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So What Do You Do, Jim Moret, Chief Correspondent for Inside Edition?

Driven to thoughts of suicide by unemployment and financial woes, this broadcaster funneled his frustration into a moving memoir

By Amanda Ernst - February 10, 2010
If you've ever wondered what it's like to leave the world of anchoring for a news network, just ask Inside Edition's chief correspondent Jim Moret: It's not an easy transition.

Moret, a lawyer who became a broadcaster in the 1980's, left CNN 10 years ago, choosing to stay in Los Angeles with his family rather than make a network-imposed move to Atlanta. After years of job searching, Moret learned that he needed to lower his expectations. "I'm sure that I either dismissed or overlooked opportunities that might have been available that I might have considered less than," he explained. "And that was my own ego, my own mistake, and I had to pay the price for that."

But even after Moret was happily in place with a new position at Inside Edition, the financial repercussions of those few years of unemployment were enough to drive him to thoughts of suicide. What emerged instead is his new inspirational book, The Last Day of My Life, which recounts the people and things that are most important to him.

The successful journalist and sometime fill-in host for Larry King now has a warning for future broadcasters who might be questioning their own worth. "If you follow your passion, the money follows. If you just do a job for a paycheck, you will never really be happy."

Name: Jim Moret
Position: Chief correspondent, Inside Edition
Resume: After getting a law degree and practicing for a few years, talked his way on-air at Los Angeles' ABC affiliate, KABC-TV. Moved his way up to the anchor desk and then the NBC affiliate. Hosted a syndicated Fox entertainment show for a year before joining CNN, where he hosted Showbiz Today, among other shows. Left CNN in 1999. Named chief correspondent at Inside Edition in 2004.
Birthdate: December 3, 1956
Hometown: Los Angeles, Calif.
Education: UCLA, Communication Studies; Southwestern Law School, J.D.
Marital status: Married 27 years with three children
First section of the Sunday New York Times: Arts
Favorite TV show: House and The Soup
Guilty pleasure: Buying and selling guitars on eBay. "My rule is: Never buy after 2 a.m., because you always make a mistake."
Last book read: Cornflakes with John Lennon by Robert Hilburn
Twitter handle: @jimmoret

Tell us about how you started your broadcasting career and later landed at CNN.
I got into broadcasting almost by accident. I had a degree in communications studies from UCLA and I was a lawyer, and I thought it would be interesting to go on the air and tell people what their rights are. At the time, my wife was selling advertising time for KABC-TV, and I pitched the general manager on this wacky idea of putting [me] on the air. I didn't look old enough to be lawyer, but I was! They gave me an afternoon show to tell the people about what I called "cocktail law": "My dog bit someone," or "I can't get my security deposit back." There were no lawyers on the air back then. I know that sounds hard to believe, considering that's all you see on the air these days.

Then, I went to the news director [at KABC] and I said, 'You should have me on as a general assignment reporter.' He said, 'You have no experience.' I said, 'I'm a lawyer. The same tools of the trade, like language, apply. And I will be more careful than your other reporters. I will keep you out of trouble.' The station had just been involved in some lawsuit with the LAPD over what was said on the air, so the timing was perfect. They tried me out, and I basically learned the ropes in Los Angeles at KABC-TV. I was there for three years, then I moved to KCBS, which was the CBS station in LA, and I began anchoring in the morning at 6 a.m. Then I branched out from general assignment reporting to entertainment reporting since I was in Los Angeles, and I really veered away from law. I went to Fox briefly and did a syndicated entertainment show just for a year. After that was cancelled, I went to CNN, and within a year I was anchoring Showbiz Today, which I did for eight years.

"When O.J. Simpson took off in his Bronco, I was the only lawyer on staff at the network… I was the main anchor for the entire preliminary hearing and criminal trial. At first a lot of people thought, 'What's the entertainment guy doing anchoring this serious trial?'"

But you started covering the law again at CNN during the O.J. Simpson trial. How did that come about?
When O.J. Simpson took off in his Bronco, I was the only lawyer on staff at the network, and I was the only anchor in Los Angeles. I sat down at the desk and was basically there for a year and a half. I was the main anchor for the entire preliminary hearing and criminal trial. At first a lot of people thought, 'What's the entertainment guy doing anchoring this serious trial?' And then they discovered I was a lawyer. That was the beginning of these talking heads coming on shows because after that, CNN launched a show called Burden of Proof with Greta van Susteren.

