For eight years Mikaela Hunt woke up with Columbus news viewers as one of four co-anchors on WCMH’s morning newscast.
In 2015, she was told that the station was not going to renew her contract.
“And I can only speculate as to reasons why, since they never gave me a reason,” says Hunt, now well into a career as a brand journalist and owner of Mikaela Media.
“I wasn’t told it wasn’t being renewed. I was walked upstairs, and the news director walked me to HR and said, ‘We’re not renewing your contract. Today is your last day,’ as I was sitting down in my seat. And I asked the question, ‘Why?’ The news director, Dave Ciliberti, repeated himself … and walked out the door.”
“I will never know the reason why and that can be really difficult,” Hunt says. “People might make assumptions based on who they hired to come after me, but I can’t factually say that a different look was the reason why I was let go.”
“If you really thought the body image thing was a part of this — again there’s no way to know — They’ve hired a couple of real people in the last year. So good for them,” she continues. “But I will say it concerns me that … there are people within that medium where that is the only thing they care about.”
Hunt says you could look on air and tell who really cares about achieving a certain look, rather than producing quality journalism. It’s not an issue for all news directors, she says, but it does happen in the industry.
“To suggest that a working mom, and where she is after having two kids and working an odd shift, is not as good as someone who has a certain sex appeal is troublesome,” she says. “You need to have a variety of people that are representative of your community. It’s critical.”
After she was let go, Hunt says WCMH attempted to hold her under a six-month non-compete contract, which she later found out was illegal given the circumstances of the sudden dismissal. The non-compete ended up only being 60 days, but at that point, Hunt had already registered her LLC.
When Hunt established Mikaela Media, she says it wasn’t a path she chose. Rather, it chose her. Her work now encompasses brand journalism, an emerging field in journalism that complements public relations in that it tells the story of a company from its own point of view.
“What I’m doing now gives me the freedom to still support and create community, and spend time with my kids. And I am treated in a way that what I do matters to the people that I work with. And I don’t have to second guess why I am not being treated sometimes equally or fairly. You know?” she says.
“As devastating and as unexpected as my end to that portion of my career was, it also was the reason I’m able to do what I can do today,” she continues. “So I am so grateful that I was able to be here in this city and do what I did for eight years. And without that, I would never be doing what I’m doing now.”