Former CNN Anchor Daryn Kagan Talks About Her New Gig

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News anchor Daryn Kagan had worked at CNN twelve years when network executives told her they weren’t renewing her contract. She was out of a job.

Kagan, in her early forties, continued to work on CNN’s air for most of the remaining ten months of her contract, keeping her upcoming departure quiet. At the same time, she searched for what to do next. She finally decided to start her own Web site dedicated to good news and inspirational stories, which launched in late 2006.

Kagan is funding the Atlanta-based venture herself. Her business plan calls for revenue through sponsorships, book deals and speaking engagements. The site includes video starring Kagan, as well as stories. She is the only full-time employee, though she has hired a handful of freelancers.

I chatted with Kagan recently about her new gig—and the journey that led her to entrepreneurship.

You say a lot of women can relate to your experiences during the past year. Why is that?

My story is one of reinvention. A lot of women have to reinvent themselves, for whatever reason. Maybe it is because they were stay-at-home moms and now they are re-entering the workforce. For me, it started a year ago when CNN told me they weren’t renewing my contract. I had my sad, probably a good three months of it.

Having to reinvent yourself is scary. No one told you this could happen. It will either be an amazing journey or it will do you in. It is a choice.

How’d you figure out what to do next?

It was a process. First, I figured out what I wasn’t going to do. I wasn’t going to go find another network news job.

Why not?

For one thing, it would have meant moving, probably to the Northeast where MSNBC and Fox News are based. Or going into local news.

Also, I understand that I’d probably be in the same position again in a few years. The same things that led to the end of my CNN career—age, the fact that they could pay someone younger a quarter of my salary, and just the way technology is changing the news business—those things would have continued to be issues. Traditional TV news is a dinosaur.

So once you knew you weren’t going to stay in the TV news field, how did you come up with this idea?

I was at a crossroads. I was going to be bitter or I was going to go somewhere else. I wanted to believe the world is a good place, so I started looking for stories that demonstrated that. I wanted to hear the stories, really just for me.

Then, I stumbled across a couple of web sites that got me thinking. One was a Yahoo page for a war correspondent. The theme was one year with one man—and it took you everywhere he went, all these horrible, sad places. I started thinking: What if I had a Web site? What if it was one year with one woman? I’d go to inspirational places. Another site also impressed me, in terms of its functionality. It is called Rocketboom. As soon as the site comes up, video launches. I thought: I could do that. I took a white piece of paper and drew a box in the middle with a stick figure that was supposed to be me, and I wrote at the top.

Were you sick of reporting bad news at CNN?

Not really. I am a news junkie. I think it is important to be informed. I just also think it is important to be inspired. I like the analogy of buying food. You go to the butcher for meat and a bakery for sweets and a grocery store for other groceries. You don’t say to the baker, “Why don’t you have meat?” I am not trying to change CNN or local news.

You’ve reported a lot of positive stories in recent months. What stories have particularly touched you?

Oh, this is like picking one of my children.

I did a story about Scott Rigsby, a double amputee from the knee down. He is training to be the first person to do the Iron Man triathlon with prostheses. We went running together.

And I did a story about a new mom in Minnesota who came up with the idea of starting an international breast milk bank, so that women with extra breast milk could send it to orphans in Africa. She took a crazy idea and made it happen.

And I did a story about a 102-year-old woman who threw out the first pitch at a Boston Red Sox game. And in the animal section, there is a story about a three-legged cat. I happen to have a three-legged cat, so I like that one.

We could be here all day. There are so many.

What has been the hardest part of starting your own company?

Figuring it all out from scratch. This has not just been figuring out a business from scratch, it has also been figuring out a technology from scratch. I had to put all the processes in place. That was a big change for me. I was sitting in a meeting and someone asked, “Are we going to do QuickTime or Flash.” I couldn’t figure out why everyone was looking at me and then I remembered: I own this company. And that’s just an example. I had to figure out processes for everything.

Any final advice for women who are looking for a more meaningful career or are trying to reinvent themselves professionally?

Inspiration comes in pieces. For me, my ticket to success has been creating something from my heart. My financial success will come from that, not from going after a traditional news job or trying to make $1 million by figuring out what the next widget is supposed to be.


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