Whenever reporters bail out of journalism into public relations, they're sure to get razzed by ex-colleagues for "crossing over to the dark side." But former television anchor Bobbie Battista makes no apologies for her midlife job change. Back in November 2001, Battista ended her 20-year career at CNN--she was one of its original newscasters as well as one of its most recognizable faces--to cofound Atlanta-based Atamira Communications along with three other former CNNers.
"Nine eleven had a little to do with it, and when you're hitting 50, you want do something different," says Battista, who will be 53 in July. But perhaps an ever bigger motivation was the change in management and ownership at CNN. In January 2001, Time Warner, CNN's parent company, merged with America Online. And in July 2001, a new CEO was named to run the network. "I didn't think the merger was good for the company, and I didn't think the revolving door of management was good for the company." Battista sensed CNN was drifting away from its heritage of serious news. "They were closing bureaus and doing more talking-head voice-overs. There was more bottom-line pressure. So I opted to take my leave."
Battista, with producer-husband John Brimelow and two other CNN executives, decided to form a PR firm. "Reporters have become too savvy for spinning and bridging. But there are ways you can respond to questions that don't give away the company's credit card number yet also give reporters an answer that they can live with."
Battista & Co. seek out firms with "cross hairs on their backs," like client ChoicePoint, the consumer data broker whose computer files were hacked last October. Battista's first client was Republican Bob Irvin, a Georgia U.S.Senate candidate who failed to get his party's nomination in 2002. But she eschews politicos now. "We're political junkies, but you really need to be in Washington for that."
Battista is also dipping her toes back into the news game by starting a pilot satellite radio show dealing with small-and medium-business issues. Does she miss the adrenaline rush of covering breaking news or big events like a presidential election or war? "I do miss being in the front lines of history in the making." That, she sheepishly admits, as well as a TV anchor's rich clothing allowance.
This story appears in the May 23, 2005 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.