Two local TV reporters left the news business this week, both citing shifting perspectives brought on by their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sloane Heffernan, a reporter and weekend anchor at WRAL, and Colleen Quigley, a reporter at WNCN’s CBS 17, each shared similar public messages on Facebook about the challenges of working on tragic stories throughout the pandemic, and how those challenges made them realize they were ready to do different work.
Heffernan, according to her WRAL bio, began her journalism career in 1997 at WALB-TV in Albany, Georgia, and has been at WRAL since 2006. She won an Emmy Award in 2010 for spot news coverage of a mass murder at a nursing home in Carthage, NC, that killed eight people.
She announced on June 4 that she would be leaving WRAL, saying on Facebook that she was finding it increasingly more difficult to cover tragedies.
“COVID has caused many of us to do some soul-searching,” Heffernan wrote. “For me, it started as a whisper that grew increasingly louder during the pandemic. I love storytelling, but to be honest, the news business was weighing heavy on my heart. It’s been a tough year, but even before 2020, I was finding it difficult to cover tragedies.”
Heffernan wrote that she plans to start her own business, which she described in a later social media post as a “storytelling marketing business” that will help businesses and non-profits tell their stories in a way that helps them connect better with their audience. Her new company is called Story More.
Her last day at WRAL was Tuesday, June 15.
A ‘reset’ becomes a ‘refocus’
Quigley wrote that several weeks ago she had taken a leave of absence from the station and then decided to make the leave permanent.
As with Heffernan, Quigley wrote that it had become more difficult over the past year to tell tragic stories.
“Covering COVID19 was unlike anything I’ve reported on,” Quigley wrote. “Stories about losses, fear, isolation and sadness became harder and harder to tell each day. Several weeks ago I decided to take time off to focus on my mental health. What I intended as a ‘reset’ instead became a refocus that led me to a big decision. Last week I resigned from CBS17, bringing my decade long career as an anchor and reporter to an end.”
In a message to The News & Observer, Quigley emphasized her appreciation for her time in journalism and her plan to remain in Raleigh.
“I’m so grateful for my time at CBS17,” Quigley said. “It really was a privilege being trusted to share people’s stories in some of their most difficult moments, and some of their proudest.
“Raleigh has become home for me and my fiancé. I’m excited to start my next chapter here, and look forward to exploring new opportunities outside of news.”
Other recent departures from journalism
Heffernan and Quigley are not the only local news figures to leave the business during the past year.
At the end of November 2020, WRAL anchor Kathryn Brown left the business, saying that working from home during the course of the pandemic had shown her what she was missing as the parent of young children.
“Before COVID, I didn’t really know what I was missing, and once I realized what I was missing, I realized I couldn’t go back to not having that,” Brown told The News & Observer at the time.
Brown is now the public relations director at INE, a Cary firm that provides technical training in the IT industry.
A month later, Julie Wilson, a reporter and anchor at WTVD, announced her departure from ABC11, saying that the past year during the pandemic had been difficult and had led her to “assess the direction I’m going in this life.”
Wilson now has a YouTube channel where she shares her new adventures.
And at the end of this month, ABC11 anchor Tisha Powell will leave the news business and return to her native Louisiana with her family. Powell told The News & Observer that she plans to work outside the news industry.