphone and social media, but back then it was considered a miracle of modern technology.
Broadcasting from CNN’s gigantic main studio in Atlanta, Georgia, I was excited to be a part of it.
Journalism has given me life experiences beyond my wildest dreams. But my greatest achievement is simply this: I’m still here. I’m still on the air, hosting a prime-time news bulletin as I approach my 60th birthday.
I’m proud to have survived this long. Television news is a tough business for women once they have children, and especially as they get older.
I have seen far too many talented women discarded during my decades in the industry, and I am well aware of how lucky I am to choose the moment of my departure.
(The latest Women in Media survey found that nearly a third of women were considering leaving their jobs, citing bias, discrimination and a gender pay gap larger than the national average.
“The removal of women from the media is a loss that society cannot afford,” the organization said.
As for what comes next: I honestly have no idea. I know: I will not train for a marathon or study for a PhD. And I solemnly promise not to start a podcast.
My life goals these days are much more mundane. I really want to be home at night for dinner. Have Sundays off. Being able to attend my Thursday night book club without taking annual leave.
After a lifetime of working odd, unsociable hours, I’m ready for a bit of normality.
Being more available to friends and family is now my priority. I assumed life would slow down as my kids got older. It turns out that it is quite the opposite!
We gather people as we go through life, and by the time you get to my age, it’s quite a crowd. There’s always something big going on: divorce, death, troubled teens, sick seniors, health crisis. It’s breaking news on the home front every other day.
There is also much to celebrate. My gorgeous mom is turning 97 this year and I want to spend as much time as I can with her.
And after a bit of downtime, who knows? I’ve worked all my life and I feel like I still have something to contribute. So keep the camera rolling. As a wise friend recently told me, “Sometimes women our age just need a year off.”
I’ll be sad to go. But when I reach the end of this particular path, what I mostly feel is deep gratitude for the opportunity to walk it.
The news is mostly bad. But this job has taught me that there is also beauty and goodness in the world: kind people, wonders of nature, feats of bravery and sacrifice. I too have witnessed that. How lucky I have been.
more to come