Kagan's Comeback


I reported earlier this week that Good News with Daryn Kagan was available for TV stations to syndicate, but Kagan’s personal story of reinvention is a perfect fit for Fates.

Like so many others, Kagan found her true calling after she lost her high-profile job.

In January 2006, CNN informed her that they weren’t going to renew her contract. CNN asked her to continue anchoring the news through that Labor Day, giving her time to consider what to do next.

“I didn’t go bouncing out of my boss’s office after getting that news,” she says. “I felt sad for a few months.”

But once she got over the shock of being let go from a job she loved, and the fear of having to find something else to do, she started thinking about what she wanted to do next.

“I knew I didn’t want to get a traditional news job, although I probably could have gone to MSNBC or Fox or a local station. I really felt like even if I got that next job, in three or four years I’d be out on the streets again. I could see how the business was changing and how technology was limiting how many people any one outlet really needs,” she says, demonstrating a little prescience considering today’s news environment.

One day she came upon one of Yahoo!’s sites: Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone, which featured the freelance war correspondent spending one year traveling around to different war zones and reporting on them. The site’s catchphrase was “one man, one year, 20 war zones.”

“I looked at that and thought: ‘I can have my own Web site where I just do my favorite kind of reporting?’” she says. “And then just as a creative exercise, I thought, ‘if I had one, what would mine be?’ I got to do all kinds of stories at CNN but my favorites were these inspirational stories. I thought, ‘why not one woman going to every inspiring place in the world for one year?’”

Imitating Sites, she took her idea to Yahoo! Only knowing that she wanted a Web site of her own, “I tried to give my idea away to them for free. I made my big pitch to them and they didn’t get it.”

Kagan was down but not out. “It was finally my little sister who asked me: ‘why are you giving this away?’ She suggested that I start my own Web site, and then I could do books and radio and TV after that.”

Kagan took that advice to heart and started DarynKagan.com, a bright red and orange portal. Video is the site’s centerpiece. Pieces range from a story about war orphans in Northern Uganda, the subject of documentary War Dance, to a story about a novelist who got a second chance and wrote a book about it.

Visitors to DarynKagan.com can also join the community, read her blog and watch many of the inspirational stories she’s reported since starting the site.

And turns out her sister was right: after starting the site, the offers have come rolling in. Kagan has written a book — What’s Possible! 50 True Stories of People Who Dared to Dream They Could Make a Difference. She’s about to write another one, Life Lessons of Tripod the Three-Legged Wonder Cat, based on things she’s actually learned from her 19-year-old three-legged cat who caused quite the commotion during our interview by spilling his water.

She’s produced two documentaries. The first, Breaking the Curse, aired on PBS in 2007 and won the 2008 Gracie Award for outstanding documentary. The second, Solar Town USA, about America’s first solar-powered village in the 1970s, is expected to air on PBS this year.

As reported, her inspirational stories are being syndicated to TV stations, with Seewe Entertainment distributing. Every week day she provides similar stories to Oprah Radio, which airs on Sirius XM. She also is going to start producing a daily inspirational minute for the Web site Tonic.com.

Asked how she finds all of these inspirational stories to tell, Kagan says: “I thought if I created a vessel for positive stories to exist, they would just come to me. And the amount of content is not a problem, it’s just keeping up with everything that gets challenging.”

Much of her content comes from her Web site, which asks browsers to tell Kagan their story. “Some 60 percent of my content comes from there.”

For Kagan, jobs come to an end, but it’s nothing to be ashamed about.

“I think this whole discussion of reinvention is really important,” she says. “Most people will face this challenge of reinvention in their lives. You might lose your job, get a divorce or your kids will grow up and move away, leaving you alone. At some point, that thing you call yourself will go away.”

“When that happens, you can crawl under the covers and cry, which I certainly recommend you do for at least a few days. But if you can just realize that it’s just kind of life happening, that helps in terms of where you spend your energy. Everything, every relationship, every job has a beginning, middle and an end.  We’re all excited by the beginning, comfortable in the middle and insulted by the end. That’s true of your job too – it’s just part of a natural process. If you can get comfortable with that reality, it makes it easier.”

Kagan says getting inspired helped her to move on, but it didn’t all come to her at once. “I wish I knew at the beginning of this journey that inspiration comes in pieces. It doesn’t come in a box from Bloomingdales that you’ll find sitting at your front door.”

To capture those ideas, Kagan says she places new, colorful spiral notebooks all over her house, in her car, in her gym bag, wherever she might regularly be. “Ideas show up at the strangest times, and that filter that shows up for everyone can block you. I got the idea to do what I’m doing by looking at a Web site based on war. It was something that sparked my interest, but if I had only thought about it in terms of war, I wouldn’t have done it. Still, there was something about it that made me go hmmmm, and that’s where the idea showed up.”

Asked if she would return to corporate life, Kagan says: “There was a time for both, for me to work for a company and for me to work for myself. I appreciate all the times I worked for companies, whether those were local news outlets or CNN. I don’t think I would have been ready to do what I do now if I hadn’t done that.”

She pauses, and I can hear the smile in her voice.

“Now I think it would be really hard to go back.”

How many of you have had an experience like Kagan’s, where you lost a job and then found that what came next was even better? Tell me about your experiences in the comments section.