It All Comes Down to Civility

For the first time in twenty-four years, I woke up this morning not as an NBC photographer, but as just me. Lori Bentley Law. And I’m okay with that.

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel once I turned in my gear and walked away, but you know what? Other than being sad for leaving the best group of humans I’ve ever worked with–from the top management on down–I’m fine, and excited for what comes next.

I’m sure I’ll have moments when my heart pounds and I think…

What have I done?

But then I’ll remember the reasons why I moved on and instead of freaking out, I’ll dive into the future with Pollyanna-like optimism. So many interesting options have already come into view.

In part because of my simple blog post.

I never expected my words about leaving the news business to become a thing.  Honestly, I don’t understand why it resonated the way it did—and I’m not being modest or humble.

I simply wrote what I needed to write to help wrap my brain around the plan, spurred on by a quote in my Bullet Journal.

Every few weeks, I go through the journal and across the top of each weekly calendar, write a motivational quote. Funny how well the quote from the post-week fit with where my mind was:

An idea that is developed and put into action is more important than an idea that exists only as an idea.

-Edward de Bono

The post was an idea I needed to get out of my head.

I had no agenda, no purpose other than to explain why I was moving on to colleagues and friends. The response blew me away. Over 30,000 views. Shared all over the place, across multiple social media platforms. Reposted by Poynter and National Press Photographers Association and the AP and New York Times. Hundreds of comments and emails and texts. Requests for interviews. I’ve been trying to keep up but the sheer number is daunting. If I haven’t responded to you, know that every word has hit a place in my heart and I thank you.

I want to clear something up though…

Some have commented about being sad that I was pushed out or driven to make the decision by the attitude of the public. That’s not so. We have only so many days on this planet and it was time for me to take more control over how those days were spent. I made a personal choice to improve my life. I wanted more freedom. I wanted to protect my physical health. I wanted more time with my parents. I wanted to find a subject matter that made me happy. I wanted to put more positivity into the world.

That’s it.

It was an emotional decision, made even more so by the overwhelming number of responses. I spent most of the day I posted the article trying to hold myself together. Many thanks to my reporter and friend Conan for being there that day. It’s a wonder we got through our story.

The post opened up a conversation on civility.

I’m not wild about how some saw only the politics in my post. The attitude shifts toward the media began before our current administration—although it certainly has accelerated. The point I really wanted to make was about kindness and civility, about paying more attention to how we treat each other and the language we use, about how we express our opinions.

I witnessed a perfect example of civility’s decline while shooting a story on Anaheim’s Measure L the week I made the post. The “Yes” people crashed the “No” people’s press conference and were so disruptive, the organizers had to stop the event–yelling and getting in people’s faces and blocking them with signs. This kind of behavior serves no purpose. No one’s message gets heard. The lack of civility truly dismayed me.

A week later, a similar thing happened during an impromptu press conference regarding a city council race in Lake Forest. Yelling. Finger pointing. A man even fell down.

It affirmed my decision to leave.

Being vocal about an opinion is great, but please, do so in a civilized manner. An opinion expressed respectfully will always be more impactful.

The New York Times

Shortly after posting this follow-up, an AP article appeared in the New York Times, from a journalist who contacted me after that first post. Although I declined an interview, he wrote the article using quotes from my blog and from my emails. He handled it beautifully.

There were also moments of light in the past weeks.

In Costa Mesa, a police officer at an accident scene checked in with us (the media) before clearing the scene, asking if we’d be okay without them there. Thank you, Officer, for thinking of our safety and for being so kind.

Another moment came when reporter Hetty Chang and I got to tell the beautiful story of Ballet in Box, exactly the kind of inspiring tale I love to tell, the kind that kept me going all those years.

The biggest moment of light, though…

Was the wonderful send-off my peers at NBC LA gave me, first in Orange County, when Vikki, my news partner of twenty years, gathered PIOs and other OC news crews for a little shindig. She even went old school and snapped Polaroids. And yep. She made me cry.

My last three days were spent at the Brokaw News Center–our HQ on the Universal lot, not working but visiting with the newsroom folks I rarely saw in person over my twenty-some years. Such a wonderful gift.

We joked about it being the world’s longest goodbye, but I’m so thankful for the time. My boss, KNBC’s news operations manager Robert Nino, even brought in the woman who hired me back in 1998, Ellen Hyker (now at KABC). We both cried over lunch.

Robert also brought in some beautiful cakes (along with jello molds!) and made a speech which–you guessed it–made me cry.

Dang it! I’m a bad-ass news photog/motorcycle girl/‘48 Ford truck driver. I don’t cry!! But I did. Because leaving this wonderful group of people was seriously hard. I loved being a part of the NBC family.

Bringing Back Civility

Okay. So back to the topic of civility. Over the years, Robert (my boss) and I had many interesting philosophical discussions about life. He was a huge support for me during this decision. After my post, he mentioned a segment from the CBS Sunday Morning show on civility. It’s worth watching.

On that note… I’ll leave off. Go out and be civil. Give a stranger a compliment. Listen to opposing opinions without getting angry. Try to make someone smile. Add something positive to the world instead of negative. (Told you I’d go all Polly-Anna on ya!)

Until next time…

Later gator!

6 thoughts on “It All Comes Down to Civility”

  1. Lori,
    Bless you, my dear. Such a pleasure always! Come to Georgia to visit once I am there and away from the rat race.
    I hope you have lots of Puppy Stories in your future.
    From one Pollyanna to another!

  2. I'm so sorry that other's brutish behavior caused you to give up your love. I hope you find a better, and more peaceful way to get by. If you want an interesting prospective on what happened to the country, check out one of the vids by Yuri Bezmenov. His talks were taped back in the 80's or so, but he called the progression of what's going on pretty accurately, as well as what's yet to come. Cheers, enjoy, I'll check back in a bit, r

  3. Heather Malenshek

    You are a true inspiration Lori and I only wish we lived closer :). Your comment on civility is so spot on. When I was in college I was an active spokesperson for our foreign students and for student rights. Our protests were noisy and spirited for sure but they were also respectful and we listened as much as we spoke. As a result we solved problems together. I am shocked by how badly people behave today and even in times of tragedy people are using it as an excuse to spew hateful comments. This is not about politics. It IS about civility. About being a good and decent person whatever your views. About being a role model for kids. And listening as much as you speak so we can build understanding. People are entitled to their opinions but it doesn’t mean we have them at the expense of someone else.

    I wish you all the very best of adventures in your next chapter. I know I live vicariously through you and your experiences. See you on the road!


  4. I was a PA back in the day at KABC 7 and the newsroom you describe at KNBC sounds a lot like theirs: kind, supportive, filled with people telling stories to make their community a better place.
    I've always wanted to get back home to LA to do news (I anchor in Fargo, ND now) and I wish I'd made it back in time to watch you work. Los Angeles is the poorer without journalists like you in it.

  5. Like you, I also miss the people I worked with at NBC/KNBC. Have a great time, whatever you do!

  6. As I write this I have come back from Thousand oaks! What a gut wrenching event that was!! But Conan and Patrick and Robert K helped a lot. It felt like Las Vegas all over again! I can't help but feeling probably what you were feeling. Thinking what not again!! Just breathing big gulps of air and hoping not to cry in front of anyone in public. You were lucky not to go on this one! You are right though they are like my second family! You finally got to see the new building! It is spread out and you don't have to go up and down the stairs like Burbank! These events have made think about it is not as nice anymore as it once was when Bob was here.

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