The interesting thing is that many people in the news business used to think of -- and perhaps still do -- of entertainment news as "news light." But a couple of interesting things have happened. First of all, it's a massive money-maker for the country and for the businesses involved. We are the story tellers of the world, we shape the world's tastes and fads, and also, a lot of celebrities started getting into trouble. So I was merging my celebrity and legal backgrounds because I would cover celebrity trials, over and over and over.

How do you feel about all the talking heads and lawyers that are on TV now?
It frightens me. I'm not a screamer, I have a point of view, and I would be happy to voice that point of view when it's appropriate or when I'm on a certain show. I take what I do really seriously. I try to do research before going on. If I know I'm going on and talking about a specific case, I try to read as much as possible about it, rather than just shooting from the hip. And frankly, if I don't know the answer, I'm going to say, 'I don't know.' A lot of people, I think, won't do that. They'll give an opinion and you'll think to yourself, 'Where's that opinion coming from?' So I think that you've got to get your news from more than one source. I really think that it's fascinating today; there's more information available than ever before, and people don't know anything. We used to lament this 24-hour news cycle and how it changed everything. It feels like a 24-second news cycle today. We often go on the air or post immediately. The value in publications like Newsweek and Time, even though they may seem anachronistic to some people, is that you have the benefit of reflecting on, 'Where does this fit in the context of where we are in the last week? What do these events really mean for where we're going?'

How long did it take you to find the job at Inside Edition after you left CNN?
That was about two and half years. I think sometimes you get an inflated value of what you can do and perhaps you set your sights too high. You say, 'I've been anchoring for eight years, that's all I'm going to do.' But sometimes you have to take a step backwards to move forwards, and it gets harder as you get older. But you know what? Sometimes you just have to do that. That was a great life lesson for me: Don't take yourself too seriously and think you're too important. We're all expendable. That doesn't mean you don't have a value, it doesn't mean that you don't make a difference, but don't get an inflated view of yourself. And I think that I did, so I learned a lot about myself and I learned a lot about humility. Sometimes it's a costly lesson. And that's how I got myself in the financial mess, because my kids were in private school and bills kept coming and my monthly payments were the same. Would I do things differently today? Sure. And that's called experience and wisdom and having lived through it.

"The value in publications like Newsweek and Time, even though they may seem anachronistic to some people, is that you have the benefit of reflecting on, 'Where does this fit in the context of where we are in the last week?'"

How did writing your book and telling your own story differ from your work as a journalist?
Telling my own story has changed my life. I went through what many people have. When I left CNN, and before I went to Inside Edition, I took out a new mortgage. And ironically, after my career was back on track and I was doing fine at Inside Edition, this financial time bomb was about to go off. My mortgage was going to shoot up to $10,000 a month, and I was upside down in my house. I felt like there was no way out, and I really thought that I was worth more dead than alive. And one day I was driving on this stretch of road in Malibu up in the hills and I thought, 'This is the perfect spot,' and I envisioned going off the cliff. But I stopped the car and it was kind of a wake up call for me. I started thinking about what it would be like if this was the last day of my life. I used my skills as an interviewer and basically tried to interview myself and turn the camera on me and ask, 'What's important?' So I went home and started writing. This wasn't originally a book; it was my own catharsis. But I started writing this memoir about things and people in my life that had affected me, and I wrote about friendship and love and gratitude and forgiveness and apology and adventure and music and laughter. And I kind of got a picture of what was important to me. It's made me better as a reporter and an interviewer. This book has kind of refocused my priorities and given me a new outlook on what I do. I think that I have an even greater sense of responsibility and humanity in dealing with people. And that's very positive.

What's your favorite part of your job right now?
The fascinating thing about our show is that I've talked to Tiger Woods' alleged mistress, I've talked to Michael Jackson's defense lawyer and I've also talked to Snooki and [Mike] "The Situation" and Pauly D from Jersey Shore. And my 20-year-old daughter was most impressed with me talking to Snooki. She wanted to know what she was like.

What was Snooki like?
You know what's interesting? Reality stars -- I'm using the term 'stars' loosely, but that's how they view themselves -- as a group, are impossible. They are often the most self-entitled people you can imagine. But the three that I talked to on the Jersey Shore, they could not have been more gracious. They were respectful and they couldn't have been nicer. It was disarming how nice they were. I would be lying if I said I hadn't watched Jersey Shore. And it's almost like, some train wrecks you know no one is getting hurt, so you have to watch. I came up with my own nickname for them. I'm "Jimmy the Switch." And they liked it.

By Amanda Ernst

[This interview has been edited for length and clarity.]

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